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Ask Dave

The DNA of Serious Marriage Problems

Nancy and her husband are newlyweds. Nancy wants to combine finances, but her husband got upset with her. She feels as though he doesn't trust her. Dave doesn't like this at all.

QUESTION: Nancy in Nashville and her husband are newlyweds and bought their first home right away. Nancy’s name wasn’t placed on the mortgage or the deed for the house. Since then, they’ve maintained separate checking accounts. Nancy wants to combine finances, but her husband got upset with her. She feels as though he doesn’t trust her. Dave doesn’t like this at all.

ANSWER: Bull. It’s a bunch of crap. You didn’t marry your daddy. You married your partner. You don’t need a father. You already have one, thank you very much. No. I don’t give a crap. I make a lot more than Sharon. She hasn’t worked in 26 years. She’s on every account—22 LLCs, six trusts, five accounts here operating at the company. She’s on all of them. Every mutual fund account. Every rental property. She’s on every one of them, and she hasn’t had an earned income in 27 years. That’s crap.

I suggest you have a joint everything. You’re married. The preacher didn’t pronounce you a joint venture. He didn’t pronounce and say, “Oh, he makes more than you. You are hereby a substandard citizen. Welcome to wifehood.” That’s crap.

You didn’t go into orbit? He went into orbit. The best defense is a good offense, isn’t it? I think you guys need to sit down with your pastor. I think he’s got issues. This is a real problem. Just under the surface of this well-meaning and loving husband is a control freak. Did he divorce you before? Okay, so I’m not sure why then that is impugned upon you, other than his emotional weaknesses. Now we can deal with that, but that’s not a basis for him to shout you down. His emotional weaknesses are, “Okay, honey. I understand that you had problems with the ex. Money problems were part of that. I get that, so we’re going to have to have unbelievable levels of communication because it’s hard for you to trust. And it’s reasonable for it to be hard for you to trust. It is unreasonable for you to not trust.”

We’re going to sit down, and we’re going to lay everything out on the table. Everybody’s going to know everything. You smelled sickness because there’s sickness. This is not devastating to your young marriage. It’s not the end of the world in your young marriage, but if it goes untreated, it is the DNA of serious problems later. You’ve got the germ in there in your relationship. It’s got to be stamped out.

“I told you, and you should take my word for it!” Well, thank you, King. We’re so grateful that you allowed your subjects in on the information. What the crap kind of attitude is that? I’m telling you if he’s in a counseling office with me, he’d leave crying. That’s why I don’t do counseling anymore. I do radio. I’m just not nice.

Seriously, this has everything to do with the way he was brought up, and it’s got everything to do with the crap he went through in the last marriage. It’s got nothing to do with you, and it is not a good healthy way to start your marriage or to run your marriage going forward. Apparently, he has trouble communicating about this without going into what we call street fighter mode, meaning all enemies must be crushed into submission. That’s the language and the body language and the tone that he uses.

There’s all kinds of bad lingo in this. He paid off your student loan. He protects the income. You don’t really know what it is. You’re not allowed to look at it. You’re just supposed to take his word for it. You’re not on the account. You don’t need to be on the account. He’ll take care of it. Don’t you worry, darling. Oh, by the way, when he gets hit by a car next week, you’re screwed because you’ve got access to no money.

You do not have transparency. You have faux transparency. It’s transparency when he offers it. When you do it, it’s distrust. You hear the lingo? It’s all in here. I’m being melodramatic to give you courage. I’m being overly sarcastic and overly dramatic in our conversation to inspire you to face this because I don’t want it to get worse. I’ve had you in my office 10 years from now—people just like you—and you will become very bitter. You’re already over this—not the marriage. You’re over this behavior of his. Add 10 years’ worth of anger to that, and you are what we call bitter. I don’t want you going there. I want you to deal with it now, and I want him to deal with it now. He’s just a scared little boy because he got stepped on before. Be patient with him and help him heal. Force him to face it and force him to heal.