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Ask Dave

"For Richer, For Poorer"

David has been married about a year and a half and recently discovered his wife has debts she hasn't told him about. He doesn't know how to deal with approaching it with her.

QUESTION: David in Wyoming has been married about a year and a half and recently discovered his wife has debts she hasn’t told him about. He doesn’t know how to deal with approaching it with her. Dave helps David with some ideas.

ANSWER: She should feel loved when you say her debts are your debts and that the money coming into the house is “our” money and that you want to be involved in paying off these debts. When you guys got married, you said, “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” If she gets the flu, are you allowed to make her soup?

She’s fought and scrapped to just stay alive. In that process, she developed a real firm sense of independence. She’s used to taking care of business. She just wants to take care of business. She’s kind of old school in that sense. I want her to experience the grace and relaxation of your marriage and being able to work together and not have to feel like she has to fight everything by herself. I’m kind of sad for her that she doesn’t want to do that or can’t do that. It’s not that she’s weak—that’s not the point. Sometimes it takes a little more strength to be vulnerable in that regard.

You certainly don’t want to be abrasive about it, but just say, “This is a way I can love you well, and I want you to let me do that.” If you’ve repeatedly tried, I don’t have any magic words that are going to make her spirit melt all of a sudden. It could be that you guys probably need to sit down for a little bit of a tune-up with your pastor or counselor just discussing how this thing works. It’ll be really good for you for her to be able to lay this thing down in the sense that you work together to pay it off. It doesn’t need to be anything that she hides from you in shame. It should be something that you actually knew about prior to being married. That’s always a great concern. When someone’s engaged, they open up and tell everything about themselves to the other person. There’s nothing held back. It’s the only hope you’ve got. Marriage is so tough at times. People who say it’s perfect all the time are not real people. They’re like Stepford wives or something. The rest of us have to fight at it sometimes, you know? A great marriage takes work. You guys work on that, and if you can’t find a way to settle this between the two of you, I think it’s an indication of other things. It’s not just the money issues. It’s an indication of other things in your relationship, and you do need to sit down with a marriage counselor and get a little tune-up. It’s not like this is something that’s going to cause a divorce, but if she’s independent and separated from you in this area, it could have a tendency to go there in other areas as well.