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Is Financial Irresponsibility Grounds for Divorce?

A reader asks how to help a newlywed friend. She's paying the bills, keeping careful track, budgeting for every predictable expense. He's running up unexpected bills, failing to warn her what they will owe this month or to turn over needed paperwork on time. And it's drowning her in distress.

Can this marriage be saved? Can she live with a man like this? Of course she can. How long have preachers been warning right at the altar that richer and poorer are both possible and even a normal part of marriage?

Marriages can work and be outrageously happy with little money or with lots. But they are almost always unpleasant when we believe our mate causes the problems we experience.

Please do not let me imply it is OK for anyone to run their husband or wife into debt looking for that next dopamine hit or to sit at home playing sudoku while their mate does all the work. It's not OK to do this, and it's not OK to provide anyone else with the means to do this.

But the thing that starts most divorce-bound resentments is nowhere near this big.

The Source of the Money Problem

Is a surprise bill for $500 a problem? Not if you have $50,000 cash on hand. Not if the source of the bill surprises you but your budget includes $750 a month for surprises.

Your resentment comes not from the expense, but from your expectation about what a wise or loving person would do with the money.

You will find it much easier to love your spouse when you let go of the expectation that money means the same thing to both of you and you should therefore agree on how much you need or how it gets spent.

If you need a budgeted amount or a cash reserve to feel secure and to perhaps even enjoy paying for something your spouse needed or wanted, why not add it to the budget or start building the cash reserve?

It is quite normal to have different risk tolerance levels, different long-term financial goals, different reactions to spontaneity vs. predictability. When you disagree, find a Third Alternative, an option that gives both of you what you need.

A good friend, like the one who asked the question, can help morph a complaint about differences into a set of specs for an alternative that works for both of them. Friends can also help brainstorm creative ways to get what both want.

Belief Gets in the Way

Some will say we cannot find more money or more time. I know for certain we can. I know it because my husband dropped dead, and I had to. Suddenly it became possible, because I was willing to work harder, take more risks, and do less unnecessary stuff. I know it because every couple that divorces, claiming they never had enough money, finds the money for two homes, duplicate bedrooms and toys for the kids, separate vacations with the kids.

Many will say, "Unfair! Why should I bring in more money or spend less on something else when my spouse could fix the problem by becoming more responsible with money?"

Marriage is always unfair. Just add up what you would spend to live alone, what chores you would need to do living alone, how much you would spend on looking for love, how much time it would take to help your kids maintain close relationships with both parents. Most married folks have an incredibly unfair advantage. Why would they consider jeopardizing all this over a squabble about how much more money and time they could be saving?

A friend can help an embattled spouse measure what's happening against a realistic alternative, instead of the alternative of a fantasy spouse who thinks just as we do. A friend can help come up with ways to deal with the real problem instead of turning it into a marriage problem.

Could, Not Should

I do not mean to say the more money-cautious spouse must be the one to fix this problem. Not at all. But for me, in my first 13 years of marriage, the idea that I could be the one to fix our problems never occurred to me. The idea that my spouse could be perfectly at ease with a situation that created stress for me and that my stress and my reaction to it were the real problems getting between us never occurred to me. The idea that fair is not half as satisfying as close never occurred to me.

And then he was dead, and I had to earn all the money, pay all the bills, make everything work. There was no one to whom I could say, "We have to talk." (By the way, no matter how you mean this, it almost always sounds like, "Bad dog. Come! Sit!") All I could say, to my reflection in the mirror, was, "One more problem solved. What's next?"

It was bone-crushingly depressing to realize I could have done the same while I still had a chance to enjoy the very special man I had chosen to wed.

Want help figuring out how to enjoy whatever time you have with your husband or wife, in spite of money issues? Use the comments section. Give yourself a phony name and a blank URL to remain anonymous. But please include your email address. It will not be published. It will let me notify you when I post a reply and perhaps include some extra, unpublished suggestions.

Comments

Hi, Patty.

This is hypothetical (I'm not married), so don't spend too much time on it. :-)

If one's loving spouse -- despite agreeing to a particular financial arrangement -- continually breaks the agreement and takes on unmanageable debt, I predict you would say to handle this as you would a situation with addiction or abuse. That is, continue to love the person while protecting oneself until they've gotten treatment that allows them to honor their agreements.

And I imagine that (in states where both spouses are responsible for each spouse's debt) the most sure-fire way to protect oneself from the other person's overspending would be legal separation.

Is that approximately what you would advise?

Thanks!

Roodle

Yes, it's just like abuse due to any other addiction. If your spouse is out of control, you want to minimize the opportunity to do further harm. What's possible varies by state and by the couple's particular circumstances. I would advise anyone in this spot to consult a lawyer. Legal separation could create a higher "bottom" for the overspending spouse to hit. It also protects the prudent spouse if the relationship ends in divorce. But it gives up any control over the debt run up by the overspender. Some states may offer better ways to protect oneself and one's spouse by canceling accounts or changing credit limits.

Patty, My wife has for years failed to pay the bills on time. The biggest problem is that I'm away so much and never found out about any of the debt. I was shocked when we were served papers for foreclosure. I realize that I am at fault for not helping or paying attention. Now she is wanting to divorce and seeking custody of our three children. I very much still love her and have taken over the household finances. I am worried that she will just fall into her old patterns once again. Is there any legal grounds to keep the children? She is a wonderful mother otherwise.

Thanks for your comment, Mike. I don't know much about custody law nor even which state you're in, so I cannot answer. However, I wonder why you're dealing with custody issues.

You still love her. She is and always will be your kids' other parent. Why not court her one more time? It may be harder the second time, and it can be a challenge to actively love someone whose respect for you and hope for the future has hit bottom, but 80% of those who don't divorce when their marriage is on the brink report their marriages as happy or very happy when researchers check in with them again five years later. Why not give it everything you've got?

Will she be irresponsible with money again? That depends on what led to it, whether it was her way of dealing with money or her way of dealing with resentment over a marriage that was not what she expected. In either case, your children's best interests lie in being surrounded by love while they grow up, not money.

please i take care of the house that is my child myself and my husband. is not that he is not working, he is working but will not give me house keeping money. the childs daily money for school, upkeeping money and others. how long am i going to do this without any help i want to divorce

Emmie, it can be very frustrating not to have what you need. And it is easy to believe that someone who fails to end your frustration must not love you. But in many cases, this conclusion is wrong, and there is a solution, a Third Alternative, that will work for you.

Divorce almost never solves a money problem. It costs money. The divorce costs money. Running two homes instead of one costs money. If your kids need help or get into trouble because of the divorce, it costs money. Getting things done with just one parent in the household costs money.

Do you know why your husband does not give you the money?

Is he irresponsible, spending it on something like gambling or drinking? If so, you may want to talk to the folks at Al-Anon or 1-800-GAMBLER about an intervention.

Does he disagree on how much the house and your child ought to cost? If so, brainstorm with him about ways to handle them on less money. Or on ways to save him money in other areas. Or accept that he will not contribute any more than he does now, and you will not need less than you are looking for, and get yourself a job, just as you would need to do if divorced.

Does he not make enough to pay for your home and still give you what you need? If so, start looking for a home that costs less and needs less care.

Or is he less than generous in retaliation for something that he feels is missing from your marriage? A clue would be if he used to provide you with enough for your expenses but no longer does, even though he has no addiction problem and no new expenses. If this is the case, clear the air over what's bugging him.

Expectations are premeditated resentments. If you entered the marriage expecting to be supported in the role of housewife and you are not, the quickest way back to your happy, loving self is to let go of the expectation and do what needs doing. You will be amazed what benefits you will find from getting resentment out of your marriage.

Hi there

I have been married for 7 months and my marriage is definately not what I had aticipated for... My husband married me knowing that he had resigned from work before us getting married, but without consulting me first. For almost 2 months he pretended to be working and blamed the company for not paying him on time. After making a couple of calls and playing investigator, I found out that he had resigned. I had to pay the bills and support him for almost three months after that. He finally found another job, which was okay, but caused him to work overtime. I did not have a problem with that, because we had to survive. He was then approached by another company who made lots of empty promises to him. Even after asking him not to accept any offers or to resign without signing and having a copy of the contract, he resigned anyway and started with the new job... For the past two months now I have been the responsible person for ALL bills, food, a car which I had to purchase because he can't afford one and he needed transport to work. The problem is, after all this time, he just never communicated with me. I have on so many occassions, even before marriage, tried to get him to be responsible and tell me if he suspects we're going to have financial problems, but everything is always a surprise to me because he never talks. I finally decided that I'm no longer living with him (we don't have kids) and I asked him to move back to his parents as he wanted to behave like a child and not a man and therefore needed parents and not a wife. He tried to commit suicide the day thereafter. And off course I rescued him... He's okay now, but is living with his parents and 12hours' drive away from me. I know it must sound selfishh, but Ifeel so relieved! I want to get my house and finances in order again. Get rid of all the debt he has convinced me to get into, because I wanted us to have a good and comfortable life! The problem is however, I am still married. He's however still unemployed and is looking for a job now. Wants to apparently NOW ONLY work at our marriage... But what happens in the meanwhile? I cannot support a man who does not even want to support himself! I can't seem to believe him though, because after all these years, he is just so spoiled and expects others to do things for him. What must I do? I am so helpless...

When my husband and I first got married, we agree to keep our finances seperate for a little while due to both of us had children and financial responsibilities from previous marriage. We are now married 4 years and everything is still seperate, split in half. We don't even have an account to save for our future together and my husband does not want one. My husband's past unpaid medical bill were reported on my credit report which I had to pay to have it removed. My husband has not filed for his federal/state taxes in at least 3 years so I have been filing seperate. He has now stopped paying all of his credit cards (which I am not joint on). He says this doesn't affect me but I'm afraid a tax lien will be placed on my credit report since we live in a community state. And, we will never be able to own a home or buy a car together because he has messed up his credit. He make $40k more than me and I don't understand where all his money is going. I am at my wits end as I don't feel I have a partner and we are just acting like roomates. Shoudl I be concerned of his actions?

You're hardly like roommates, who are never responsible for each other's debts. In a community property state (with some anomalies in Texas and a loophole you might qualify for on the taxes), you owe all of your husband's debts incurred while you're married, and your assets can be taken to pay them.

You two need some Third Alternatives. In a community property state, separate bank accounts are meeting his need for freedom to spend as he pleases, but they are not meeting your needs for security or even for enough information to make sound decisions.

Your Third Alternative might be to find a better-paying job in another state. This is a pretty extreme solution. I suggest it only to get you thinking of options that will meet both sets of needs, because it sounds like you're stuck in either-or thinking that requires you to choose between him and your financial safety.

As for buying a car or a house, it's bank loans he's putting out of reach, not the car or house. You can be the one to save up to buy a used car or to make a big enough down payment to qualify for a mortgage. Or you two may have a friend or relative willing to purchase the house you want and give you a rent-to-own arrangement that protects them while helping you.

Beyond the financial issues, it sounds like your husband may have a mental health issue, an addiction to gambling or spending. It's definitely time to talk and to share credit reports and balance sheets.

Hi Patty,

I have been in a relationship with a financially irresponsible man for 17 years. It has been exhausting.
The beginning of the marriage was trying because I had an exorbitant amount of health issues. ENDOMETRIOSIS, INFERTILITY, POOR LIBIDO, Then I broke my back on a jet ski and while I was laid up I miraculously got pregnant, No I don't say miraculously because of any other reason than I was told I couldn't have kids and MY daughter was on her way! She is the light of my life... We then decided to get married and buy our first house. Then my health still deteriorated because I was told I had to have a hysterectomy at 30 years old, So I did! which caused me to be at deaths door with peritonitis (for those of you who do not know what that is it is internal bleeding in the abdomen) It was a 2 year struggle to get back on my feet and feel normal. I also feel I need to mention that I only took 3 months off of work. We struggled to pay bills but made good money some years but we were definately morgaged to the hilt. He has always showed signs of irresponsibility with money but I guess it wasn't as apparent when we were both contributing to the household finances. I need to mention his mother is VERY bad with money. She robs peter to pay paul every week since I have known her. She even borrowed money from my husband (her son)on our wedding day. She asked me to send her money or she would be out on the street so I took money off of our credit card only to hear oh great now I can feed my dogs(yes plural). When I met him he had no credit score and was not able to get a bank account even. I was young I did not see the signs then. I figured oh I will help, I love doing that stuff cleared up his credit, put him on a couple of my credit cards to establish and we were off and running. Then comes the infidelity. it almost tore us apart. we separated for 4 months. He said he had been thinking about divorce for a long time. I still have some mistrust lingering.
The worst part of the marriage happened when he got hurt on the job 9 years into the marriage He claimed workers comp for 2 years. During that time his sister passed away very young (age 30) from a heart attack. She had an 8 month old BABY. Yes you guessed it the baby was put in my arms that night and has not left our household since. Also during that time he became very addicted to pain pills. So when it came time for the settlement they rated him 25% disabled he cashed out un-benounced to me $60,000 settlement. Handed me a $30,000 check and said "I want a divorce" I said when your off the drugs and thinking clearly we will talk about it. I was concerned for our daughters safety if I left. He was very destructive and reckless at this time. "The talk" never was revisited. He bonded with our niece because he was home with her all day every day. She calls us mom and DAD but I think there is some detachment disorder there. I am also very resentful because I was never given a choice. It was "this is what we are doing and get out if you don't like it". I was almost 40 I wasn't ready to start over again, plus I knew there would be mental issues to deal with because his sister was on drugs and had bipolar, adhd, manic depression and was also addicted to pain pills etc...It has been a challenge just getting her to listen and not argue with me. She is 6 now. She has been diagnosed with ADHD.
He never went back to work. He blew thru his $30,000 on motorcycles and pills and I socked mine away waiting for the divorce and instead I used it little by little to try and save our house over a 2 year period. We had to finally claim bankruptcy. we lost everything! I was for the first time in the marriage ready to (in my heart) leave him I had had enough!! Then he went to financial classes and changed for the better. My grandfather bought us a house, I pay him rent. we stayed together. My husband still does not have a job and he went thru his benefits of unemployment 2 years ago. Then last year he worked for the summer and built up a little 401K and some more weeks of unemployment benefits. He had his checks deposited into our joint account but I had taken the atm card away because that had turned out to be (in HIS EYES) a money tree. I give him allowance and when he ask I will give him whatever he needs. sometimes with questions. I thought it had been working. NOPE. this week I asked him for his tax papers so I can prepare the taxes and he hands me 3 papers and a note. He cashed his 401K out back in October ($8000)
and had been claiming unemployment since the beginning of December but did not tell me or help me with bills food anything he let me keep giving him money for gas, cigarettes, groceries etc... I AM SENT OVER THE EDGE AND DONE...please help me see a different side. I don't know what to do. I feel like he is using me and taking advantage of my grandfather
because now he know our family has money. But I do not want to throw away 17 years. But the trust has been broken to what feels like irreparable places. HELLPPP

Tiffani, I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I hope I can help.

You appear to be doing the very natural response to learning frightening news: you are searching your past and present for all the signs of related danger. This works marvelously if you're out in the woods fearing predators. It's not as helpful when dealing with someone who loves you.

When your husband spends money you cannot bear to lose, and you two cannot come to a satisfactory agreement on financial priorities, it makes sense to limit his access to your share of it. I applaud you for this.

But it also makes sense for him to limit your access to his share if his spending style is different.

So, setting aside what he might have done while you were ill years ago, his infidelity years ago, his unilateral decision six years ago that he (and therefore you) must accept responsibility for his sister's child, his mother's problems with money, the $30,000 of his income that you used to try to keep your home and the other $30,000 that he did not put to that purpose, and the different way he approached being sidelined from work, what we have now is that he concealed from you two months of unemployment insurance income and his spending of the $8,000 of 401K money from this summer's work.

What I recommend is that you Assume Love and reconsider what happened. By this, I do not mean pretend all is fine or act as if he still loves you, but instead consider what else might have caused this besides being an unloving cad who is using you.

So you ask yourself this: if I knew for certain he was a man of good character who loved his wife dearly, what might lead him to spend money on himself instead of contributing to your joint account? For help with this, see Round Up the Usual Suspects. There are suggestions in that post on how to deal with each of the possibilities.

With this method, you look for understanding instead of a score. If you decide you understand enough to move forward in a new direction, there is no need to leave. If instead you decide there is simply no loving explanation for this latest issue that fits what you know of his character, I believe you can conclude he no longer loves you and is just using you, without bringing into it any of the problems you have previously forgiven him for or any you would have had with or without him.

I am looking for some feedback. I've been married for almost 4 years now, and have been with my spouse for about 7. He is a wonderful man in every way, but i think he is extremely irresponsible with money. When we got married he decided to begin running his business full time which is yet to turn a profit or generate much revenue, while I work full time and manage all the bills.
On occasion he will get money from his business, but all the money that he does earn from the business just gets lost in the mire because, in anticipation of that money he usually uses at least 3 or 4 times what he is expecting for that month which he puts on credit cards and says he will pay back. By the time the money does come in we have to be using it for bills or other critical items, so it doesn’t even get used to payback part of the credit cards.
I used to have one credit card and now i have 6 and an unsecured loan all of which i know are bad ideas, but keep using it as a "float" i am looking for some advice on how to get back on the right track, and how to approach my spouse about resolving these financial problems together. Every time we discuss a budget, my spouse agrees with everything I say. I try not to dominate the conversation, but he never has any input or he’ll just repeat something I had previously said. I have even gone through having us both privately list out our goals and we do seem to have similar goals but then he goes out and racks up even more debt. I feel like he doesn't respect the money that I bring to the table, as he says when his business takes off he will take care of everything. I want to know why we can’t start this journey now.
I've thought about limiting him to just cash, but he uses the credit cards for his business (like car and hotel rentals). I do understand the business investment, but it seems all his purchases are just about shopping and clothes and shoes and jewelry for him which is just jeopardizing our ability to pay our bills, and feed our child and also jeopardizing the business that he is working on.

Ayana, anyone starting a business is (probably must be) highly optimistic about its success and willing to risk a lot to get it there. The last thing small business owners need is an unlimited supply of borrowed money. (And I say this as a self-employed person who would LOVE to have an unlimited supply of money but who knows just how deadly credit can be.)

One of the dumbest things a small business owner can do is mix personal and business funds. One credit card, with a reasonable limit on it (and banks will lower a limit when asked), should be plenty for the business travel and expenses. Clothing and other personal items should be purchased with cash or charged to a different credit card, either the same one you use for family emergencies or a different one with a low limit your husband pays off monthly from his business profits. The other cards really ought to go away as quickly as you can pay them off.

To make it easier to discuss finances with your husband, get yourself a deck of Money Habitudes® cards from Syble Solomon.

Since your husband seems to agree with whatever you suggest, you might want to give some thought to how much of a savings account you need for emergencies, including your unemployment or illness. This money should not be available for covering the business's cash flow problems.

Speaking of cash flow, you two might each want to create and share a monthly cash flow projection, you for your income and the bills you pay, him for the business's income and expenses. Make sure you're both clear how much you can spend without going deeper into debt each month.

I think it's great he wants to take care of everything once the business takes off. Try not to interpret this as not respecting what you're bringing in now. I believe he's trying to tell you how badly he needs respect, too, and right now it's all yours (at least in this arena -- I expect you offer a lot of respect for his efforts to build the business, for his character strengths, and for his accomplishments already).


Hello, I just stumbled upon your site. Thank you for this great article!

My spouse and I are in the process of separation. We have two kids both 'tweens'. Yes it's all about communication, compromise and expectations!

We've been married for 16years. My husband has always spent money recklessly. I He financed new cars every year for both of us. I didn't care for pricey cars but it was like an addiction for him. He bought boats, action sports as well. Always trading them in for a new version each season and taking a hit.

I complained a lot. I was not allowed to managed the finances. My paycheck went to the kids, food, and minor bills. I should've stood up for my family but I am very quiet and insecure. I let him do as he pleased so I wouldn't upset him. I know STUPID ME!

When I stopped working because he moved a lot for his work and I didn't have the language to work in the new area he was upset. The debt kept climbing. He had cards I didn't even know about. I couldn't help but he had us move so another shot in the foot.

Recently when we moved again for his job, I could work again. I started looking to return to work and it's been hard since I left the workforce years ago and also we lived in the country fall from many companies.

But deep down I was so scared if I worked he would keep getting credit, loans to buy things and even though I was looking I was scared. I didn't want us to keep relying on debt.

We couldn't communicate about budget. I like to save, he likes to enjoy NOW and charge it! The expectations were so different and only when we hit rock bottom (major debt) did they surface since we couldn't hide our debt and problems.

Most recently he traded in our cars in again and bought a sports car. An entry level car for me. I was so angry that he was at it again.

Things became different fast, he seemed fed up. At this time he cheated 2x, and confessed. He then asked to sell our home and separate. He said he couldn't take the debt anymore and he was done!!

He blamed me for not working and causing our demise. He also said I didn't love him and that's why he must have kept buying stuff, to feel loved. That was his interpretation.

We have no money, only debt. He makes a salary enough for 3 people but he spends like TRUMP. All our family thought he earned like TRUMP and when I complained that he spent too much, they thought I was ungrateful.

So when the house sells now, we won't have much left. He wants to start fresh on his own and get out of debt. He is ashamed for spending money carelessly over the years but still blames me. If I worked he says we could've made the payments etc. I still feel we would've been in this spot a few years into the future. We were chasing our tails and although I was sick of it I didn't want to break our marriage. I wanted him to wake up and stop spending and put a plan together to pay off debts. Save and enjoy but not enjoy first before anything else.

I wish I was confident and left years ago. Maybe he would've stopped spending and we could've saved our marriage. Instead, I let him control the money and resented him for it. He resented me for not working recently to keep up with the debt. A case of What Came First the Chicken or the Egg.

I hope my story helps someone out there. I was scared to leave my husband and save our family and now my husband is leaving me and our family because he is scared of dying in debt.

Thanks and good luck to all
TBV

Thank you for sharing your story with us. It's a good lesson on the importance of taking responsibility when your spouse won't, even when you're feeling insecure.

Hi Patty. Thanks for this article. My husband and I are on the verge of divorce. I really wanted to save our marriage but I don't think he does. He's been complaining that I spend too much plus am sending some money to my home country which upsets him too because I would end up borrowing money from him. We both have jobs and really make good money esp him. He earns 3-4× as much as I do. Our agreement was my money was mine to spend and for everything in the household from groceries, gas, clothings, school and everything. We have 2 boys together (twins

Sheila, it sounds like your agreement is no longer working for your husband or your marriage. Divorced, your money situation is automatically worse for each of you and for your three children. Get yourselves a deck of Money Habitudes® cards or a financial counselor. You need a new financial agreement.

Thanks Patty. I believe so but he should have sat down with me and talk about it because the past few months I was starting doing some control. But then I discovered he was having an affair and wanted a divorce after abandoning us. He left over 2 months ago. So I filed and regretted it and has told him my desire to save the marriage until last night but it's no longer working. He complained to me about my lawyer's demands and that we should sit down and talk about our settlement just the two of us. Please send me an email and if it's okay I would like to ask you pieces of advice with regards to the divorce proceedings. You're right. Even at this point am already in my worst position because he doesn't want to give me any child support. Thanks again.
Sheila

I will write to you Sheila. I am so sorry that your marriage has collapsed.

One piece of advice I will write here is never to think or speak of child support as something your spouse gives you. It's something he owes his children, and something you are obligated to spend on them, not yourself, even if it is for their portion of a home or meals you and they share.

In my opinion, it really ought to be at least as much as Social Security would provide his children if he died, which, if he's making $117,000 or more this year, comes to about $1,700 per child per month, up to a max of $4,000 per month for 3 or more children. If custody is shared, he need not provide it all to them through you, but this is what he ought to expect is his minimum fair share of his children's expenses.

If your children receive it from Social Security, as mine did, you must account for every penny of it every year, and any unspent amount must be deposited in a bank account in your child's name. These things also seem quite fair to me.

I've been married 2.5 years, in the relationship for almost 6 years. All this time my husband has owned and operated a landscaping business. At the time that we got married I knew the business profits were small but I also thought the debt was small to non exsistent. I thought he owned all of his trucks and equipment. When in reality his mom owns all but one of the trucks and 75% of his equipment. His mom has also "loaned" him thousands upon thousands of dollars for the business. She's always came to his rescue when he overdraws his checking accounts and they are on the brink of being charged off at the bank. Basically his mom is enabling. She likes to complain about how much money he owes her, or throws it in his face that she owns most of his equipment, etc. But secretly I think she likes all of this because it keeps her son (my husband) at her beck and call. She is very involved in the daily lives of her older sons as well and to some extent, they are financially dependent on her as well. (They are mid 30's) They are also not married, my husband, the youngest brother, the baby, is the only one that is married. She resents me because she now does not have as much control over my husband, she's even said that to him and his older brothers before. We have a 1 year old son who was constantly getting sick in daycare and we have no family to provide his private care for us. So based on false information from my husband, (he told me he had won a very lucrative contract for 3 years worth of work for a municipality, and the money would start coming in soon, I resigned from a good paying job that I had worked at for 6 years, in an industry I had been in for 15 years, to care for our son until he was a little older and his immune system strengthened. As much as I wanted to be home with our baby, I would have never quit my job and given up our financial security if I did not truly believe he had won this contract. He lied to me about this contract for a YEAR, prior to me leaving my job. He told elaborate stories about things that happened during his workday on this new contract, all obviously made up, but he sold the stories very well. The money wasn't coming in and I asked him several times if there was something he wasn't telling me. The answer was always "no, everything is fine, they are just late with payment." It wasn't until I actually called the city municipal accounting office to ask why we had not yet been paid for the work that I found out the truth. The accounting clerk seemed shocked that I was calling and told me that we were not owed anything because my husband had indeed bid on the contract but he had not won it. He lied for a year, allowed me to quit my good paying job, all while knowing he would not have the funds available to support our family without it. In addition, since finding this out 7 months ago and agreeing to stay with him, I've only discovered more lies. He has borrowed money from everyone in town, owing one man almost $20,000, another one $5k, a cousin $3k, an uncle $2k, several other random people a few hundred here and there. One of his best friends of 10 years came storming into a restaurant we were eating lunch at just before Christmas demanding $150 that he had borrowed from him weeks ago. The story is the same from all the people he owes, that my husband spins a quick "desperately needs to borrow this money right now" story and then promises to "pay it back with a few weeks to a couple of months." Then he doesn't follow through with the promise to repay because his business is not producing enough profit and then often tries to borrow even more money. They are as fed up as I am. My husband has also written several thousands of dollars worth of bad checks to area merchants for landscaping supplies. He has also lied to me several times about not collecting money owed to him at work, that I need to pay our household bills, so he could secretly pay back money to one of the many people he owes. I've just about drained my savings and lost my mind because of all this. I've tried for years, even before we got married, to get him to shut down his business and get a job. I've tried to manage his business accounts for him, (at his request, as I was a banker), only to later find out that he has secretly opened another checking account at another bank and it is now overdrawn and has bad checks out. I found out that he was arrested for writing bad checks in 2007, 2 years before I met him, so this is a pattern, NOT new behavior. I've begged him to stop lying to me, he promises he will and then the very next day he's lying to me again. He cannot afford to support his family because he owes everyone else. He will not seek regular work and close his business. He will not stop lying. I'm seeing a lawyer this week for a legal separation, thankfully I am not in a community property state, however I do have some real estate assets left and do not want liens placed against them due to his repeated mistakes. Other than his constant pathological lying and extremely reckless financial behavior, he is loving and good to me, our son and my 2 older children from a previous marriage. However, his continued destructive actions after being given so many chances with me and everyone else, do not show love. It shows selfishness, greed, manipulation and extreme irresponsibility. Should I still "assume love" in this situation? My husband's behavior is out of control.

JennaAnn, I do think you might want to Assume Love. But I do not mean by this that you should ignore or accept his dangerous behavior.

By Assume Love I mean set aside the notion that he lacks love for you or the character strengths you saw when you fell in love with him. Assume you could be certain he's a good man who loves you very much. Now ask yourself what might lead such a man to risk her and their child's financial security? What would make a man who loved his wife lie to her about finances?

I suggest asking this because it is so very easy to conclude he doesn't care about anyone but himself.

But if he cares about you, your child, his mother whose money he's also blowing away, then the only possible explanation is that he's got a psychological problem that puts money management and running a business out of his control. What he's doing is a form of compulsive gambling. And you are correct that his mother is enabling it.

I believe you are wise to seek a separation and legal advice on how to protect your assets from his mental illness. I would recommend you make reuniting dependent on his getting therapy, working with a financial adviser, turning over the title and keys to everything he can't pay for, and canceling all but one checking account and any credit cards.

He's got some serious work to do. And no promise he makes until he's done it is worth squat, because he either doesn't love you or cannot make himself do what he knows he must do to protect you. You are the only one who can protect the five of you. You cannot control his behavior, but his love for you is his greatest hope of finding the strength to do the work to regain control over his behavior and start rebuilding.

In my opinion, you are well within your rights to walk out on him. But it sounds like you still care for him and value his role in your children's lives. It's a treatable problem, and one that will ruin his life if left untreated, because it's destroying his relationships with people, and that will rob him of happiness and shorten his expected lifespan. So perhaps you might work out with your lawyer a timetable and conditions for ending the separation or proceeding to divorce and, in the meantime, work on a way to permanently protect what assets you have and start earning money again whether or not he finds the strength to do what he needs to do.

I hope for his sake and yours, but especially for the sake of the children, that he finds a good therapist and gets to the heart of what compels him to keep deceiving others to provide him with money to feed his hope that his business will soon succeed beyond reason.

First I wanted to say I find your advice so refreshing. I suppose I have the common complaints about marriage, and need a refreshing perspective because I am uncertain whether or not my husband's behavior would be considered abuse. We married when I was twenty and he just turned twenty three. My father died when I was ten and I grew up in church where submission of wife was a stronger spoken Word than men loving the wife as Christ loved the church. I married out of guilt from sin and I was much more ignorant then. I spent the first four years of marriage journaling my hatred of my husband. We will be married coming up thirteen years and I have rediscovered love and have matured a bit more. My concern is in 2013 we filed bankruptcy,Joey's solution to financial irresponsibility. Two years later and he isn't showing signs of improvement.He still secretly tries to apply to credit cards,feels he HAS to have a project in a fix up car,and leaves budgeting to me and doesn't recognize effects of his spending on the family. We live in a house that needs fixing up including a shower or bath hook up so I don't have to bathe our three kids in kitchen sink. Do u have any advice?

Thank you for your kind words, Sarah. What you describe does not sound like abuse, although it definitely sounds stressful for you. Abuse aims at manipulating a person or driving her away with less than she (or he) deserves. Other reasons for running up debt and failing to spend what's needed on the children's wellbeing include optimism (I'm sure our expenses will drop or my income will increase or we'll come into money), entitlement (I had/have it harder than others, so I -- not my creditors or my kids or my wife -- deserve to this money), a desperate need to buy some self-esteem (I must go to work to feed the kids and if I don't have a car to work on, I'll feel so low I can't even work), and addiction (an emergency condition requiring professional or trained amateur help).

You need a way to live with and work with whatever's got him running up debts while neglecting the plumbing. You need a way that works with your sense of what's right and with your faith that submission is what God requires of you.

I've done a lot of thinking about submission, mostly as I've read about my great-grandparents, a couple of activist preachers born in the 1860s whose lives are documented in old newspapers going online these days as well as in everything written about Salvation Army history. My great-grandmother preached submission, but her husband died shortly after the birth of their 8th child, and everything she did before and especially after shows her to be an extremely strong and independent woman with a mission.

She traveled by ship and train from London to San Francisco with a girlfriend to join him at the start of their work in the US. She and their first infant son went ahead to preach in Portland, Oregon, where she was assaulted and injured and kept preaching. She stopped in Ohio en route to meeting up with him in New York and did enough fund raising in one night to open a maternity hospital there. I'm convinced that "put up with crap" was not ever her idea of submission.

So I checked the eyewitness accounts of the command to submit in 1 Peter 3: "be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct....let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

Respectful, pure, gentle, quiet spirit. I can go with that, Great-Grandma.

And then I wondered about why chapter 3 begins with the word "Likewise." And it's because Jesus first said to all, "So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander." He instructed everyone to "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." To submit to the emperor and his governors by doing good and honoring everyone. To submit to a master with respect if you are a servant, doing good and enduring any punishment it brings. To submit as Jesus submitted. And *likewise* to submit to a husband. Without malice or deceit or envy or slander. Respectfully. Gently.

Obviously, I have no credentials as a preacher of any religion. Please consult with one you trust or read your Bible for guidance. But I share all this because I don't think anything I am going to suggest would be inconsistent with this version of submission.

Ask yourself what you would do about the plumbing if Joey died tomorrow.

Would you revise the budget to pay for the repair? What stops the woman charged with budgeting from doing this today -- with respect and lack of malice and a quiet spirit?

Not enough money? What would you do to bring in more money if he were gone? What stops you from doing this today -- without envy or slander, without objecting that it's unfair, that you are entitled to something different, that your self-esteem would suffer if you had to take a job or create a home business?

If Joey were dead, would you pay off the credit card debt? And advise the 3 credit bureaus to report a freeze on your willingness to take on another card, just in case temptation gets the better of you? Can you ask the same of him now, with respect and gentleness, as a way of protecting you and the children in case something happens to him?

If Joey were dead, and there were some recreational activity that you felt you needed to keep your sanity and your strength as you worked to support yourself and the children and keep them well-cared for while you worked, would you work it into the budget? If so, could you work his car projects into the budget with respect and honor, a difficult but good deed that might reduce his temptation for deceit?

And could you likewise put the rest of the money needed for the rest of the family into an account reserved only for things on the budget, knowing and accepting that he does not grasp the effects of his spending on the rest of the family, even though he loves you all? And if he objects, could you use the opportunity to discuss a Third Alternative, one that protects the things that matter to you as well as the ones that matter to him? If you do this without accusing him of falling down on his job as the head of the family, you can do it with the respect and humility your religion encourages.

If you're like me, you're probably practically shouting in your head now, "I shouldn't have to do these things. He should just develop some financial responsibility, and everything will be okay." And you're right. That would fix it. But you have no way of making that happen.

As soon as you let go of the expectation that he will become someone other than who he is and has remained, you will be much freer to see the things about him that are absolutely lovable, the things that challenge you to become a better person, the good things that will be part of your children's legacy from growing up with both their parents. And you'll fix the problem a lot faster, too, because you already ARE financially responsible and concerned about your debt and plumbing problems.

Best of luck to you, Sarah.

My husband to be .... is a crack addict, porn has been an issue and money of course. We are both Christians, I longer than he. The problem is that he will go on a binge and spend the money until it is gone or almost gone. Our counselors say that if I dont let him figure this out and be a man as the order of God says, then I am trying to take that position. I cant take the chance of being homeless and hand over that end of the finances to him. Another problem is that they do not know all the details to advise that decision. I know one answer is dont marry him but I dont think that is the only answer. What do you think?

Don't marry him yet is an excellent answer. He's not in a position to make a sincere commitment, because he has too little control over the connection between his intentions (loving you, being a Christian) and the choices he makes.

If you're sharing a home or expenses already, a really important step is to separate your finances. It sounds like you've already done this, but if not, it is the most loving thing you could do. If possible, make his payment of his share of the expenses a money transfer into your account that happens automatically on the day he gets paid.

It takes strength to overcome addiction, and a loved one who props up his life while he finds that strength makes it take even more strength.

If you expect more than he can realistically give in his current condition, you will become resentful, and the resentment will corrode your relationship as much as his crack use does. His first step toward marriage must be overcoming the compulsions that keep him from being able to afford a stable life with you. Without this, the rest is just paperwork that complicates your life and his, because his intentions and his word are close to meaningless.

I am a working mother of two, a 5 yr old and a 1 yr old. I am the income provider in my household as my fiance is a stay at home dad and takes care of the kids during the day. I have found that my interest in my fiance and our relationship is lessening as we experience issues surrounding finances. Being financially fit is really important to me, so I save as much money as I can each paycheck and make sure my credit stays squeaky clean. We have also been talking about purchasing a home the beginning of 2016; therefore, we currently don't go out as often to save more money. We both agreed on this plan. My fiance has had a history of making bad financial decisions. He currently does not have a license because he owes the state fines, he has past due tax bills and other accounts, and he owes $15,000+ in back child support for his oldest daughter. He has recently been working on cleaning up his credit, which I applaud him for that; however, he continues to make bad decisions when it comes to creating more debt. He has a tendency to spend money that we don't have. He has been working on starting an online business and the program that he is using has fees. Initially, he told me that his sister was going to pay the program fees in exchange for him babysitting his nephew. Well those plans changed and now he won't be watching his nephew and getting any money. I found out yesterday that he racked up a $500 credit card bill paying fees for the program. I am beyond frustrated with him at this point not only because he did it without telling me, but also because he seems to think it's fine to spend money that he doesn't have now based on what he thinks will happen in the future. We have had many conversations about this and I told him that that's not the best way to approach finances. He told me that he would take care of paying the bill on the credit card and that I shouldn't worry about it. Although I don't know where he's going to get the money from since he doesn't work, I'm not worried about the bill. My concern is his thinking about finances. We are on 2 different pages. When we have conversations, he makes it seem like we are on the same page but then he goes and does something like that. Later he will say it's because of old habits. I'm tired of hearing that and quite frankly I don't want to move forward with buying a home until he either changes how he looks at finances, or starts bringing in some income on his own to account for his bad decisions. He even went as far as getting a credit card in his name and letting his brother use it to go shopping. Really? So if his brother lost his job, who would be stuck paying the bill? I refuse to let him put me in a position where the hard earned money I work for has to go to nonsense because he wanted to loan money that he doesn't have or because he decided to make charges on his credit cards after we already discussed and agreed that we would not spend any extra money so that we can save for a house. I was already paying his 2 credit card bills, his child support, and any money that he gives his ex-wife for his daughter outside of the child support comes from me. Him and his ex-wife just came to an agreement that his daughter would come live with us for the summer and 2 weekends out of each month. As you know, our household expenses will increase as a result. He doesn't look at the big picture. All he focuses on is what he wants to do at the moment, and then later will say he realizes he should have approached it differently. Also, last night I told him going forward that he would be responsible for paying his own bills and that our finances would now be separate, with the exception of household bills. I am now at a point where I can't even be as loving and affectionate towards him as I used to, and I almost despise him when I think about some of the things he's done. Anytime he talks about finances, I immediately tense up and get annoyed. In general, I'm not happy. I know finances should not over shadow love but if two people are not on the same page financially, how does a relationship work?We've had numerous talks about finances and he knows my stance; however, I feel like he's never truly honest with me about his point of view. There is no way one day you can totally be on the same page with saving and not spending on any unnecessary items, but then a few days later, buy an iPad on a credit card. That means you were never in agreement in the first place. He is a wonderful human being and amazing in so may ways, and I have doing my very best to provide for him and our family. I'm doing things I always said I would never do for a man before I met him because I love him so much. Hell if he was anyone else, I may not have even went this far with the person or would have broken it off by now. Him staying at home with the kids was a mutual agreement, so obviously I have to pay all of the bills which I don't mind, but I'm not going to be responsible for any debt that I didn't agree to. I think what's bothering me the most is that I feel like I need to put the house plans on hold because I don't want to take such a huge step and he's still making these type of financial decisions because at the end of the day, they don't just affect him. I think this is contributing to most of the negative feelings I've been having for the past couple of days. It kind of hurts because this is something that I've been excited about for a while now, but I am smart enough to know that you should never engage in such a life changing event with the tendency to make poor financial decisions. Since it's not just going to be "my" home, then that includes him as well. We both have to be making the best choices to always make sure we are in the best position. Every single conversation that we have about finances goes awry which is why I don't really like to talk about it with him. He says he gets it, then he makes a bad financial decision, we talk about it and he says he gets it, then he makes a bad financial decision, we talk about it and he says he gets it, then he makes a bad financial decision; it's like a spinning wheel and I'm about to fall off. I don't know what else to say. I know that my approach to our conversations could be a lot better, but I feel like in the end, nothing will be different because his thinking is still the same. I honestly feel like the only reason he's not making more poor financial choices is because he's not in a position where he has his own income. That's scary as heck to be honest! I feel like our finances absolutely must be separate at this point. What should I say to him? And what should I do to resolve these ill feelings towards him that are preventing me from being loving and affectionate towards him?

S, it makes a lot of sense to separate your finances, as long as you do it in the right, loving spirit. You have high standards for financial hygiene, and you're goal-driven, able to resist current temptations to reach longer-term goals like owning a house. You married someone with a very obviously different relationship with money -- he owes his own daughter more than $15,000 and he owes serious government fines. I expect both of these were true when you chose him as your spouse.

You're trying to turn him into you. He's even agreeing he'd like to be like you. But whatever got him where he is now still affects his day-to-day decisions. And you're taking them personally, as if he's doing them to take advantage of you or because he lacks character.

I'm not dismissing the possibility that he's a manipulative man of zero integrity, but it does not sound like you see any other evidence of this. He sounds optimistic and generous (two great character strengths) and he's a guy nurturing a couple of toddlers, apparently well. None of us excels at all the character strengths. The fact that yours are different ones could make you a very strong couple if you resist measuring one without taking into account the others.

Lots of us have childhood issues still quietly controlling our choices about money. Yours probably lead you toward approaches that offer more security. His resist the constraints of what probably feels like indenture, and he's already far enough in the hole to feel it's for more than 7 years if he acknowledges it at all.

I urge you to separate out enough of your finances to provide you with the security you need to stop trying to correct him. Then you two might want to buy a deck of Money Habitudes cards (from http://moneyhabitudes.com) to use as a way of having a non-judgmental discussion about money. Once you can see money through each other's eyes, it will become a lot easier to find Third Alternatives to your disagreements.

And if you seek security, I would strongly advise against co-owning a house with a man who owes his child and the government money. If you're in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin), don't even think about buying one until those debts are cleared.


This is my second marriage and we will be married 2 years tomorrow.

We are both in our mid fifties. I have an executive salary and he is in sales and make a great income.
He moved into my house and sold his home so we could both have a reasonable commute.
One week after we returned from our honeymoon he received a notice from the IRS for back taxes. Three years of back taxes totaling $350,000. Keep in mind the penalties and interest continue until it's paid in full. Well this was a shock to me. My fault, I should have had him sign a prenup. For the last two years I had him get a new accountant and sign a release of information for me. Sent him to a psychiatrist who put him on meds and signed up for counseling. He has been dragging his feet dealing with the tax issue and always finds something else to do. He doesn't like the meds so he stopped taking them. He does not show up for counseling. It's been a year and a half and I think I have been tolerant. He spends everything he has and his kids milk him every chance they get. His name is not on my house for fear the IRS will take it. I pay the bills, I show him the status every month of our checking accounting and retirement (mainly mine). I am transparent about our finances. I put us on quicken to show him his spending habits and we've even taken a Ramsey class. Nothing has changed. He won't sell his boat or the boat slip to free up cash flow. when I show him a $1,500 checking account balance and ask him to be careful spending he blows a bunch of money we don't have. This is crazy when we both make an insane salary and we're living paycheck to paycheck. I live within my means, he thinks he's a member of the Trump family! I cannot let him spend me into bankruptcy. I have worked too hard to save for retirement to let him destroy everything I've built. I have no choice but to file for divorce.

Danni, that's a lot of unpleasant surprises for two short years. It may well be that you will need to divorce to protect your financial security. However, if you still love your husband for his other strengths and values, why not separate your bank accounts and consult a tax lawyer first? It's entirely possible you can protect yourself and stop stressing about a problem that obviously does not stress him.

And once the problem is all his, he may see it differently and do something about it, especially since the IRS is likely to go after his boat (and cancel less of the debt than he could if he sold it) once your income is out of the picture.

It puts you in a position to be empathetic when this loss happens, instead of the one forcing it as the best way out of a difficult situation.

And should he initiate a divorce as a result because he married you for your money instead of the other things you add to his life, it makes it a lot less likely you'll know what to do and in what order as you move toward divorce.

Try to enjoy tomorrow's anniversary. It's a great chance to consider the worth of your relationship beyond the financial.

Then let an expert take a shot at putting the issue outside of your marriage, if you think you'd like to stay inside it.

This article is a lot of nonsense. A marriage is a partnership. If one person is constantly a dependent and childlike and the other has to assume the responsible parental role it is an unfair situation. And just because a person gets married Now for the rest of their lives one person has to deal w the mental stress of being the main responsible party as the other rides their Coat tails. Nonsense. That is a one way street and it has its limits. I'm all for trying to correct the situation but after many attempts and conversations if things don't change it May just very well be that person Personality More than it is in dealing w the problem. If kids are involved I'd say gut it out and manage your level of happiness. In my situation there are no children. And despite the ceremony after marriage Nothing in my relationship changed from having a live in gf to a wife. It's a relationship name it what u like. After a decade of supporting my now wife and after watching her fail to gain any real career to help out in build our life together and watching her party it up each and every weekend Embarassing me and herself w her behavior. I'm done. Many convos haven't changed this. I am a committed person. Always hardworking and never quit anything. But most of the religious point of views have this stay no matter what view and I think it's Nonsesne.

Bill, I'm with you. "Stay no matter what" should apply only to the people who practice a religion that dictates this.

Most of the people who ask questions on this blog are stuck between the rock of loving and wanting the person they married and the hard place of finding a disagreement or dashed expectations intolerable. Once you let your resentment over your unmet expectations of what marriage requires of your spouse erode your desire to go on loving her, the easier route, especially when no children are involved, is to end the marriage.

The more difficult route is not to "gut it out" -- that may technically fulfill some religious rule, but it's not really a marriage, it surely doesn't fulfill the spirit of any religious rule, and it's not a good environment for children for those who are parents.

The challenging route is to find a mutually satisfying Third Alternative to the two that aren't working for you (career and weekends together vs. dependency and partying solo on weekends) and then to lean in instead of keeping your distance, so you can fall in love again.

It you're still in the market for Third Alternatives and ways to fall back in love, please post again. If there's not enough love for your wife left to bother fixing things, then please accept my sincere condolences on your loss.

I don't know if you're still taking questions, but I sure hope so! My husband of 5 years is driving me crazy! I find myself resenting him more and more for his financial irresponsibility. Shortly after we married we were evicted from the house we were renting because he had failed to pay the rent for 90 days. We ended up living in a hotel for a couple of months until we could save up enough money to rent a new home. He was let go from his job shortly after we moved to the new home. He decided to start his own business at that time. His business has been doing fairly well. However he has not filed taxes for himself or his business. His personal taxes, have not been paid or filed since 2010. He has paperwork from the IRS stating an exorbitant amount owed to them as they estimate his income and taxes owed. Along with not paying or filing taxes, he failed to pay his child support and his alimony. He was previously married for 20 years, his ex-wife was a stay-at-home mom to their four children (in their mid-teens when they divorced). He is extremely resentful about the alimony he has to pay and always comes up with excuses why he cannot pay the child support he owes. Two of the teenage children moved in with him during the divorce, so his child support was actually not a huge amount each month and it only lasted for a couple of years. However he has put it off for so long and ignored (he actually throws away all of the letters that came from Texas regarding this debt) that it's now accumulated to almost $20,000 because of the interest!! 18 months ago, the state of Texas had a hold placed on our bank accounts and charged the entire amount owed, putting our bill account negative $20,000!! He somehow managed to pay $250 worth of child support and got the hold released with a promise to make timely payments. However, he has not paid a dime since then. I am frantic thinking that the state of Texas will put yet another hold on our account and maybe this time they won't let go. I'm sure you see the pattern, ignoring his personal taxes, ignoring his business taxes, ignoring his child support, and now I will tell you even more! He has received speeding tickets enough so that he lost his license a few years ago for approximately 6 months. He does drive for his position and claims that he's spends so much time on the road but of course he gets more speeding tickets than the average person. However he continued to drive even through the time that he didn't have a driver's license. I'm disappointed that he cares so little for the law. Also he received a ticket for no car insurance while driving in Texas, we receive letters from the state of Texas all the time saying there's a warrant for his arrest due to his failure to pay this ticket. These are letters he also throws away, saying he doesn't live in Texas so what does he care about a Texas warrant. He got a ticket for fishing without a license (he had a license just not on him!) and he ignored this ticket long enough that the ticket became a warrant for his arrest. He accrues traffic tickets that go into warrants and last year he was actually arrested for one of these warrants while he was on his way home from hunting. It seems like either everything is a joke to him or he is somehow different than everyone else and does not have to follow rules. Now for the kicker, a couple of years ago he had a client that skipped out and took a bunch of equipment and left my husband holding the bag to pay for this equipment from the Supply Company. This equipment cost $10,000. The customer of my husband's was not a reputable company and my husband's business truly owes this money. True to his style, he ignored this debt long enough that it went to court (he did not go to represent himself or do anything about this) and now we have a hold on our bank account once again in the amount of $17,000 - the total cost of the equipment plus lawyers fees plus interest. I am so angry and so disappointed I just want to cry and run away from home. All of our children are grown and gone (I raised four of my own as a single Mom), it is just the two of us at home. There is no reason why these debts could not be paid, other than the fact that he ignores them. During the time of our marriage my husband has made numerous purchases... He bought a used truck as a toy for $4,000. It has never run very well, has cost us thousands of dollars in repairs, and is really just sitting in the driveway. He also bought a trailer, but never received the title so he can't get it registered and it has sat with scrap junk piled high in it for the past two-and-a-half years. He buys vintage saxophones, he buys ski passes & takes off to go skiing, he takes two weeks off each year to go hunting (tags, archery equipment, food, travel to his destination - all cost $$$, yet he acts like it costs us nothing!!). He already has a motorcycle, but he just bought a new motorcycle (for a few thousand dollars) - and has spent hundreds of dollars (already!!) refurbishing it... I am so woefully disappointed, I can't even look at him... HELP!

Dawna, we're mostly out of my area of expertise here, but perhaps I can help a bit.

First of all, this is such an extreme flaunting of laws and debts that I suspect there may be a psychological or neurological problem affecting your husband's behavior. You might want to find a marriage therapist who is also a psychologist or, better yet, a psychiatrist to meet with the two of you about this issue, someone who could ask the right questions to figure out what's up. (I am neither of those.)

Second, this might be a legal issue for you, and protecting yourself from complicity in a crime is an important step whether you seek to restore or leave your marriage. In a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin), you are legally responsible for up to half of his debts (the rules vary by state and circumstance). This applies only to debts incurred since you two married, but it might be argued that interest on old debts is new debt.

In all states, if you've co-signed any credit or loan applications, you may even be responsible for all of what he owes on those accounts if he fails to pay.

And if you file your income taxes jointly, you are responsible for all (not just half) of any unpaid taxes on his income (or yours) since you married, unless you invoke the IRS's Innocent Spouse Relief clause.

These responsibilities will remain yours even if you two divorce. It seems like a very good idea to separate any joint bank accounts and credit cards and consult a lawyer about how to protect yourself right away, because I really don't know enough to help there, but it's clear that your resentment isn't helping either the marriage or your legal situation.

You don't mention what in the world drew you to a man who wasn't paying child support, but I'll guess he has some excellent qualities if you fell in love with him and married him. And I recall the story of the woman I met who divorced her husband as he grew angrier and angrier only to discover after the divorce that it was a symptom of his growing brain tumor. She took him back in to be near his kids and to care for him in his final days, and I lightened up considerably on my rush to judgment on badly behaving spouses.

He's irresponsible about things that matter to you. The law and his creditors may or may not catch up with him. But you need to protect yourself. You need to remain responsible for living according to your own values. It obviously does no good to get angry at him -- even arrest warrants don't affect his choices -- and it's eroding your relationship. Get some advice on protecting yourself as much as possible within the marriage. If you love him, do what you can to find out how much of his behavior is actually voluntary and how much is illness before you make a decision to call it quits.

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