Question

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?

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 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 geoff@lovingmarriage.com

 

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:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

 

[i] https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/05/the-sanctity-of-womanhood?lang=eng

[ii] https://www.lds.org/topics/family-finances?lang=eng