Husband is Beyond Financially Irresponsible!

Reader’s Question

My husband is financially irresponsible and it’s causing arguments! Let me start by saying that we get along great for the most part. We enjoy the other’s company and doing things together like gardening, home improvements, cooking, vacationing, etc. He makes me smile on a daily basis and I love this guy. He has worked at this same place for 8 years. He earns a good salary as do I. We are both remarried — each of us has two children. He has been counseled during our marriage for problems related to guilty divorced dad syndrome. He fails to acknowledge guilt and has stated that he does not know what guilt feels like. He has also stated to me several times that he feels he has a criminal mind. He was never officially diagnosed with a specific disorder, however his counselor and I both agree he also has mild OCD and anxiety problems. He is currently on Prozac for these issues. He had these same issues in his previous marriage.

My problem is that twice in the last three weeks I’ve had to cover his bank account as it has been overdrawn. Am I dumb for doing this because I sure feel that way? Any time his daughter (16) calls and wants money, he gives in even though he is paying child support for both kids — even his son who is now 20. His daughter will call sometimes twice a week for cash even though she now has a job. We also both enjoy going to a local casino a few times a week. I can control how much I spend there by taking in a certain amount, but he spends what he has in his wallet and then goes to the ATM at the casino and withdraws and spends all of that. Where I want to leave with slightly more than I came in with, he has commented that he feels like he has to have zero when he leaves. Is this his OCD saying this? I really think his mind believes this. I have actually added up what he is spending at the casino for one month’s time. It exceeded $500.00 and that was only the casino withdrawals that I could identify. That would not have included any ATM withdrawals from our bank and what was already in his wallet. When I showed this to him he couldn’t believe he had done that. The problem has not gotten better since this discussion. In the town where we live there is not much to do. I admit we go there out of boredom, or I do anyway. However, I do not feel that I should not go just because he can’t control his spending.

Because of all of the above, my husband cannot afford to contribute much to household bills. He pays for groceries every other time and the water bill. That leaves me paying most everything else. He does help pay for home improvement projects, but a lot of that goes on his credit card. He currently owes a whopping $35,000.00 in credit card debt. He also just bought his daughter an almost new Mitsubishi Eclipse. At 16 years of age my own child received a much cheaper vehicle. I think his child should have had to prove herself as a driver before he ran out and bought a sports car for someone her age. This causes a lot of resentment on my part. So he has that loan which he deducts half from when he pays the ex wife’s support payment. He also recently spent a lot of money on a building at his ex wife’s house for his son to move all his reptiles and pets out of the house into this building so that the ex and son might get along better. Ex did not reimburse my husband for any materials or his labor and he has not demanded reimbursement.

My husband does not have a mortgage, rent or car payment himself. He is not spending money on anything except mostly credit cards, child support, and casino. He does more than his share of the household chores I will say, but I wonder if that is because of guilt.

He does not understand why I am annoyed in having to cover him when his account has been overdrawn. When I told him he needed to reimburse me for that, he couldn’t believe I was asking him to do that. My comment was that while we do a lot of things for each other, this should not be something he expects me to do for him. If something happens to him tomorrow he has also failed to make sure I am taken care of financially, such as a life insurance policy. I have him as a beneficiary on all of my funds along with my two children. His ex is the one with the policies on him, not me. As far as I know he was not required to do this in his divorce. He also has trouble with decision making. I usually make most of the decision from something small to something large. He says all these problems he has bothers him on a daily basis, but apparently not enough for him to take action. I feel like I need to give tough love like you would a bad kid, but this will cause problems too.

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Your input is greatly appreciated!

Psychologist’s Reply

First of all, this is more than financial irresponsibility. There is a lack of responsibility in many areas noted in your question. He is financially supporting his life, but not yours or the marriage. His behavior is not protecting you as you will be involved in any bankruptcy, bills, etc. Keep in mind, he doesn’t have trouble making decisions — he’s making bad decisions…and lots of them.

Second, he has a sense of entitlement and justfication that is creating a lot of problems. He’s behaving as though he is entitled to spend his money recklessly, entitled to drag you into his debt, and entitled to provide little support to the operation of the home/marriage. His sense of entitlement to make bad decisions creates another attitude — the fact that he has little concern for how you feel about the situation. It doesn’t bother him that you’re upset, you’re paying the bills, you’re covering his debts/overdrafts, etc. If we think about it, he’s only upset when you bring these things to his attention! This is not good…

Third, you’re not making decisions and developing strategies as a team. As a married couple, most decisions, ways of dealing with people (the children, ex’s, in-laws, etc.), and legal issues require a team approach. Both people have input and a team decision is made. He’s frequently obligating the marriage to financial burdens without asking your input or respecting your right to have an opinion about these matters.

Lastly, it’s clear that he is creating some risk to you. It’s also clear that it doesn’t bother him that he’s creating risk to you. As we’ve both said, he’s not protecting you as he should. For this reason, you’ll need to develop strategies to protect yourself. Some of these strategies may require legal consultation.

Recommendations:

  1. Marital counseling to open a discussion on these topics.
  2. Make some marital rules about finances such as “No partner spends over $100 without the input of the other partner”.
  3. If you want to visit the casino — make it a “special event” that includes taking a prearranged amount of money and your photo ID — and nothing else. No credit cards, no ATM cards, nothing. When you’re out of money, you go home.
  4. Have a weekly budget meeting to try and control the expenditures.
  5. Ignore issues like his divorced-father-guilt as his financial irresponsibility involves much more than his children.
  6. Consultation with a credit or financial counselor might be considered.

One last odd comment here. Your husband has been prescribed Prozac and he seems very happy and humorous…yet irresponsible from a financial and decision standpoint. If these behaviors are very recent — perhaps over the past two months — and are uncharacteristic of his personality, then we may have another problem. If these behaviors only suddenly surfaced and were a shock to you when you compare his normal personality — he may be in a hypomanic state. Antidepressant medications can produce hypomania — an excited state of being too happy, too reckless, too irresponsible, etc. If he’s sleeping very little, “hyper”, and even increased behavior sexually — he needs to contact his prescribing physician and ask if SSRI-Induced Hypomania may be present.

If his behavior continues, for whatever reason, you may need to protect yourself before he financially ruins you. Many people in your position place their marriage on secret probation — allowing several months to fix the issues and if that doesn’t happen or it becomes worse — then a protective move toward separation or ending the relationship may be needed. It’s a sad situation, but I suspect you’re moving toward a lot of trouble here. You’ll need to save yourself if he fails to listen, protect, and respect you.

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