A Marriage in Troubled Waters

Steve and his wife have $70,000 in debt and make $183,000 a year. They have separate bank accounts, and she spends what she wants. Dave senses this may not be a salvageable marriage situation.

QUESTION: Steve in Cincinnati has $70,000 in debt and is making $103,000 a year. His wife makes about $80,000 a year. They have separate bank accounts, and she spends what she wants. Steve pays all the bills for the household and saves $1,500 a month. She refuses to contribute to the household. Dave senses this may not be a salvageable marriage situation.

ANSWER: I’m not a marriage counselor, and I’m not a pastor. I’m just a guy. From a guy’s perspective who’s done financial coaching for 20 years and have watched couples in these types of scenarios, it takes two to tango. If she doesn’t want to tango, what she’s saying is she loves her front—her façade, her princess independent lifestyle—more than she loves you. It’s a possibility that this is not salvageable because she doesn’t care. The only way this works for her is if she gets to do whatever she wants. Well, that’s not how marriage works.

My suggestion to you would be that you go see a pastor, you go see a marriage counselor, and you get some counsel on how to deal with this because I wouldn’t tell you on the radio to end a marriage. That would be ridiculous for me to hear the one minute of your life and then give you advice like that.

But the things that you’re telling me—the way you’re telling me—paint her in such a bad light that it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of hope, but the way you determine that, whether that’s real or not, is you go and talk to a counselor yourself. You say, “This is what I’m facing,” and then they can help you put together a series of suggestions and bars that must be crossed in order for this marriage to continue. For it to continue exactly like it is, is called insanity. That just turns you into a spineless wimp who goes along with whatever, and that’s not marriage. For her to not have an opinion and not have an input into the thing is not what I’m suggesting.

Basically, this chick’s doing whatever she wants whenever she wants it, and nobody can tell her anything. That’s what you’ve painted up. You need to get with a counselor and determine how to put together some offers to her under which you are willing to stay, and you hope that she accepts some of those offers. Otherwise, we will be going through a necessary ending here. I sure hope that’s not the case. I hope if you can learn how to couch those offers properly, but right now, it sounds like she doesn’t care. Sometimes people like their alcohol more than they like their spouse. Sometimes people like their whatever more than they like their spouse. They like their kids more than they like their spouse.

These things happen, and it’s just a real pain in the butt, but it’s a real thing. I think the thing for you to do is seek some counsel (other than a radio person) who helps you walk through this and hopefully can give you some coaching on how to approach this in a way that shows her the seriousness of this. But for you to continue just exactly on the track you’re on is ludicrous. I can tell you that. I wouldn’t do that. But before you pull the trigger on something, ending a relationship, you would need to get some counsel from someone who’s closer and digs into the details more than I’m able to in this setting.