More Than Money Problems

David says his wife has had credit issues since they married. He just found out she's got credit cards she's been hiding. Dave thinks a lack of communication is exacerbating their financial problems.

QUESTION: David in Phoenix says his wife has had credit issues since they married. They thought they had it cleaned up, but he just found out she’s got credit cards she’s been hiding. David is fed up and threatening divorce if she doesn’t clean this up. Dave thinks a lack of communication is exacerbating their financial problems.

ANSWER: You guys don’t talk a lot, do you? You travel for work, so you just told her, “Don’t do that anymore” and left. Then you find out these little pieces of information because you don’t have a good strong stream of communication.

I think you guys are managing your entire marriage poorly and this financial thing is just part of it. There are a lot of parts where you are not connecting and not talking. There is not a lot of good solid time spent in communication between the two of you. You bark orders at her before going on the road and if she doesn’t do those things, you threaten to divorce her. That’s not going to work.

Now, if the two of you were in agreement that she was not going to take out credit cards and then she took them out, then that’s a major breach of trust. But I don’t think you were in agreement. You just said don’t do that, and left. You were working on your deal, but you weren’t working on our deal.

I think the two of you need to sit down together and combine your finances. Her income and yours need to go together in a pile. Then we need to sit down together and we, as a couple, need to plan our life. That includes getting the credit cards paid off and closed, and building up some money so that if she needs to buy something, she can. You should have an adequate Christmas budget set aside.

Sharon and I, in the history of our 30-year marriage, have never bought Christmas presents for the kids without first talking about what we were going to do. There would never be a time when I was so disconnected from her that she would go buy a Wii without it being something we talked about ahead of time. Not because she’s under my thumb, but we’re just more connected than that.

If you guys are willing to work together on a plan, I can show you how to do that. But I don’t own a stick that I can hit your wife with and get her to straighten up. There is not just a way that you can give orders and make her behave. There is a bigger part of this picture than that.