My husband and I have been married for 20 years. Throughout our married life, there have been incidences 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 5 or 6 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?
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 automatically fix your marriage.
The secret keeping and avoidance that has plagued your marriage from the beginning needs serious professional attention. Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “A husband must have no private, hidden agenda that is kept secret from his wife. Sharing everything about each other’s personal life is powerful spiritual insurance.”[i] The past twenty 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 secrecy 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. Church leaders have consistently taught the need for complete and total transparency and unity around family finances.[ii] 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 twenty years.
These decisions may involve everything from separating accounts, having specific boundaries around money, or even something as drastic as legal measures to protect you and your children. This is why it’s critical for you to work closely with financial and relationship professionals to help you untangle this very messy situation.
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.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
You can connect with him at:
Anon Y. MousJune 1, 2015
I've been the financial disaster. I still am the financial disaster. I live in fear of people realizing the full breadth of my financial situation. I'm amazed at how long I've fooled people into thinking I'm okay. But the truth is, my life is a charade when it comes to money. I've made a lot of bad choices with money. And in spite of how hard I try, I can't seem to improve. I'm horrible at talking to people about it. Especially since family members (I'm single, so no spouse) only seem to want to tell me I'm bad, and no one wants to provide help I could use. If I were the guilty spouse, I'd want someone to not tell me how I'm making mistakes. I know that already! But instead, provide solutions, and help me fix my mistakes. Get an accountant. Give me an allowance. Give me a way out of my problems, without making me feel bad that I have the problems.
vickieMay 29, 2015
I was raised by parents who spoke about finances often. my mother was a little bit of a spend thrift and my father wasn't. he taught us his children all about managing money esp money for the home. so when I married I thought everyone knew. shortly afterward I realized that wasn't the case. my husband loved to spend money even money he didn't have. we often didn't have food and were evicted from a rental home. I was so embarrassed. also he didn't like to work so as often as he could he took off. when I realized I was in this situation having one child so far...it caused me to fret and become fearful of his every move and mood. he would get happy when thinking he could spend money and then it also became associated with food..same thing...food and money. well, after awhile I realized something had to give..he was quiting job after job and we were not making it at all. it was at that time the military increased its pay and I convinced him to join. he agreed and joined the airforce and stayed for over 22 yrs. during which time he got his masters degree. we also had 5 kids. with all this he never changed but he did become aware of how tense was about money. I had three episodes of major depression and anxiety disorder. it was all over this the insecure feelings from it. you see he never changed. he would spend money on his hobbies and does even to this day. he decided to have an allowance for both of us and would give me 10bucks a week and 30bucks for himself. until one day someone said..wow you don't count yourself for much and then I insisted he give me as much as he got...well, as usual he wanted that allowance so I couldn't see what he was spending ..but he realized after awhile that I could see ..he spent it all on his hobby and began to owe money for his hobby unto which I decided to have him pay for that extra he purchased. well, it did cause a rift in our marriage as I nearly left him at the beginning but then went through depression so bad I couldn't go anywhere...I stayed but I realized I loved my husband and it would have killed me to leave him. I would have never been really happy. well, we are old people now and the problem still exists only now my husband is retired and still spending money on a different hobby..my allowance I received even from the meager 10bucks a week which to me was a lot and I had to be told by someone it wasn't...I saved and have quite a nest...I don't have hobbies and if I do something it doesn't cost anything...he isn't happy unless he is spending something on a hobby...he doesn't ever want to speak about money with me..he runs to his room. he is more emotional then most women. well our kids saw us fighting over money throughout our lives and when my husband suspected I was upset about something having to do with money he would shame me. he still does like I care more about money then him. its kind of strange as I buy nothing for myself..I think I care about security and with my children I really did. it affected my children differently. my daughter began to store and hoard food in her bedroom closet and the boys became aware of it by our arguing so when they married they didn't mind if their wives helped them manage it. it is very easy to speak about money to my kids ..I have one daughter and 4 sons. I couldn't let my sons grow up and not teach them about money and that they are the bread winner and to work and manage the money. the husband is the bread winner and if he cant do it then someone has to. I spent years on the couch of a shrink talking and my fears have never been resolved only because I live with it daily. my husband has a degree in business and he actually helped families manage their money but when it came to his own he cant see it. he blames me and thinks its all in my mind but my children can attest to the truth. we are financially sound and have no debt....why...because I never let up. I even told a shrink once I love my husband and therefore I will just let him handle the money even if we wound up in a bad place and my shrink said OH NO...someone has got to take charge of the money ...if he cant you have to...well, we aren't close because of it....its sad....and he wants me to have no credit for what we have...we live in a tiny apartment because he wants to...our cars are paid for...but he feels he needs to know its him who did it...so I have no say at all. I have given in to that ...so he can feel I guess one would say like a man the bread winner even though I have gone through hades with him. he did work after being in the military and then civilian life..and for that IM grateful. I have learned to be grateful for the moments when I think he might have caught on but its few and far between. his father died when he was 7yrs old and his mother remarried a man who wasn't very good father and he was never taught that is how I have compensated for what has gone down. I think that people going into a marriage should speak of all things and have classes on everything before getting married esp money because it can cause divorse ...