0227 - Infidelity, Divorce, and How to Prepare - Interview with Dr. Marie Murphy, Relationship Coach
In this episode, we have an interview with Dr. Marie Murphy, Relationship Coach, and Host of Your Secret is Safe With Me podcast, a non-judgmental talk about infidelity. Learn more aboutMarien here: https://www.mariemurphyphd.com/about.
Visit us at divorceandyourmoney.com for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Hi, everyone. I'm Dr. Marie Murphy. This podcast is all about expanding the conversation around infidelity. I'm a relationship coach and I specialize in helping people who are having affairs make decisions about how to move forward that are truly right for them. On this show, we feature tools and guidance from my coaching practice, as well as advice from other professionals whose work pertains to the sometimes complicated business of romantic relationships.
Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Shawn Leamon, host of the Divorce and Your Money podcast. Shawn received his Bachelor's degree in economics and philosophy from Dartmouth College and his M.B.A. from the I.E. Business School in Madrid, Spain. Shawn is a certified divorce financial analyst and provides financial advice for people who are divorced podcast and his work with one-on-one clients. You can learn more about Shawn's services at DivorceAndYourMoney.com.
In his personal life, Shawn loves to push his physical and mental limits as an ultra-endurance athlete, and as an avid traveler, Shawn spends his time between his offices in Dallas, New York City, and Hanover, New Hampshire. He can often be found wandering the globe, and of the more than 20 countries he has visited, Brazil and Monaco are two of his favorites.
Before we get to today's episode, I want to let you that today's show is brought to you by Marie Murphy, Ph.D. Relationship Coaching. That's me. I provide shame-free, blame-free, non-judgmental relationship coaching. You can talk to me about the things that seem too messy or weird or stigmatized to share with your best friend or your spouse, or even your therapist, including but not limited to matters related to infidelity. To learn more about my work, go to MarieMurphyPhD.com.
Now, today's episode. Shawn, welcome, it's great to have you here!
Shawn Leamon: Hi, Marie! Thank you for having me.
Dr. Marie Murphy: It's a pleasure. You have an awesome book that is called Divorce and Your Money, if I'm not mistaken.
Shawn Leamon: That's right.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Right? Yeah, okay, great. I recommend this book to anyone who is staring down the barrel of divorce. It is clear and packed with hopeful guidance, and one of the things that's really interesting that you talk about is the value, and often the necessity, of having a really good divorce lawyer, but you also talk about the limits of what attorneys provide clients who are going through divorces. I think you quoted an attorney that you know as saying, "We attorneys went to law school so we wouldn't have to do math," and I can certainly relate to that, even though I'm not an attorney.
Can you say more about the limits of what attorneys provide, and why it's important to have a financial advisor, as well?
Shawn Leamon: Most certainly. I think at a high level, there's three major issues that go on in divorce. One is, of course, the emotional side: the relationship, your own emotions, emotions of your spouse, kids, et cetera. Of course, you should have help with that aspect.
The other element is divorce is, by nature, a legal transaction. Marriage is a piece of paper. Divorce, conversely, is another piece of paper that says that you're divorced. There are a lot of legalities to how to split up a couple and all that entails, and that's where having a good lawyer will help you.
Then on the other side of it is the third part of the financial element, which is all of your money. You're talking about houses, retirement accounts, how much support someone may pay or receive; what you're going to work later in life; are you going to move? How are you going to provide for the kids long-term? Is there a college fund or a retirement that may be derailed because of this process?
So, there are always many, many, many financial considerations in the divorce process, and it's very good, both during the divorce process, but also after the process, to work with a financial advisor because the things that your attorney is going to be negotiating for you, or at least many of the things the attorney is going to be negotiating for you, are going to affect you for a long period of time, perhaps many decades. So, getting those key financial pieces right and knowing what you should be thinking about during the process is very important so that you have a good financial future afterwards.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, cool.
Now, one of the things that I hear from clients fairly often, which you may hear as well, is their fears around divorce. Often, I hear people telling me, well, this isn't the right time for me to get divorced, and when I hear that, it's often because someone is saying that they really just don't want to deal with the discomfort and disruption that will probably inevitably come if they decide to go through with the divorce. What I always tell people is, look, you have a choice. You never have to get divorced. Even if you're unhappy in your relationship, even if you want to leave your marriage, you still don't have to do anything about that.
I work with people on the emotional side of these kinds of challenges, which is critical, but often what I find is that folks who are in this position of really resisting the idea of divorce or fearing the idea of divorce, even though they want to leave a marriage, is that they don't really know what all goes into the practical concerns, and so they're intimidated by what they don't know about the practical elements of the process.
One of the things that I found really interesting in your book is that you talk about why it might be a good time versus a less good time to get divorced. What are some of the financial reasons that make a better or worse time to go through a divorce, or initiate a divorce, I guess?
Shawn Leamon: It's one of the hardest questions and issues to deal with, is when to start this process. There is a lot that goes into ending a relationship. You mentioned some people might not know what's there or be ready to deal with some of the complications and hassles and everything else that is associated with it, and even if you don't know quite whether or not you're ready, or at least you're in the throes of things, one of the things that's very common with me, and with an attorney, as well, is doing your research and starting to figure out, all right, well, here's how this process may look. Here are some of the big questions I may be thinking about and starting to get some preliminary answers.
I'll give a financial version of that, which also gets to my broader question and some of the broader financial things. I always ask someone, "What do you want?" Let's assume... what do you want your future to look like? If you're in your 50s, for instance, you're probably going to live another 30 or 40 years. That's a long amount of time. Do you want to stay in the relationship as is? Do you want to make modifications to it? I'm not going to make any judgments because that decision is very personal and there is a lot of intricacies to that, but what is it that we're aiming for in how you want the rest of your life to play out? If you're even younger than that, if you're in your 30s or 40s, there's a lot of life left to live, regardless of your age.
So, the question in terms of financial things to be thinking about... well, there's a lot of considerations, one of which is there's two people who are part of this relationship, and so, if one person wants one thing... and I'm speaking from a financial perspective, as well, when I answer this... if one person wants one thing and you want something else, how are you going to figure that out? Sometimes divorce is the only option in that scenario, but there are sometimes alternatives.
The other thing is, hey, some states... and this is where I also say do your homework and start thinking about it... some states have some very potentially severe... I don't want to call them penalties, because that's not quite the right word... but there are milestones in a marriage that can affect how assets are split, how much money gets paid, how long money gets paid, what happens with kids. If we're thinking about... if you have kids who are, generally speaking, under 18, though that varies depending upon your state, there's a child support consideration, versus kids who are off in college where you don't really have to discuss that as much as part of the divorce process. If you want to move states... I mean, there's so many different things to start thinking about when it comes to that when decision, but you really have to... and I encourage everyone... is just do the homework.
A lot of times, if you do a lot of research upfront... and I talk to people who may not be getting divorced for five years, but because... maybe they want to stay together and stick around for the kids until the kids are out of the house. But they may be thinking, well, hey, if we get to that 20 year mark in our marriage and we're in a state where that 20 year mark could mean the difference between temporary alimony or spousal support and permanent spousal support, that becomes a really big deal in terms of doing things sooner or delaying things, depending on if you're receiving or paying.
There's a lot to think about when it comes to that decision from a variety of things.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, for sure.
What do you say to people who come to you who really want to be done with their marriage and done with their spouse, but their circumstances are such that it might not really be an ideal time to go through the bureaucratic process of divorce?
Shawn Leamon: There are options. One of the things that's important is having a clear agreement as to when things are supposed to be split, because one of the important financial considerations is, when do you stop the clock in terms of assets and valuing assets? What I mean by that is, if you have... a common example is, let's say you're contributing $1,000 a month to a retirement account. We'll try and keep math very simple, particularly in a verbal conversation.
Let's just say you're contributing $1,000 a month to a retirement account, and you're married. Well, 500 of that 1,000 is going to probably be your spouse's property when you split. So, if the clock is perpetually ticking, then you're continually contributing assets to that merit of accrual. But if you come up with a separation date or a separation agreement, and work out some logistics with your spouse, if it's possible... it's not always possible to do so without filing... you may be able to save yourself some funds in that category, and sometimes people do that for years. It's very much a question of when does the clock stop? A lot of times, the clock keeps running, and from a financial perspective, if you're getting a big bonus at the end of the year or the early phase of a new year, or if an asset is about to appreciate, or if you're... I know this is kind of a slight tangent, but if you're getting inheritance or a big gift, inheritance is generally excluded, but making sure that you handle those things properly is very important in that perspective, as well.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, so what it sounds like you're saying is even though you may have all kinds of emotional reasons for avoiding the divorce process, or delaying, I guess you could say, the divorce process, there may be some very sound pragmatic reasons for being proactive rather than resistant to acting.
Shawn Leamon: Yes, and I'll also give kind of a weird one, but it actually affects a lot of people, which is what people's work schedules are... not work schedules, but actual jobs. If two people are working and have reasonable incomes, that can have a big effect on terms of how much support is paid or received, but if one person has been out of the workforce for a long time, or recently got laid off and prospects aren't good, that can affect how much support gets paid or received be someone. There is a timing element to that, too, or if someone is graduate school and they're about to finish up, and they're going to have the capacity to earn a good amount of money, there's some things to consider, or re-training considerations where if someone... let's just say the kids are finally graduating, and in two years, you're going to go back to school and get a degree, or your spouse is, that could be an important financial decision to keep in mind in terms of when to separate or when not to if we're just talking numbers.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, interesting.
Okay, let's talk about infidelity. Since a lot of my clients are the one in the marriage who is cheating, there is often some concern about how infidelity will bear upon the divorce. Again, I think the folks that I work with have varying levels of knowledge about what this means in their state and what this means in the nitty gritty details of the division of assets, so tell us what this looks like.
Shawn Leamon: There's good news and some bad news, and it really depends on where you live. That's the other thing to keep in mind for people listening. Every state has different laws. There's general frameworks that are true for most states, but still, there are unique instances in a lot of states.
Now, the good news is all states have no-fault divorce laws, which just means that you can get divorced for any reason, and you don't have to prove anything, and even if someone does prove something, usually it's not a huge effect when we're talking infidelity. I say usually because there are particularly a handful of Southern states, is where you see this most commonly, where there can be some additional impacts if you can prove infidelity, and that can affect the asset split and can affect some other things. Now, it doesn't mean that a split is going to become 100% lopsided or something crazy, but it does affect things on the margin for some places.
Now, on the other side of that, probably 45 out of the 50 states, it has zero impact... almost who cares? There's a very practical reason for that, and the reason is up until 20 years ago, roughly... and of course, this evolved over time over a longer period... but if you had to prove infidelity or disprove infidelity, that was a huge part of the divorce process. Many, many thousands of dollars and hours and time were spent in the '50s, '60s, '70s, and '80s, and to some extent, the '90s, of who did what and trying to prove that, and that adds, on top of everything else that happens in divorce, another layer of complications, so... there was a movement.
Dr. Marie Murphy: That's a lot of legal discovery.
Shawn Leamon: Yeah, so there was a movement that every state was basically like, this is not a productive use of court time, and we're just going to say you can get divorced for whatever purpose rather than having to prove it.
Now, to take it a slightly different direction, here's what can come up can affect you, and it has to do with... the technical term is dissipation of marital assets, and that is if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, and you are taking marital funds... or in between... but if you are taking marital funds and you are spending them on lavish vacations, gifts, cars, apartments, or a house, or whatever that is, and that's marital money you're spending, and your spouse finds out about it or can prove it, you can end up having to repay that money to your spouse later down the line.
Now, the good and the bad... if I'm being quite frank, this is very hard to prove, and it's very expensive to prove, but I've seen people who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on... sometimes it's something as simple as, and I don't mean to use the word simple, but as straightforward as an escort. I've seen people spend tons of money on escorts before, and that comes up, because that's relatively easy to trace when it gets into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But if it's $10,000 here or a $1,000 there on a business trip, it's complicated. It's doable, but there comes a point, too, in this whole process, with anything in divorce, where it's like, hey, is it really worth getting a forensic accountant... is this worth spending $20,000 on a forensic accountant to find $20,000 in money that may or may not have been spent on an affair?
There's intricacies to it, but it is something to be aware of, that if you are spending a bunch of money on an affair... or another version of it; I know it's a little bit outside the context of your expertise, but if someone is a big gambler, that's another version of dissipation of funds, and that's going to Vegas every weekend and blowing lots of money; same idea as infidelity. You can get penalized for that in part of the divorce process.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Interesting, yeah. That makes sense.
Let's kind of step back from the infidelity thing and talk about the general pragmatic concerns for anybody who thinks they're potentially going to be getting divorced or is definitely about to be getting divorced. Where does one start? Let's say you're pretty sure it's happening. Where do you begin? How do you start to get organized? What are the key things that you need to do first?
Shawn Leamon: There's a few things. The two main things I would do... one is, regardless of how this process goes, get all of your financial documentation together that you have access to. Tax returns, just your home information, your retirement account information, bank accounts... whatever you know of that you have from a financial perspective, get it, because it's going to come up as part of the divorce process, and if you don't necessarily have it, because I work with a ton of people who may not have been involved in the finances, while you're still under the same roof, or somewhat under the same roof, or have access to things, put as many clues together as you can, because that can be very helpful for you further down the line.
The second thing I would do is consult with an attorney. Now, an attorney is going to ask for all the financial information, which is why I say gather that first. You're going to want to make sure that... and there's a lot of discussion about attorneys and what the appropriate attorney is, and who you should pick for your situation... but you should be very aware at a high level of the legal aspects that are going to apply to you and your situation.
It could be child support amounts and duration. It could be how things are going to be split. It could be something as fundamental as, there's actually multiple ways to get divorced and different divorce processes. So, having an attorney guide you through those options so that you can start thinking about them will be very good. It doesn't mean you necessarily have to hire that attorney day one. You may end up consulting with multiple attorneys, but you do need to understand the basics of what you're looking at and going to be dealing with so you can prepare yourself for what's to come, because it's going to be, for most people, a long, a difficult, a challenging process.
The other thing to be considering about all of that is, like to say, divorce is going to be over one day, and you're going be living alone or separately or in a new form, and so, if I were to add a third thing to that, it would be to start formulating what that life looks like in a post-divorce world so you can make the right decisions now to set yourself up for the future.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, I think that's so important. What is it they say? Begin with the end in mind. Have a vision of the future that you want to experience, even if it probably isn't going to be your reality tomorrow or next week or next month. Start to cultivate the vision of what you want your life to be like going forward. I think that's so important.
Shawn Leamon: Just one little, small, small actually addition to that... sorry to cut you off.
Dr. Marie Murphy: No, no, please.
Shawn Leamon: That is one of the most important things. I talk to people every day across the country about divorce issues. The question I ask pretty much 100% of the time is, "What do you want?" What do you want your life to look like? I can provide some commentary here and there, but ultimately, you're going to be living your life, and we just want to make sure that all parties, be it therapists or emotional, legal, and financial, that we mentioned before, are guiding you in the right direction given what you want.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, totally. I don't know if you encounter this with your clients, but something that I see fairly often is, people have a pretty good idea of what they don't want. They're pretty well aware of what isn't working for them, but the vision of what they might want instead is often pretty underdeveloped. I see all kinds of reasons for this. People have lived for decades believing that they have to do things in a certain way, or that it's not really okay for them to pursue their own desires, or that it's selfish for them to want things other than what their partner or soon-to-be-ex-spouse thinks they should want, et cetera. Do you see that, too?
Shawn Leamon: Unquestionably, and deciding what you want is not an easy thing and that's beyond my expertise, but what I do tell people, and I have this conversation multiple times a day every day, is I say, "Give me your top three, top three things you want, and give me your bottom three. What are the three things you don't want? Let's just start with that. We can figure out the rest later."
I'm just very quantitative. I can't help you through all of figuring that out, but give me three things that we can work towards and three things we should try and avoid, and we'll go from there.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, I love it. That's a nice, concrete starting place.
I, of course, am very qualitative. One of the things that I do do with clients is help figure out what they actually want. What would you choose? What would it be like if it were possible for you to believe that it's okay for you to want things, and that you can want whatever you want? That's part of the joy in the work that I do, but quite frankly, for a lot of people, that's hard, and that is where more of the work ends up being than actually the nuts and bolts of getting through a process like divorce where there are specific things that you have to take care of.
It's great. In a sense, it's challenging to change your conceptions of what's possible for you and what's possible in your life. Getting beyond our self-imposed limits can be quite a task, but it's so worth it. I'm sure you see this, too. I'm sure you see people coming out the other end of the divorce process and surviving and thriving in ways they never could have imagined.
Shawn Leamon: Everyone is going to come out of the other end of the divorce process, which is great. That's one of the most encouraging things, is I always joke, but I'm dead serious with people... the day we never speak again is a great day, because you're done with your divorce process and you get to live the rest of your life. But also because of that, you are going to be forced to deal with the nuts and the bolts, and you just have to deal with them.
There is an element of not facing reality, or at least not wanting to, because it's very, very difficult. I'm not saying it's easy, and it may take a lot of time to wrap your head around what's going on, sometimes years. But at a certain point, divorce papers are going to be signed; you're going to be living your independent life. You're going to have to deal with them, so do it sooner over later is just the way that I always put that.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah. Yeah. I love that you emphasize at some point or another, you just have to accept that this is reality, however unexpected or painful or inconvenient it may seem. Yeah.
All right, let's talk about what you mentioned a little while back, about the actual options for the divorce process. What are your options? What are the different ways that you can approach this?
Shawn Leamon: There's a lot of different options in the divorce process, but what it really comes down to... and I'll give you a few examples... but what it really comes down to is how much you and your spouse are willing to work together without added conflict, right? There's no question that you're getting divorced for a reason. I understand that. Everyone understands that. The real question is, are you civil and reasonable given that situation, or are you going to make this an all-out fight?
To the extent possible, I strongly encourage people to be civil. It's not always possible. There are plenty of very difficult situations. But if you are civil, you have different options. There are versions... on an extreme case, if you're civil, you don't have a lot of assets, you don't have kids or complicated custody issues to worry about, then you can actually do a lot of the divorce process yourself, and what that looks like is you and your spouse sit around the proverbial kitchen table; you work out what's going to happen; you can do it online or go to an attorney and just say, "Draft it up for me." It gets drafted from an attorney or a paralegal, you have your agreement, you move on, and that's all there is to the process, and a percentage of people do it that way.
There are collaborative divorce processes and mediation processes where you... a little bit different, but the short version is with an attorney, with a neutral party, you and your spouse keep it relatively simple. You put all your cards on the table. It could be one session, it could be multiple sessions, depending upon the technicalities of the process that you're going through, where you all work it out on a room... or these days, via Zoom.
Dr. Marie Murphy: In the Zoom room.
Shawn Leamon: Yeah, you can do a Zoom mediation with a neutral third party or an attorney, and be a collaborative divorce process or a mediation process, and work out all the issues, and then someone translates that and takes it and creates an agreement.
Now, the more complicated process if I were just keeping it... the traditional divorce process is actually the toughest, because in that process, it's adversarial by nature. So, one person is the person basically suing the other person, and we have a plaintiff and a respondent, and the paperwork looks very, very formal, and one person is basically suing the other, and you have to go through some very complicated, often times very nasty, emails with attorneys, with the discovery process, which is just gathering all the financial information, figuring out how much things are worth.
But every step of the way can be a fight, and so, if someone is asking for... I'll give an example that just came up yesterday. Someone has a basic house. I don't know, it's $400,000, let's just say, approximately; nice house, not extravagant, but they're fighting over the value of the house. One person gets an appraiser, the other person gets an appraiser. Both appraisers have to fight out the valuation, and we're now $7,000 in legal fees on the value of the house. Now, you multiply that by absolutely everything that could be an issue, and you can see why that process can become very expensive and very complicated.
Now, unfortunately, one, this is common, and two, there are some couples that just can't resolve their issues, in which case, that's just the nature the process has to go, but there is a larger percentage of people who may end up going a more adversarial process that don't have to or don't need to.
When it comes to options, I always say, hey, see if something like collaborative divorce works, and look for a collaborative divorce attorney if you're halfway in decent terms with your spouse. Look for someone who's a mediator. See if that may work with your spouse. Look for someone who may just help you negotiate a couple of small issues; sometimes you agree on 80%, but need to work it out on 20%, or sometimes just one thing.
If you're in a position where you can go through the divorce process like that, then you should, and if not, when all else fails, you kind of have to go the traditional route where both of you hire attorneys who aren't generally very pleasant... and good luck.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah. In the book, you talk about going to court and why it's so important to avoid it if at all possible. What are some of the reasons why you might have to go to court, and what should you keep in mind if you do?
Shawn Leamon: Let's talk about why you don't want to go to court first.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Sure.
Shawn Leamon: In most people's minds, because at least I am a big fan of crime dramas and have watched probably many lifetimes of Law and Order episodes, you envision some grand person talking on your behalf, and then you get to advocate, and there's great speeches, and the lighting is awesome, and people are cutting away to you, and this and that. No, sadly, that's not what really happens.
Most judges in most parts of the country are overwhelmed. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of people they have to deal with on their docket. Some courts in some counties... and a lot of this is very county by county, not even state by state... some counties, your judge may have just done eight traffic tickets in the morning, and then by the time, in your 11:00 AM right before lunch spot, they're dealing with your family law issue for 45 minutes, then they're going to lunch; then, they're dealing with a business litigation dispute. It's not the way it feels like, and they don't know you. I'm not going to say they don't care.
Dr. Marie Murphy: They're just thinking about lunch!
Shawn Leamon: Yeah, but judges are just people like us. They have a very important responsibility, but they aren't going to necessarily be able to get into every little detail of a case in your life the way that you think they will. They have hundreds of other people to deal with, and like every profession in the world, there are great judges. There are bad judges. There are great judges who have bad days. There are judges who like men. There are judges who don't like men. There are judges who like a woman in a blue dress. There might be a female judge who doesn't like women who wear blue dresses. Who knows?
It's not as fair as people may think it as.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Neutral.
Shawn Leamon: Neutral, right, exactly, as you may think... but, all that said, sometimes you have to go to court if you can't resolve things on your own. One of the things that happens is that every state has their own divorce process. You get assigned a judge, and a judge may ask... and it depends on your local divorce process; it's another reason to make sure you work with a good attorney... but part of the divorce process is let's have a preliminary hearing or preliminary meeting on one of these two things or three things or whatever, where the judge might say... so you might show up with your attorney and present the issues, and the judge will say, okay, well, we're going to set a trial for four months from now, but you're expected to have mediation in advance, or blah blah blah blah blah, and we'll set some conditions to get there. He or she will say, well, I hope you don't actually show up in four months. You should get this resolved beforehand, but we have this court date as a backstop.
A judge may say, oh, we need to make a ruling on a temporary support issue, so if there is some child support of spousal support that needs to be paid pending the divorce finalization... and when I say pending the divorce finalization, that could be a couple of years in many cases... then that's why you might be going in front of a judge.
But the real goal is, if you can avoid it, avoid it. But it is necessary in some points, and you'll need to be prepared if that is just part of your process.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, sure.
Were there any other options for the divorce process that we didn't touch on that you wanted to discuss?
Shawn Leamon: Those are the main ones. Broadly speaking, you can negotiate yourself or with partners, or just fight it out every step of the way. There's different ways you can negotiate it, be it do it yourself, divorce, or mediation, or collaborative divorce, or in some places, even arbitration, or even just around the kitchen table, as I said. You can do those, or you just say, "Let's fight."
Dr. Marie Murphy: Sure. Yeah. You talk about something in the book that I think is so important, not only when it comes to divorce, but in terms of any challenging situation in life, and that is figuring out what your least bad option is, or your least bad options are. Can you say a little bit about what you mean by that and why it's so important?
Shawn Leamon: Yeah, look, there is... and we touched on this a little bit before... there is a reality, and in my version of this, which I like numbers, sometimes there's only so much money to be split. You may look back and say, oh, I wish we had more here, or I wish we saved more, or I wish we didn't take this really expensive vacation every year, or whatever your wishes may have been... or he should be paying me more. She should be paying me more, or the system isn't fair because of X, Y, and Z. So?
That doesn't get us anywhere. You can complain all you want. You can wish all you want, but if you have... and I'm just going to make up this number... if you have $100,000 to split, and $50,000 is going to go to one person and $50,000 is going to go to the other person, then that just is. You can't say, well, I wish we had $350,000 to split. I wish you did, too!
Dr. Marie Murphy: It's not hopeful at this point, people.
Shawn Leamon: Yeah, I wish you did, too, but the reality is this. You need to make sure... and one of the biggest things I have conversations about is just accept reality. There are sometimes only two or three options in this process. They might not be great options. They might not feel fair to you. They may not feel good to you, but if these are the only options, and this is how things are going to play themselves out, you're going to have to just make the best one given the circumstances.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, for sure. This is something that I talk with people about all the time, whether it's related to relationships or job stuff or other life stuff. There is so much freedom that comes from realizing that some things in life are non-negotiable, but no matter what, you get to choose how you respond to those non-negotiables.
It's weird, because we want... by we, I mean collectively... people tend to want external circumstances to change so that we can feel happier, but that's not how it works. It's just not the way it is. That's not the option. The option is to change our internal response to the things that exist out there.
Shawn Leamon: I think that's a very good point. The best conversations I have with people are those who have figured out, or at least have a very good understanding of their internal responses, and have worked through all of that.
When I talk about... one of my big things from a financial perspective is... I hate to put it so harshly, because it sounds harsher than it is... I don't care how you feel. I just want you to make the right business decision given the circumstances, and you should treat this like you're the CEO of your life, because you are. There are some numbers, and there is some money that has to go here or there, or not go here or there. I don't care if you like it or dislike it.
It is the reality, and so, you go through it, but when people have done that internal work, or are working on that and have made a significant progress, it makes this process a lot easier, because one of the biggest things that's extra hard about divorce and the financial intertwining is that you're living it. There's a lot of emotion that's attached to that retirement account. Something I hear from guys all the time, mostly, is, well, I've been working for 25 years for that retirement account; she can't touch it! I'm like, well, that's not how the rules work!
This is, of course, a very traditional example I'm presenting, but maybe if your wife in this ultra-traditional example sounds... if your wife was raising your three kids who are now great adults and you're super proud of, even though there isn't dollar signs attached to that contribution, that was the partnership that you had and that's equally... I mean, I don't know how you value that, but it's just as valuable even though it's not a retirement account.
So, you have to just accept and work through those things. I just had a great conversation with someone yesterday who has been working... she had just come from her therapist's office, actually, before we spoke, but she had such a better understanding of... she was laughing at how absurd some of the things that were going on were, and of course, it doesn't make it easy, but she had a much better approach because she's been working on that internal stuff every day and every week.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah. We could have an hour-long conversation about each of the things you just mentioned. I think the sort of bigger, overarching point is there is so much to be learned from interrogating our beliefs about money and what we're entitled to, and what it means for us to let go of our money, or share our money, or ask for money sometimes. That is really big stuff in our society, and I would suggest, always an opportunity for immense personal transformation and growth. It may not be the growth that you thought you wanted in your life at this particular point, but when you take that stuff on, so much change is possible.
What I see is that the more you're willing to reckon with whatever difficulties are facing you in the present, the better chance you have of being able to create a future that you're really excited about.
Shawn Leamon: 100% agree.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah.
All right, Shawn, as you know, this show is all about expanding the conversation around infidelity, so I would love it if you could tell us about a time when you have been unfaithful to someone... maybe yourself, maybe another person, or to something.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah, always a tough question. It flashes back to a time... I don't know, six, seven years ago... for context, I grew up in a military family and still have a lot of family members in the military. My dad was, and many other people in my family are now active. I didn't go, and I've always felt bad about that.
A few years back, I was driving in the car. I've always kind of regretted not going and thinking about part of my destiny, but it took a long time to figure out, that just isn't my life path. It doesn't burden me the way it used to, because I assumed that I was, I don't know, lesser than a lot of people in my family for that reason, and I let go of that as a terms of a piece of my identity.
Do I still miss it some? Yeah, of course, but I realized that sometimes it just isn't... it wasn't me. It wasn't my path, and it took a long time, a long time, to come to that conclusion.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to allow ourselves to be who we are.
When you said... I think you said, I still miss it sometimes, what do you mean by that?
Shawn Leamon: It's hard to describe without being around me a lot, but there's an element of me that... I love a lot of parts of the military. Some of those are just being a proud American, but also some of those are I like the challenge aspect; that's why I like the endurance... you mentioned very briefly at the beginning the endurance athletes... I find it incredibly inspiring, the people who sacrifice everything, and not necessarily death all the time, but are willing to put in every ounce of energy for a cause, or that cause could be the person next to them; that cause could be the country; that cause could be their family. Those who give it all, or at least willing to sacrifice some discomfort in something greater than them... and so, any way I can get a small piece of that makes me feel... and it is always just going to be a small piece, unfortunately, in my case, but just tasting that is something that I try to replicate in my life as often as I can.
Dr. Marie Murphy: That's so cool. Yeah, that's something we could talk forever about, too, but I bet you engage in elements of that in your work in all kinds of ways, maybe some that you recognize and some that maybe you don't.
Shawn Leamon: Yeah, now, that is an interesting conversation that I have never thought about before, so yeah, that would be something to think about.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well, we'll save that for another time, I guess. Reluctantly, we'll put that on the table.
Shawn Leamon: Next time!
Dr. Marie Murphy: Shawn, remind everybody where they can go to learn more about you and your work.
Shawn Leamon: Sure. Everything is at DivorceAndYourMoney.com, or if you ever just search Divorce and Your Money, you'll see lots of resources. I have a free podcast, a book, and lots of other just information that you can find just by searching Divorce and Your Money.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Awesome. Thanks, everyone, for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode, we would sure appreciate it if you would go on over to iTunes and rate and review this show. Thanks so much for listening, and Shawn, thank you so much for being here today.
Shawn Leamon: Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it.
Dr. Marie Murphy: Awesome! Bye, everybody!
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