I'm happy to introduce you to my friend, who I know but also an anonymous physician blogger.
His blog is XRAYVSN. Xray, as I'll call him here, went through a nasty divorce. In my interview with him, he talks about that experience and shares about his life after divorce.
Xray's blog is one of the more unique blogs out there. His writing style is, at times, whimsical and humorous but always thorough and insightful. He writes about his experience as a radiologist and the challenges he and other physicians encounter.
With that, let me introduce you to Xray as he shares his story of how to thrive in life after divorce.
How to Thrive in Life After Divorce
Tell us a little about yourself.
I consider myself a survivor of a horrendous divorce from 2010.
Did growing up with a father who was a physician influence you to become a physician?
Having a father as a physician (he was Internal Medicine) was a great influence for me and my subsequent career choice.
I saw how well-respected my father was in the community and how patients adored him. Because of him, I had a head start in any science-related material as he was a great resource to go to with any questions I would have.
Unfortunately, I lost my father when I was 14 years old (he died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 50), and he never did see me attain a degree in medicine. He would have been immensely proud of what I have done with my education and knowing that he was the inspiration behind it.
Why did you choose radiology as your specialty?
Going into medical school and immediately coming out of it, I always envisioned myself as a surgeon. I was great with my hands and had great knowledge of anatomy, where I always received high marks. I got into my first choice of a general surgery residency and trained there for two years (general surgery is a 4-year program). At that point, my love for the practice of surgery started quickly fading away. The hours were brutal and often unpredictable.
I often would round on patients before the OR at 5 am or so in the morning and leave the hospital after 9 pm. When I was training, they did not have any official legislation to limit the number of hours a resident could be forced to work. Nowadays, a resident is limited to “only” 80 hours a week.
I did some rotations, such as transplant, where you were on call every third night in the hospital and then on home call the other two nights if there was a transplant harvest that we needed to do. When I totaled how many hours during one particular grueling rotation, I found that I had done over 130 hours/week for a couple of weeks straight.
I did not see the light at the end of the tunnel either, as attending physicians would have just as bad a schedule, having to come in at all hours of the night for emergency cases.
Because of my anatomy skills, I thought Radiology would be a great compromise. At the end of my 2nd year, I changed from general surgery to radiology and completed a residency in that specialty four years later. You grew up in India. Tell us about your journey to America.
When did you come? What was the motivation?
I was born abroad, but I became an international traveler quite early in life.
My father was a physician in the subcontinent when he got accepted to a US training program. He came a little earlier than my mother and me. She stayed until I was a few months old and joined him for good here.
He chose to come here for the vast opportunity that America provided for him and his family.
So I consider myself having lived in the United States for pretty much my entire life.
You’ve written on your blog about an arranged marriage that turned into a very nasty divorce. I want to break this down into two parts. First, please tell us how an arranged marriage works?
I am no expert on arranged marriages as I have pretty much been immersed in the American culture my entire life.
My mother and father were the products of an arranged marriage.
In the past, cultures that practiced arranged marriages almost viewed it as a business, bonding two families together through their children. There usually was some mutual benefit from these families, and marriage would essentially cement this relationship.
Typically, the man and woman are from a similar caste (a type of social stratification). When a potential mate gets identified, they have analysis through many religious rituals, the most important of which is seeing if the birth charts are suitable (matching of horoscopes). These horoscopes are far more detailed than their Western counterparts, considering the exact time of birth, stars, etc.
If the horoscopes have an appropriate compatibility match, then the union is given the green light to go ahead. If the groom is of a desirable occupation, like my father, the bride’s family will usually provide a larger dowry (gift/contribution).
My father received a small house as a dowry.
Despite these marriages' non-romantic circumstances, in India, these marriages tend to be stable, and divorce is typically unheard of. Whether this is because of the intense family pressure to keep the marriage alive or whether or not it is that the couple is a perfect match is debatable.
But by all accounts, I believe my father and mother did have a great marriage of over 19 years before he passed away.
When did the marriage fall apart? In your view, what was the cause?
I foolishly caved in to the pressures of my mother to find a “nice Indian girl.” She was afraid that, once I finished residency and became an attending with the significant jump in salary, I would never want to settle down, and the chances of me marrying within my race would diminish dramatically.
Trying to appease my mother, I agreed to at least give the process a chance. Before I knew it, I was standing at the altar with essentially someone I just met, thanks to the intense family pressure from all sides. Although our horoscopes said we were a match, we were far from it. We were not on the same page financially, emotionally, or physically.
She was a physician trained in England. She had an odd behavior/effect that soon I and those around us noticed. Some would chalk it up to her being from another country. I soon suspected there was a broader issue at hand.
Only years after the divorce did my now ex-wife deteriorate to where she got diagnosed with a mental illness. This diagnosis explained a lot regarding the marriage and the incredibly contentious divorce proceedings.
I know the divorce was pretty devastating financially. In as much detail as you care to talk about, how bad was it?
The divorce was indeed a huge financial drain. After I filed for divorce, my wife became incredibly vindictive. She would repeatedly start false allegations throughout the proceedings and required me to sit through not only the chancery court but several other courts as well.
Just the legal bills were astronomical. My lawyer was charging $250/hour, and we had so many full-day hearings and the legal preparation for those hearings. I would be getting legal bills in the range of $15-20k/month from his firm.
I'm not sure of the exact number. Still, I remember doing a mental calculation of the significant expenses, and at the end of the 13-month divorce proceeding, my legal fees were over $300k. I was also required to pay my ex $100k (within 30 days of the divorce decree) to offset some of her lawyer costs.
This does not even touch on the actual marital assets that had to be divided, alimony, and child support. The final expenses pushed everything into the 7 figure range.
You’re now a very successful physician with a successful blog. How did you overcome the financial consequences of the divorce?
Fortunately for me, I never really had an expensive lifestyle. I happened to practice at a meager cost of living area and where physician compensation was on the higher end than the rest of the nation. After the divorce, I decided that I wanted to start new, and the first step was to have a positive net worth. I started aggressively paying down my student loan.
After paying my student loans, I set my sights on the 2nd mortgage and then finally the first mortgage.
When I became debt-free, it was truly an uplifting experience, and I accomplished it within four years of the divorce I am proud of.
After that, it was easy to dramatically increase my net worth as all the money coming into my household was now mine to invest as I see fit rather than pay off a loan.
My net worth rapidly crossed the 7 figure range and had taken on a life of its own as the money I invested started making money of its own.
What lessons did you learn from this experience? How did it change you?
I tried to appease my mother, and doing so; I put myself in harm’s way.
My mother was not the one to live with her; it was me. I would make the decision based on what I want and not that of others in the future.
The whole experience changed me. My mother's relationship has never been the same, as there is a large part of me that has never forgiven her for this debacle.
It also took a long time before I even wanted to be around women again and even trust them.
As I mentioned earlier, I am in a long-term committed relationship, and it has gotten to the point where marriage is indeed in the cards. This would be something unheard of if you asked me even a couple of years after my divorce.
What advice and encouragement would you offer anyone who has gone through a costly divorce?
The best advice I could offer is that although you feel like you are at your lowest, you have friends and family supporting you.
If you were in a toxic relationship, you have done yourself a huge favor getting out of it regardless of the cost in the long run. You can always build up your net worth again. It is far worse to be in a situation where you stay in a loveless marriage because of the fear of losing money.
I have found that discussing my divorce on my blog also gave me an untapped source of support from my readers. I started a series called Divorce and FIRE, which encourages readers to submit their stories. Everyone who has done so has remarked how therapeutic the process was for them.
Thanks, Xray, for sharing your story. Like all of my other interviewees, Xray tells his story to offer hope and encouragement to others who find themselves in a similar situation. As you see from his account, not only did he survive, but he also thrives in his life after divorce.
I often repeat the mantra here at Money with a Purpose that we can't control what happens to us in life; that what we can control is how we respond to it. Xray's story is an excellent example of choosing to make the best of a terrible situation.
If you or anyone you know is going through separation or divorce, point them to this post. Better yet, refer them to the links above to engage with others who submit their stories of similar situations. As Xray says, it's important to not go through this alone. Lean on close friends and family to walk the journey with you.