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. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Dear Dr. Sherry,
I am writing you because I am married to a man whom I love and dated in high school. We've been married now for five years. He's 46 and I'm 45. Before we married I knew that in the past he had some issues with handling his finances. He had lost quite a bit due to negligence when it came to paying his bills. We started dating on a more serious level, so I welcomed him into my home. Because I didn't want to live together past a year without being married he asked me to marry him. I lost my job as soon as we got engaged and we still got married. We didn't really have a wedding but we planned to do so a little further down the line. Right after we were married he lost his job. There was s period of time when neither of us had a job, but by the grace of God we didn't go without. Nothing was disconnected and we always had food to eat.
He got another job and because I wasn't having such luck we decided that I could go to school to do something I'd wanted to do. It took me a year to finish, however, he lost another job! This time because the unemployment laws had changed, and it was his fault, he didn't get his benefits, so we had to trust God once again. I forgot to mention that he always had a part time job that he has had for almost twenty years in between the loss of the full time jobs. He was able to find a job right away and while this job didn't start out paying much money he moved his way up in the company very quickly and he is now still employed there on his second position in just two and a half years.
I told this man and the pastor who did our premarital counseling that I was marrying him because I loved him and because I could see the potential in him to be the man I knew he was raised to be. Mind you, he had a reputation of being a lady's man but I knew his upbringing and I knew that he had goodness instilled in him.
Since we’ve been together he has managed to accomplish a few things: Last year he was able to purchase a vehicle and a couple of other things. He doesn't like to save money. We have had a few things to come up lately that we have not been able to take care of because of this. I recently discovered that he is already behind on payments for the vehicle. In just seven months he has already managed to get himself into at least $4000 in debt and possibly more. When I ask about the vehicle, he lies. I have said to him over the past 5 years that he needs to let me be responsible for the bills and he has said he’s not ready for that and he said it’s because of something from his past. He doesn’t trust me to do it, but he gives me the money to pay the bills when they are due. I'm just fed up at this point with the lies and his lack of responsibility. When we were asked in premarital counseling what would be a breaking point in our marriage, I said “abuse of any kind.” I'm not sure that this would fall under that but I can't sit by idly and watch him self-destruct and take me down with him. I'm only working a part time job because we agreed on this job due to the potential of it being a full time job that offers great pay and I already get full time benefits. I have started seeking the help of a therapist and I have suggested that he does the same.
Should I try to work through this with him if he seeks therapy?
Frustrated and Tired
It sounds as if you married a "project" as opposed to a husband. Many women make the mistake of marrying a man based on his "potential" and the idea that they will change him into what they want him to be later. The problem with any project is that there is usually always something to do and if is rarely as simple as it seems on the surface. Sometimes you start a project only to realize that you can't complete it or fix it up. Unfortunately, you are slowly realizing that you can't change him. The problems that you are feed up with are the same problems that you were well aware of before you married him. But, this did not keep you from marrying him. Yet, you expect him to change because the financial problems continue. A conversation about finances and money management is something that is needed before the vows and continue throughout the marriage. This needed conversation is something that both men and women are often afraid to have. Now that you have been married for five years, you must back up and understand that change is something that your husband must decide and do for himself. You are spending a lot of energy trying to change and manage him. It is going to take that same energy and more to refocus on getting your life to the point that you are able to take care of yourself financially and live up to your true potential.
Given that a marriage should be built on more than finances, be careful to end it on this alone. I commend you on taking steps to get therapy to work through your own issues. One thing you will learn quickly is that your husband's issues are not your issues. You have your own issues that led you to marrying him knowing his financial problems and other issues. Separate your issues from his issues because they are not one in the same. Remember, you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attempting to save anyone else. You have being living the last five years without ever putting the mask on! It is time to rescue yourself regardless if you remain in the marriage or not. This is about you, not about your husband. If you want something different, you must do something different. – Dr. Sherry
Email us your questions for Dr. Sherry now and be sure to include "Ask Dr. Sherry" in the subject line.