It’s hard to believe that we are near the end of 2017. If you could make one change in yourself for 2018, one change that you would be most proud of, what would it be?
This week’s question comes from a woman who isn’t seeing the change she needs to make quite yet. Let’s help her move from victim to owner mindset.
Today’s question: This is my second marriage, 9 years long and I support my household financially. Not because my husband does not earn a decent income, but because he does not have the credit to purchase items in his name. He does not manage his earning well and spends on what he wants instead of paying his bills and meeting financial obligations.
Meanwhile, I'm the one consistently put in the position to decide on whether to help him out once again financially for items like gas for his work van, etc. At times he just helps himself to my debit/credit cards.
When we go out to eat or weekend adventures, I am the one who pays for everything, because he never has any money. I recently found out that he had used my Social Security number on an internet provider account without my knowledge or permission and let the account go to collections which are now showing up on my credit report. All over $135.
How do I protect myself from him financially? I do not combine or place his name on anything and do not co-sign with him on anything. There is a thief and liar in my home and I do not know how to make it stop. Advice would be welcomed. By the way, I am an accountant and do understand the laws surrounding what he did using my social security number.
Answer: Hmmmmm. You are asking me a question that you already know the answer to. You said, “I do understand the laws surrounding what he did using my social security number.” You also know the “laws” or “best practices” of financial management and mismanagement, being an accountant.
The bigger question I’d like to ask you is what’s going on with you in this marriage where you get to pay all the bills and he gets to spend all his own money on whatever he wants? And you get to also help him pay his own bills when he runs out of his own money? Was this your pattern in your first marriage as well?
Now don’t get me wrong. In some marriages, one spouse who earns more money may choose to carry the entire load of the financial responsibilities of the household and the other spouse who earns less uses their money on extra things. Or the other spouse who earns less contributes more in other ways such as managing household tasks and responsibilities.
But I don’t hear that the way things are going financially is a mutually acceptable agreement. In fact, I detect a bit of resentment that you have to pay for everything when he runs out of cash. I also hear you loud and clear that you are deeply troubled he took your social security number and used it illegally.
So my question to you is why do you allow it? You’ve heard the saying, “We teach people how to treat us.” You’ve been married 9 years. Your husband has somehow gotten the idea that you’re the one who is supposed to pay for everything. Where did he get the idea that it’s okay for him not to contribute financially to the household? When did it start? Have you never spoken up about this, even when you were deciding to join your lives together 9 years ago?
It would be very tempting to focus on him. His deceit. His financial irresponsibility. His selfishness. In fact, you said yourself, “There is a thief and liar in my home and I do not know how to make it stop.” You can’t make him stop, but you can stop your part of the problem.
Here’s how to make it stop. By changing your part of the dance. What would happen if you stopped paying his bills when he runs out of cash? What would happen if you stopped taking him out to dinner all the time and paying for it? What would happen if you told him if he ever illegally used your social security number again you would press charges?
You are a smart woman. There is a reason you haven’t stopped your part of the dance. So I’d like you to focus on you right now and not on his problems. I’d like you to challenge your own passivity, codependency or enabling behaviors or whatever has kept you stuck in this place that you obviously are unhappy about. This is your work to do right now or you will just repeat it in other relationships. What are you most afraid of if you change and say “no more free lunch here?”
Are you afraid of losing him if you say, “I’m not doing this anymore.” Are you afraid of being alone? Would you feel like a mean person if you let him experience the legal ramifications of what he did?
Only you can do that deep work to figure out your own part of this destructive dance you are in. Click To Tweet
Please take some time to do that. Get into your own counseling or coaching to help yourself change so that you don't continue to feel like a helpless victim of your husband’s financial problems.
Friend, how did you wake up to discover that part of the problem was yours? How did you begin to change you so that destructive patterns didn’t continue?