The Divorce Fund

Any good financial planner will tell you it’s important to have money in your own name.  You should know what your assets and liabilities are, maintain an emergency fund, and prepare for the worst. But do some women who grew up in divorced homes take it too far?

Jamie, a soft spoken thirty seven year old who participated in our study, started what her husband referred to as a “divorce fund.” Every week, Jamie, a registered nurse, would set aside money from her paycheck into an account with only her name on it. For years, her husband never knew it existed. When he found out about it, he took it surprisingly well. He joked that it was her “divorce fund.” A self-deprecating, humorous man, he laughed, “if she ever wants to get rid of me, she’ll be able to.” The fact that his wife was putting money in her own name didn’t bother him. It just bothered him that he didn’t know about it and his wife had chosen to keep it a secret. Jamie wasn’t consciously saving money for a divorce. All in all, in the fifteen years she’d been married, she felt happy. When really pressed, she wasn’t sure what she was saving for.

“It’s not like it was a rainy day fund. It’s like I was saving for some impending disaster. If Jim left me or if for some reason I had to leave him — that money could make it happen. My whole life, I always have felt, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” said Jamie.  Furthermore, Jamie said she couldn’t dream of divorcing Jim – that he was kind, fun-loving, and cared enormously for her and their two daughters. But she always had a nagging feeling that something could suddenly go wrong, like it had when her parents divorced some thirty years ago. She felt no matter what, she should prepare to be on her own.

Many women who grew up in divorced homes pride themselves on their ability to take care of themselves. Financial self-sufficiency is just one of the many ways daughters of divorce tell themselves they have it all together, but on the inside, they feel vulnerable and scared for the future.  Many women like Jamie tell themselves that in an unpredictable world they can only rely on themselves. But it robs them of the full joys intimacy has to offer. If Jamie is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, how can she enjoy the present relationship she has with her husband? Certainly, while it’s smart for every adult to have money in their own name, Jamie’s pattern of withholding information from her husband and shutting him off from her inner feelings only served to sabotage their relationship.

Are you a daughter of divorce? Can you relate to Jamie’s story of financial independence coming at a cost of emotional intimacy in her relationship? Share your thoughts by commenting below. Be sure to order our new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

— Tracy Clifford