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Ask Dr. Sherry: 'My Husband Is Hiding His Money, and Spending Mine'

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Dr Sherry Profile Two
You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone In Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show "Braxton Family Values," and now it's your turn to sit in her chair... 

Q: “My husband always hides his money from me, but has no trouble spending mine. We've only been married for a year and people keep telling me that no married couple can survive financial problems. I feel like I'm the only one who wants us to succeed financially. I work on debt and he increases it. Plus, I can't believe he lies about any extra money he has. I'm tired of him being broke and financially irresponsible. Is it wrong for me to ask him to get a better job, like now?  I make like 80 percent of our household income. Do you think he'll always lie to me about money? Are we doomed? HELP!!!!” -- Lillie

A: Your husband spends your money because you give it to him! Money is one of those things that people do not like to talk about but it should be talked about before the relationship gets too serious. Women should know how their potential mate views money just like they know how they view other things. It is also important to know if they have any money or potential for making money.

You have two major problems. Problem #1: He lies. Lying about money is an indication that he may be lying about other things. This is not to say that people, including women, don’t lie about their spending patterns from time to time. Honesty is critical in a marriage, especially when you’re struggling financially. Without honesty, it is going to be very difficult to trust and get on the same page about anything. Problem #2: You do not have the same financial goals. You are the “financially responsible” person in the relationship who is struggling to decrease debt while he is spending your money and hiding his own. You have become the parent in the marriage with an “acting out” child. It is likely that you complain but continue to pay most, if not all, of the bills. Why should he change his behavior if he’s comfortable and you are taking care of him? The problem is not that you generate 80% of the household income. Another issue is that you do not share the same financial goals and value towards money and reducing debt. He can have a job making 90% of the household income but without a change in his mindset, his behavior will not change.

Given these two problems, you must make some decisions. If you don’t like your situation, change it. Your marriage is not “doomed,” at least, not at this time because of finances. But, it is definitely on a road to destruction. Your marriage has a chance of succeeding if you both can honestly work through the financial issues. Changes are going to be necessary for both of you. If you are truly “tired of him being broke and financially irresponsible” you must stop being an enabler. He cannot spend what you don’t give him or make accessible to him. It would be helpful to seek couples therapy to deal with issues including his behaviors in the marriage. You can also map out issues regarding a financial plan as part of your therapy.

Hopefully, your husband will step up to the plate and become responsible. How he pays his share of the bills must become his problem. Separate your issue from his issue. If he chooses not to step up to the plate, then you must decide if you really want to continue to take care of him. Just because you make significantly more money than he makes doesn’t mean he shouldn’t and can’t contribute to the household bills. Allow him to grow up and become responsible financially and in other ways. -- Dr. Sherry

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