Marriage Therapy is Cheaper Than Divorce?

Apologies in advance for what is going to be an emotional post. To be honest, I'm already tearing up writing these first few lines, can't wait to see what will happen by the end.

As someone whose marriage was on the rocks for years (but tried my best to cover it up or make it work), and also had really tight financial situations most of the time, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people use the phrase "invest in your marriage because it's cheaper than divorce" in various permutations. Either they're talking about spending money on date nights, or when I told them that the messiness of my house was a big source of tension between us and they told me to pay for cleaning help, they'd talk about how it's a worthwhile investment, because "its cheaper than divorce". Or when talking about how expensive marriage counseling is, being told that it's worth it, because its "cheaper than divorce".

I mean, people really mean well when they say such things.

There is definitely a point to that.

Marriages are hard work. And just giving up on a marriage, when there are things you could do to save it, because finances are getting in the way, isn't necessarily the right decision. It is worth trying to save a marriage instead of letting finances be the reason you give up, because people are right, divorce is expensive.

I've also heard people say things like "getting cleaning help is cheaper than therapy" or "self care is cheaper than therapy" when justifying why they are spending on something as "extraneous" as that.

But you know what my problem is with those phrases?

Go to marriage counseling. Yes, it'll cost money, but at least you won't get divorced, and you'll save money there.

Or, spend money on self care and then you won't need to spend it on therapy.

They end up being seen as very black or white, either or situations, when the world isn't like that at all; it isn't a zero sum game. 

You might be like myself, where you did spend money on marriage counseling and dates, because, though, as Cyti Clinics outlines how much marriage counseling is in this post, "its cheaper than divorce". But it doesn't end up being enough, doesn't "do the trick" and you end up getting divorced anyhow. And when that happens, you're at risk for feeling like a frugal failure, because not only did you "waste money" on investing in your marriage and trying to save it, it was all for naught because you also are ending up "wasting money" on divorce.
(And let's leave out the option of some people being better off financially post divorce, for whatever reason.)

I propose an alternative phrase. When people say that they are struggling with their marriage but aren't sure about spending money on date nights or counseling or anything else that could strengthen their marriage, instead saying "marriage counseling is cheaper than divorce" how about just saying "It's worth it to see if you could try to save your marriage. Divorce/being a single mom/dad isn't easy, so why not first see if you've exhausted all other possible avenues for making your relationship healthier?" Or something along those lines.
Talk about how divorce isn't easy and its worth attempting to save a marriage before giving up on it, but don't make it about "what is more frugal". Additionally, use phraseology that show that you understand and believe in the importance of being in a healthy relationship, not saving a marriage at all costs. But not that someone should stay in a marriage no matter what, no matter how unhealthy, "because its more frugal", because not every marriage is fixable nor should be fixed. Because you're worth it. Your happiness and emotional well-being is worth more than money.

Which brings me to my issue with the second phrase. Self care being cheaper than therapy. It's not like they're mutually exclusive. Yes, sometimes all that is missing in your life is some self care, and taking care of that will eliminate your need to go to therapy.
But oftentimes, like in my case, you may go to therapy, and one of the things your therapist tells you is required in order to go on your healing journey is to give yourself a good amount of self care. And then you end up spending money on that (even if you do try to find more frugal ways, self care still often costs money) in addition to paying for therapy.
And that's ok.
You aren't a failure if you need to spend money on self care in addition to therapy. Therapy is awesome. Self care is awesome. Sometimes investing in one precludes the need to invest in the other, but not necessarily. It is totally ok to need to spend money on both self care and therapy.
You are worth it. Tell people that if they are debating the frugal merits of therapy or self care.

Not everything should be about what is more frugal.

Yes, living within your means is important, but lets stop making that the be all and end all of discussion. Yes, sometimes its more frugal to go to marriage counseling than getting divorced. And sometimes its cheaper to spend money on self care than therapy, but there is nothing wrong with spending money on both.
There is nothing wrong in spending more money to ensure that you can live an emotionally happy and healthy life.

You are worth it.

Lets lose the phrase "Marriage therapy is cheaper than divorce."


Stop making it seem like people who get divorced are failures.

There's enough people out in society who think those who get divorced are failures because they didn't invest hard enough in their marriage, that they're being lazy and taking the easy way out,when sometimes they're doing the hardest and bravest thing they've ever done.

Let's not add frugality guilt on top of it all.

Thank you.

Off my soap box (for now anyhow).

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. This is beautiful. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Anyone who thinks that "those who get divorced are failures because they didn't invest hard enough in their marriage" should come and talk to me. What a pile of you-know-what. A better way to think would be "don't judge until you walk a mile in [someone's] shoes. Divorce is tough, an emotional hurdle, and more to the point, extremely personal and individual. Reasons vary, not least because the people involved are individuals. There are no set-in-stone rules for divorce, and there are many factors involved (in no particular order): self-care, children, finances, and your sanity being just a few possibilities. It's a tough decision to make, for sure, Job's comforters masquerading as do-gooders we can all do without. I wish you continued fortitude, strength and courage for the best possible outcome of your divorce.

  3. Another phrase: "I'm sorry. Can we go out for coffee (or whatever the suffering person likes)? My treat." And then just listen. Because the person did try, they did their best, and to imply anything else is just...well, the advice-giver has no real idea, do they? Listen, and try to work out what you can do to help. Then do it. If it's wanted.

    An excellent post.

    1. Awesome! Just one thing, the person should know that just because you're treating them, they aren't required to spill the beans and share sordid details.

  4. Agreed Annemarie. I am a mom of a kid with severe disabilities, and provide mom to mom support for mothers in similar situations through a local organization. Suffering is a thing I encounter a lot, as is divorce, and often the two together. My mantra is "shut up and bring coffee". In other words, be a friend, keep your opinions and judgements to yourself, and let the person having a difficult time share their burdens.

    I am sorry this is a difficult time for you Penny. Peace to you and your family.

  5. Lots of truth in your post. Hugs, dear girl. May you have a smooth and pleasant ride.

  6. Frugality is about a less costly route to the same ending. Expensive outfit v. thrift outfit = clothes to wear, either way. Marriage therapy isn't that simple on the outcome.

  7. I worked so hard to save a marriage only to surrender to divorce at the end. What I wasn't told was I would be so much happier without what was a fruitless labor of love, how much happier my children are and that I would end up solo parenting. The first year was really hard. But it does get easier.

  8. What you say is so true. I remember being surprised when we went to marital therapy during my first marriage and the therapist said that marital therapy is not only to help you stay married, it's to help you divorce if you need to. Therapy is support, whether personal, marital or family. And you are worth it!!

  9. Thank you for sharing this advice. I have cleared many doubts related to counseling and will share this blog post with my friends.

    Marriage Counseling Reston

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