Relationship Connection: My husband is a financial disaster

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Question

My husband and I have been married for 20 years. Throughout our married life, there have been incidents of him being dishonest about money.

For example, I found out he had credit card debt with late fees right after we got married when he had led me to believe he was debt free.

A few years later, he told me he paid the bill on some furniture we bought, but we kept getting bills for it. He let me get upset with the company month after month, trying to resolve the issue. He finally volunteered to handle it and somehow it got resolved. Then one day I opened our monthly investment statement and saw that quite a bit of money was taken out. It turns out, he used that money to pay for the furniture.

It was at that time that I became full-time bill payer and budgeter instead of the role being undefined and both of us only sort of doing it.

We have gone back and forth over the years taking turns managing the money, which has been a huge mistake, as he hides things from me when he manages it.

My husband lost his job about six years ago and spent months sitting on the couch in his pajamas doing absolutely nothing. I understood he was depressed and I was patient with him, but he not only wasn’t working, he was also spending over $10,000 on his hobbies while he wasn’t working.

He decided to start a business, which drained what savings we had left. He refused to sell our expensive house until we lost everything and it was the only option we had.

He has hidden how much he makes, blocked me out of his bank accounts and doesn’t include me in decisions.

I’ve learned that we didn’t have health insurance when he said we did (because he didn’t pay the premiums). I also found out that he owes for over five years of corporate taxes for his business that he didn’t pay.

I’ve started working in the past few years so I have a safety net, as I have no idea what may come my way.

We are now living in a house we cannot afford, and I don’t know what to do. I thought I married someone who was driven and proactive. But I am seeing something else these past five or six years.

I grew up in a home where talking about money and the budget was like talking about the weather with no emotion involved. But my husband hates the topic and gets upset when it’s time to figure out what we can afford. He was like this even when money was not tight. What do I do?

Answer

Since your husband’s decisions about finances affect you and your children, it’s important that you know exactly what’s going on in your family finances. While I realize finances are tight right now, if he can afford to pay for his hobbies, he can afford to pay for an independent audit of your finances so you can know the truth about your situation.

You don’t need any more surprises when it comes to past-due bills, unpaid taxes or other financial commitments.

If he won’t speak with you about finances, then let an accountant guide this discussion by holding both of you accountable for answering questions about your financial history. This isn’t a time to point fingers, but rather it’s a time to get answers and look at the reality of your situation.

There are two significant dynamics at play right now. As noted, your financial reality is unclear to you (and possibly to him), so it’s critical to look at the truth by having an outsider organize and account for all things financial.

The other dynamic involves the instability in your marriage. Even though you might get your finances organized by an accountant and have personal accountability for your husband, this isn’t going to fix anything in your marriage.

The secret keeping and avoidance that has plagued your marriage from the beginning needs serious professional attention. The past 20 years have shown that this pattern isn’t going to self-correct without some outside help. I highly recommend you work with a qualified marriage counselor who can address the years of betrayal and avoidance around money.

While there is an urgent need to wrangle your finances back into place, there is an equally urgent need to send a clear message about the impact these financial betrayals have had on you, the children and the family. If he refuses to hear you and work through these needs, then it may require you to make some decisions about the relationship you’ve most certainly considered, but never acted on over 20 years.

You can’t have your financial future in the hands of someone who can’t be trusted. I encourage you to begin taking steps immediately to protect yourself and your children from the very real likelihood of more betrayals. You can face this and make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone involved.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

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Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Brian May 27, 2015 at 7:46 am

    The money problems are just a symptom. Dishonesty and secrecy are the diseases. Treat those and the money problems will take care of themselves (easier said than done, I know).

    • McMurphy May 28, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      And what other matters may he be dishonest and secret about ??

      • ladybugavenger May 29, 2015 at 8:39 pm

        OK, superhero, go find the secrets! And report back to us 😉

  • Hunter May 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

    This advice ignores a significant component to this whole thing…she’s on the hook legally for any debts the hubby gets her into while they’re married. Her first stop needs to be to a lawyer. She needs to clearly understand her exposure so she can move forward eyes wide open. She also needs to acknowledge her role in this whole mess…the old “fool me once” adage definitely applies.

  • NotSoFast May 27, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I suggest you stop acting like his mommy and kick his butt out(trail separation). Talk to a qualified lawyer and arrange to be no longer held responsible for his business sense post separation. A 2nd option,, slap the road apples out of him and examine your own flaws.

  • native born new mexican May 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    One of the other issues I am sure you are dealing with is a power, control struggle. He is not a responsible, trustworthy person. So in an issue as important as your finances You have to be in control and that usually causes problems with men who think they are all that. Your are not respecting me, you won’t take my advise, etc etc are things they will say. Separate your things from his as much as possible. Own your own car and have it in your name and your name only. own property in your name and only your name and have him sign a sole and separate agreement.
    Live as independent from him as you can. Basically he lives his messed up life and you live yours. When he goes bankrupt or to jail for his problems make sure his actions don’t get you in trouble also. You sign nothing with him, you don’t participate in any of his stupid stuff etc. This type of arrangement ends up with the two people being mostly just roommates usually in different rooms but that is what he has chosen for himself. Divorce is hard on you and the kids. I know people who make the above arrangement work without getting officially divorced.

    • 42214 May 27, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Material assets gained during a marriage are marital property, period. You can have a car in your name if it makes you feel better but it’s marital property. Same for debt.

      • native born new mexican May 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

        I know better from experience. I have seen one person go bankrupt and the other person’s things not get taken because those things are their’s. The things are in their name end of story. You can also put your things in the name of some other trusted person. When I said sole and separate property agreement I meant that. In community property states like New Mexico hubby or wife signs a sole and separate property agreement which says I give up all claim to this property. I have no interest in it. That is how you handle things in a community property state. You also can have all credit only in your name and not let the other person use the card. You be sure you are not on their card also. You live separate lives. You don’t sign papers with them. You don’t put your self on bills with them. you stay away from them legally as much as you can.

        • 42214 May 27, 2015 at 6:40 pm

          So you can be married and keep separate books? WRONG !

          • ladybugavenger May 29, 2015 at 8:40 pm

            You can keep separate accounts, does that count?

  • ladybugavenger May 27, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Lady, your husband is an idiof

  • beentheredonethat May 27, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Brian hit it right on the head!!!!!!

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