My Wife is Flippant with Finances

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Dear Hoopers,
Been married to spouse for 20 years. Both of us had previous marriages. I take finances seriously, and pay ALL my bills on time. My current FICO score between the 3 reporting agencies range between 799 – 820. Spouse is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I have preached since day 1 of the marriage the importance of managing money, paying debts, and keeping a clean credit history. She continues to this day of being flippant with her finances. To avoid “past due” notices, over time, I have had to take over responsibilities of paying the majority of the mortgage, all of the electric, house phone, and water/sewer bills. I have had to bail her out of some of her own small bills and her own credit cards every other MONTH. We have had professional counseling at least 4 separate times (one “time” has 3 sessions).

The constant strain has created a “loveless marriage”. Sex once every 6 or 9 months, that’s it. Combining finances was a disaster, so separate checking, separate car insurance, separate cell phone accounts. Her angle is that I’m the Husband, and I should be there to help her no matter how many times she messes up. My angle is that we should BOTH be responsible and help each other. It’s supposed to be “give and take”. Unfortunately, I’m totally on the “giving end”. She says I’m narcissistic and controlling. I’m just trying to hold things together and be a responsible husband. Am I wrong here?
-My Wife is Flippant with Finances

Dear Flippant,
You value discipline and organization, while your wife..doesn’t. It is very true that part of being a responsible adult is taking care of bills and finances. It is also true that there are many aspects of being a good partner and spouse. Paying the bills is just one of them. For your wife, her disorganization and lack of discipline may come from many different places including personality style, ADHD, or even her family environment growing up. This certainly doesn’t excuse her lack of attention or concern to these areas, but accepting that this may be a unique difficulty for her can allow you the empathy needed to repair your marriage.

You have made serious efforts in the past to try to fix these financial challenges including going to couples therapy, taking over the bills, and combining finances with mixed results. I applaud these efforts to fix your relationship and even to write this question. It will take a dedicated effort from both of you in order to make the changes needed in your marriage. I would start there. Have a discussion to figure out if you two are both committed to the marriage and to making changes. If the commitment is there, know that changes will need to come from both of you.   


One of my biggest concerns is not the finances, but that these difficulties have invaded your emotional and physical intimacy.

-Dr. Ryan

Given the level of disconnection, I think a commitment to couples counseling will be necessary. I would find a counselor who specializes in couple’s work and be willing to stick in there for at least 8-10 sessions.

One of my biggest concerns is not the finances, but that these difficulties have invaded your emotional and physical intimacy. Your wife will likely never feel committed to overcoming her challenges if she doesn’t feel loved and cared for. It is likely that you have more of a discipline/works orientation to love, while your spouse may experience love in very different ways. If this is true, it can create a very frustrating and alienating marriage. Both of you will need to be willing to show love and care to each other in order to return to both intimacy and to a marriage that works.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Flippant,
Yes, you should both be responsible and help each other out, you are married! The consistent lack of responsibility your spouse has exhibited with adult responsibilities like paying bills is disrespectful.  It is a disruption of your time and your combined financial well-being. Understandably, that can be a kill-joy to a marriage. But let’s flip the coin. You haven’t mentioned anything about her strengths. What do you love about her? What does she bring to your marriage? We certainly all have our weaknesses and in times of frustration it is important to strive for humility. I’m right and she is wrong will only contribute to a greater relational divide.

Finances can be overwhelming and it sounds like instead of trying to understand them, she has been victorious at avoiding them. Why might she be avoiding them? It seems obvious to most, but maybe she doesn’t understand the full implications of what unpaid bills mean. It’s possible that I’m just giving her the benefit of the doubt. If she realizes the implications and has been continuously ignoring these responsibilities, you have to decide when enough is enough for you.


Let her know that you love her and that the consistent strain of financial jeopardy is obviously draining on both of you.

-Kate

Express to your wife that you are not trying to be controlling, but you have been forced to take measures into your own hands to ensure your own financial stability. Let her know that you love her and that the consistent strain of financial jeopardy is obviously draining on both of you. Financial counseling isn’t marriage counseling. Marriage is a two way street and I think yours would benefit from the latter.
-Kate