Marriage, Money and Secrets
What to do when hidden debt rises to the surface
"I can't figure out where all the money is going, and he refuses to tell me or keep records to show me where the spending is going. Why can't he just tell me?"
Every year, millions of couples across the nation sit down with counselors to sort through issues, because let’s face it—we all have some issues.
Broken trust and poor communication about money top the list of pressures that put a wedge between a husband and wife. Time and time again, one spouse will try to hide an out-of-control spending habit or try to fix it on their own, convincing themselves that the problem isn’t as big as it is. Anyone can give in to impulsive spending from time to time, but it’s often hard to realize or admit when it’s out of control.
"Dave, how do I tell my husband that I currently have over $15,000 on my credit card?"
Living in a lie is a trap that hurts you and those you love most. But listen! There is hope! If you or your spouse have been hiding spending or debt, you can work through it. Just start now, work hard as a team and keep your head up. You can get through this!
Let's explore some basic steps to recovery:
Prepare to tell the whole truth.
Taking responsibility for your actions is half the battle! Owning up to your mistakes with courage, humility and transparency will be a major step in the right direction. Decide ahead of time not to leave out any details or to try to make things sound better than they are. It will only lead to more pain for both of you in the end.
Set a time to sit down with your spouse, and ask him or her not to respond until you are finished making your confession. Explain what has happened as honestly as you can. This is a good time to ask sincerely and humbly for forgiveness. Be prayerfully prepared for any potential response, because this may be quite a shock to your spouse. If you are the unsuspecting spouse getting news like this, respond with compassion and forgiveness, giving your spouse a safe place to share openly.
What is your spouse thinking? Listen without responding, even if there is a time of silence.
Get to the root.
Often, when you are falling into addictive, destructive behavior, it’s about something deeper. Compulsive spending may have its roots in trying to escape from something, cope with deeper issues, or “medicate” another problem. Take a good hard look at what that could be and seek help in dealing with it.
Ask your spouse to help you work out a plan to attack the debt using a debt snowball. Show your willingness to change by offering to take on a second job or sell things that are meaningful to you.
Establish a time (weekly at first) to stay accountable with each other. Work as a team to prevent relapse. If there isn’t drastic improvement quickly, it’s time to find a professional counselor to walk through it with you.
Continue to communicate.
When the crisis is over and wounds have healed, continue to seek your spouse's counsel and be open with each other. Couples all too often make big financial decisions without talking first. It's important to agree about major purchases, even when budgeting together, to build trust.
Stay positive about the future!
Working through any issue can be tough. Encourage each other, stay connected to people who lift you up, and keep your eye on the healing that’s taking place and the brighter future to come!
Once you start talking candidly about how you spend money, you will begin to build unity in your marriage and experience peace like never before.
Dave's team has trained thousands of counselors around the country. Find a counselor in your area.