Progress Needed

Debbie says her husband inherited some money, and he's hiding it from her now. They're in counseling, but he refuses to share this part of his life. Dave thinks this is a serious issue.

QUESTION: Debbie in Oklahoma City says her husband inherited some money, and he’s hiding it from her now. They’re in counseling, but he refuses to share this part of his life. Dave thinks this is a serious issue.

ANSWER: I don’t know that you’re deceived. He didn’t deceive you. He just told you that he wasn’t going to put the money where you had access to it. You weren’t deceived, but it is still hurtful. Deceived would be he lied to you about something. He didn’t lie to you. He just told you he wasn’t going to give you access, which is hurtful. Translation: I’m not sure this marriage thing’s going to work out, and I sure don’t want you having access to this money. And you’ll have trouble getting any of it in the event of divorce. That’s what he’s trying to say. That hurts when you’re in the middle of counseling trying to be married.

It’s reasonable for him to set that money aside until the marriage is healing, but as part of the healing, it’s not reasonable for him to keep it set aside. If everything else is going fine except that and he’s still unwilling, then we’ve got a real breakdown here. A decent counselor who has a backbone should’ve been up in his stuff about this because of what it represents in your relationship.

All he’s saying is, “I don’t think this is going to work, and I don’t want you having access to Dad’s money.”

He could have a will done that says the money goes to anything. It’s his money. In most states—I’m not an attorney, and you’ll need to check with one—he’s not going to lose that money to you in a divorce because it’s inherited money that’s come recently. If it had come 15 years ago, then the state might declare it to be community property or something. But in most states, they’re going to let him keep that in the event of a divorce. Even if it was in just an account over at the bank and you knew the account number, you probably wouldn’t get it in most states. Again, you need to check with an attorney in your state because I might not be right there. You just said you didn’t want any access to the money except that he pays child support or whatever in the event of a divorce.

I think if I’m in your shoes, I’m going to have to see some progress on all issues in this marriage. I’m not sure that you’ve progressed much in the last nine months. Going on date nights is one thing. Going on date nights and arguing the whole time is another. There’s something going on here that doesn’t make sense. If everything else is perfect—and it’s not—and he’s still holding that money over there, then that’s a big deal. But if this thing’s running on a pretty bumpy, rocky road, he has a reason to set it over to the side. I don’t like that he’s doing it, and I don’t agree with it, but at least he has a logical reason to do that. If you’ve been married 20 years and everything’s okay and everybody’s good and he does that, then it doesn’t even make sense. It’s just pure unadulterated greed at that point. But this at least has some parts of logic to it.

I think the thing to do is to start laying out some points. At what point would he bring the money into the marriage? What does he have to see for that to happen? Six months of bliss? I think those things need to be clarified with the counselor, and if he’s unwilling to do that, he’s saying, “I love this money more than I do you.” That’s a really bad place to be. That’s the deal-breaking point in a marriage. If he can’t get past that—ever—then that’s a deal breaker. But if he’s willing to get past it under three circumstances, then I would be willing to do that. One of those is a period of time or whatever, then that’s fairly reasonable.

I think you guys need some more aggressive marriage counseling where he is made to feel much more uncomfortable and is made to address these issues. You need to see some progress. Anything that’s not growing is dying. It’s a frustrating deal you’re in. I don’t blame you for being hurt by it.