Spare me the halos. The Wall Street Journal has poetically placed two above the heads of Edra and Tim Blixseth, billionaires who had the good sense to divorce amicably, saving themselves millions and sparing themselves embarrassing headlines.
"Their peaceable parting marks a triumph of hope over history, and reason over money," Robert Frank wrote in "A Billionaire Divorce -- And Not a Lawyer in Sight," on Jan. 2, launching a new column and blog, "The Wealth Report."
Call me old-fashioned, but how can a divorce ever reasonably be described as a "triumph of hope over history"? That description would work for a couple that found a way to save their 25-year marriage -- not end it as the Blixseths have done. More important, even if the Blixseths have found a way to navigate the painful process of divorce while holding onto their dignity and self-respect, there is no way that divorce is ever a triumph of "reason over money" either.
The fact is, both people would clearly be a lot wealthier together than they are apart. Essentially, as the article describes, each of them is giving up use of half the assets they once possessed -- condos, jets, even pets. I'm sure living expenses don't put too much of a dent in the Blixseths' checking accounts, but the basic math of divorce still applies and many of those expenses double. Even for billionaires, it has got to be cheaper to live together than apart.
Plus, studies show that divorce almost always leaves women worse off financially than they were before. And, anecdotally at least, it leaves a lot of men at least feeling a lot worse off financially -- especially if they remarry, start a new family, and still have the "old" wife and kids to support (a scenario that doesn't apply here).
Of course divorcing couples should do their best to split amicably. Anyone actually going through the process quickly learns that there are mediators aplenty out there to help couples navigate the process without using a lawyer. (See, Nolo.com for more on this).
Fact is, it's sad reading about a couple like the Blixseths that once seemed so well-suited, who were able to build such wealth together and seem to have fun doing it -- decide to split. (Gee, maybe wealth doesn't always lead to happiness?). For this reader at least, Frank's inaugural piece -- while a fascinating topic -- would have been far better with a little less applause.