Thank you for your prayers for me. Last week I spoke three times at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in Nashville. For my talk, The Three Common Mistakes People Helpers Make in Working with Destructive Marriages, we had an overflow crowd, people sitting all over the floor. The response was great and I am encouraged that more and more pastors and counselors, as well as people helpers, are seeking out new ways of seeing and thinking about these problems.
In case you are curious, the three mistakes I talked about were:
1. Making the wrong diagnosis and not “seeing” a couple’s problem as destructive.
2. Doing couples counseling and why, in four specific instances, couples counseling can do more harm than good.
3, Pressuring for premature reconciliation before the fruits of repentance have been observed (and tested).
Also, I am doing some FaceBook Live events this month for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Be sure to check your e-mail for when these broadcasts will happen as well as the topics that will be discussed. Next Tuesday, October 10, I will be doing a free webinar on “Five Red Flags That Indicate You are in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage and What to Do.” Please share this with friends who need to attend. To sign up click here.
Today’s Question: For years our finances have been out of order. My husband pays the most urgent bills and lets the others ride. I am the one who receives calls from angry creditors. My husband refuses to even think of returning calls to these people. As the mail comes, whenever I can, I find and shred credit card offers.
But regardless of what I try to do, my husband keeps sinking us deeper and deeper into debt, telling me that the future will take care of things. I am just not seeing this.
We are not handling the money God's way, we are not tithing (or even giving anything), and we have nothing in savings. I try to manage what little money my husband gives me so that I have a little money left over each month. But it is not much, and if the family ends up needing it, I find myself relinquishing it.
All my attempts to discuss finances with my husband end up with either dismissal or ugly fights. Either way, nothing gets resolved. Advice? I’m feeling trapped.
Answer: You are not alone. There are many, many wives in your exact same situation. Your husband, for whatever reason, is a poor steward of money and refuses to own this problem or change. And that does not just impact him, but you and your entire family.
And I hear you have tried to reason with him to no avail. You’ve also tried to steward the money your husband gives you but it always ends up getting spent for something the family needs.
So let me ask you a few tough questions. I do not ask you these questions to make you feel bad, but to help you face reality. Does your husband earn enough money to adequately support the expenses your family has? Sometimes the man does not earn enough and each month the family debt goes higher and higher not only because of poor management but also because there isn’t enough income coming in the house. If that’s the case have you considered also getting a job to help out?
If he does make enough money to support the family and pay the bills, where do you think all the money is going if it’s not to pay the bills? Does your husband have an addiction problem? Is he spending money frivolously on non-essentials and then coming up short each month?
His answer is to not worry, the future will take care of itself but you know that’s not true. You are sinking further and further into debt. Plus you are the one who bears the weight of the creditors calling each month looking for payment on delinquent bills.
You said you feel trapped and in a sense you are.
Marriage is like a three-legged race and when you are tied to someone who makes foolish choices, unfortunately, you are dragged along beside him to suffer the consequences. Click To Tweet
You did not mention whether or not you were employed or earned your own money but my advice to you would be to start there. You may not like that idea because you would rather stay home with your children and perhaps homeschool them but that is not going to solve your financial problem.
Many women have to face the tough truth that their husbands do not earn enough to support their family. Or, face that what he earns he does not steward wisely. Despite all of your talks and fights, you have not been able to change that reality. Now is the time for you to change and instead of words, take some new action.
You need to face the reality that right now his debt is your debt. His poor stewardship will not be an excuse when the creditors come calling, or worse if he has also not paid proper income taxes. You too will be equally responsible. I have seen too many wives over the years silently but angrily stay victims of their spouse’s poor financial management only to one day be divorced with mountains of debt that they didn't even know was there.
So here are a few steps I would encourage you to take.
- Do a credit check on him and on you. Find out exactly how much debt he/you are in and see if there are even credit cards you don’t know about. This will give you a clearer picture of where you are. Remember, healthy people, face reality, even when it’s ugly and hard. creditkarma.com offers this as a totally free service.
- Find someone who is a good financial steward. It might be someone from your church, perhaps an elder, or deacon. Someone who has taught or taken Dave Ramsey’s course on money management. Explain the situation to him or her and make a plan for you to begin to separate your finances from his finances.
- Get an appointment for a consultation with a family law attorney for advice on separating your finances while still married. What do you need to do to make sure you are no longer responsible for credit cards he takes out? Show him/her your credit report and tax records. If things look fishy with your income tax records, begin to make a plan to file separately.
- Start thinking about getting a job. You said this has been going on for years so I would guess that if you have children, they are older and can go to school. This may not be your dream, but it may be necessary in order for you to be a good steward of your financial present and future. Put your earned money in a separate account in your own name.
- As you do that you will also have to dig deeper to understand why you are the one who bails out your family financially with the money you have saved. If you don’t look at this over functioning piece, then any money you earn with your new job will be sucked into the old pattern and there will be no real changes.
Once you do that you will need to have a tough conversation with your spouse. It might go something like this. “I am not willing to continue to live like this. It stresses me out to have creditors calling me every day. I can’t stand not being a good steward of the money God has given us to manage. I’ve tried talking with you and you refuse to make any changes. I’ve looked at our credit report and we are $ ____________ in debt. This is totally unacceptable to me based on what you earn. I’ve also had our taxes reviewed and find that you have not been totally honest in paying income taxes, for which I am equally responsible (If that is true). I can no longer stay silent or go along with this in our family. Since you refuse to change or allow me to manage our finances to pay the bills on time, I am going to ……….”
Here is where you state the change you are going to make. Such as, “I am going to get a job and open a separate account” Or “I am going to file separate taxes so I am no longer responsible financially for what you report on the taxes” etc.
Don’t say these things until you are ready to follow through. It won’t have an impact if he perceives them as empty threats or meaningless boundaries.
One of the things I teach in my CONQUER group is to think like an owner and not like a victim. Right now you are a victim of your husband’s financial mismanagement. However, you are also thinking like a victim – feeling helpless, trapped, with no resources or solutions.
There ARE resources and solutions out there for women in your situation. You may not like all of them because you would much rather see him change so that this isn’t a problem anymore. But reality says that’s not happening so now you must begin to think like an owner of your one precious life and how you are going to steward “you” – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and most critically right now, financially. You are responsible for you and the choices you make, just like your husband is responsible for himself and the choices he makes.
Let me ask you one final question. If your husband was driving the family car straight off a cliff with you and the kids beside him saying, “Don’t worry, the future will take care of itself,” would you stay put, terrified and helpless, hoping that he would stop in time? (victim mindset). Or would you do what’s necessary to get you and the kids out of the car now? (owner mindset).
Friend, when you have been in this woman’s shoes, what steps did you take to start getting on better footing with your finances?
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