Money Mic: How Money Is Ruining My Marriage

People have a lot of opinions about money.

In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one woman discusses her deep misgivings about her marriage, why she resents being the sole breadwinner and how her dynamic with her husband affects their kids.

Money is emotional and sensitive, so please respect that each person makes individual choices. For things you can do in a similar situation to strengthen your relationships and talk about money, keep reading.

I can’t even remember when my husband stopped working.

And frankly, I don’t have time to think about it, between my full-time job and my fledgling business, volunteering at an after-school program to help teenagers prepare for the professional world and mothering two children.

But when I do think about it–when I think about all the times I come home to see evidence of his entire day’s activities cluttering the coffee table, or when I have to take our shared car to work and strand him at home because he doesn’t feel like getting up to drive me–I’m angry.

Why should he get everything, when I do everything?

The idea of a wife being the primary or sole breadwinner is a relatively new one (though a new study shows that over half of American women are household breadwinners), but speaking as that sole earner: I don’t like it.

How We Got Here

My husband and I met on my first day of work, at a job with a local utility company that I got right out of high school. That job paid for me to attend college, and I still work there to this day. It took him two weeks to work up the courage to ask me out, and we’ve been together ever since, about 20 years.

I bought my house before we were married, so although he lived with me, I was the sole owner. In 2001, I took a new position and he left the utility company to care for our daughter after a surgery–I supported that, for obvious reasons. After, he re-entered the workforce to work for a friend’s mortgage company, where he made half of his previous salary.

Then, when the economy crashed in 2008, the mortgage company failed and my husband was out of a job. Since he would be home, he took on the role of Mr. Mom (though he hates when I call him that): cooking, cleaning occasionally and being there for our two children, who are now 7 and 16. Our kids are older now, and while I’d like him to go back to work, he isn’t interested.

While he was transitioning, so was I. I started my own party-planning company. Now, I work a 9-5 job at the utility company so the family has health insurance and a steady paycheck. Then, I work nights and weekends to supplement my income with party planning, which is my real passion.

I would love to do my event planning (a job my husband hates because it takes me away from the house) full-time … but right now, we need my income to pay all of our bills. I don’t have money for an emergency fund, and my husband couldn’t support us if my business didn’t pan out. Unfortunately, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

He’s Happy With His Unemployment … and His Secret Money

Considering that my volunteer work means I look into job opportunities for young people and help them with skills such as writing their résumés, I’m in the perfect place to help my husband with his job search.

He’s been unemployed now for four years, and is supposedly looking. He says that the economy is terrible and that there are no jobs, but I remind him there are job fairs and temp agencies. I forward job opportunities to him, but he has other arguments against getting a job: The kinds of jobs available (things like working for a local transportation company) are “humiliating”; there are no jobs to be had.

RELATED: How does that compare to this writer’s double unemployment (her and her husband)?

Those excuses are buoyed by the fact that he has money. From where, I don’t know, because he won’t tell me (frustrating, huh?). He thinks I’ll disapprove … which I will, if he’s getting it from his indulgent, retired parents or through gambling with his friends, both of which are possibilities. His money goes toward groceries for the family, car maintenance, hanging out with friends and personal items, like clothes. He actually doesn’t hide his spending from me, but he never tells me exactly what things cost.

My Finances vs. His

We don’t share bank accounts. I contribute to my retirement savings and our children’s college fund, as well as pay the mortgage and the bills. He contributes to none of these things, and has at this point drained his retirement savings–but I couldn’t tell you how much that was to begin with, because he’s not open about it.

I have no savings otherwise, because all my money is needed to support our household.

I see our gender dynamic playing out in our children: Our teenage daughter is a hard worker who does her chores, participates in extracurriculars like debate team and interns with my event planning company. Our young son rarely does his chores or homework, but expects to get everything he asks for, when he asks for it.

RELATED: How to know if you’re spoiling your kid

He sees that his father doesn’t work for things, and he doesn’t, either. Plus, when I try to give him tough love, his father or grandparents cave in when I’m not around. Part of it is that he’s so young, but I worry he doesn’t have a male role model to teach him the value of hard work.

What Next?

Ideally, my husband and I would contribute equally to the household expenses. Even if he could cover half the mortgage, I would be happier. Right now, we can’t afford to go on a family vacation or renovate the kitchen, which needs some work. My husband knows how much his disinterest in working bothers me, and so does the rest of my family. (Except the children–I don’t want them to feel like I do, like their dad isn’t doing what he should for them.)

I do feel like I’m at a breaking point.

I’ve told him before that he needs to move out, but after 20 years, he knows how to apologize, promise he’ll change and keep me from pursuing a separation or divorce. My friends say that if he was married to anyone else, he wouldn’t get away with this. They say it makes me a pushover, and I’m puzzled by it, too.

I’m non-confrontational and generally very laid-back, but I have no problem standing up for myself … except when it comes to my charming, lazy husband.

Sometimes I think of getting divorced, but we live in Pennsylvania, which means legally he’ll likely be entitled to half of our assets from the marriage–half of my assets. I try so hard to be upbeat and not let this bother me, but on our last anniversary, I started telling him how I felt about his lack of contribution and motivation, and nothing has changed since then.

Our next anniversary is coming up fast … and I’m not sure we’ll make it.

Note: Since Jessica told us her story, her husband has taken a job with the above-mentioned transportation company and now contributes $150 per week to household expenses–but she is suspicious about the amount and he refuses to show her his paycheck.

Editor’s Note:

We’re very grateful that Jessica has opened up to us and shared this very personal story. Please respect her willingness to share and be sensitive in your comments.

What should she do? LearnVest Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) Sophia Bera suggests, “Sounds like they could really use couple’s therapy! She should either ask her husband to come to counseling with her or start going by herself so she can figure out what she wants to do. This is so emotionally charged that it’s not even about the money at this point. If he’s hiding money from her, that’s financial infidelity and he leaves her in a tough spot.”

What about advice for other couples struggling with income disparity? Financial planner Sophia says, “When there’s a large income discrepancy, we generally recommend each person put the same percentage of his or her income in a joint checking account to cover the household bills. That way, one isn’t using half her salary for rent while the other only uses 10%.” If you’re consistently disagreeing with your loved ones about money, it’s probably time for a “Money Talk.” Read this for more ideas on how to combine finances with a partner.

If you think your money disagreements are getting in the way of your relationship, consider speaking to a therapist, counselor or Certified Financial Planner® to help you sort out your differences and make a plan that will work for both of you. 

  • As an attorney who helps financially strapped individuals stay out of bankruptcy and resolve their financial issues, your story is unfortunately not unique. I am sorry for the difficulties you are experiencing and I do understand how hard it is to work and care for a family, as I am a single mom of 3 children. However, the common denominator of your situation and that of others who struggle with money in their marriage is the failure to communicate openly and honestly about money and spending habits before, during and after crises like the loss of a job. I do agree that keeping money separate is a healthy decision however without openness one spouse can harbor resentment towards the other and in your case you may be surprised to find out he too has some anger about his situation and your joint financial issues. My suggestion is that you both need to be on the same page about money. Have a frank conversation about where your money is, where it is going and how you each spend money based on a mutually agreed upon budget. Regular discussions and updates should also be part of the future family financial planning. So often i see couples and one looks at the other and says “why didn’t i know what was going on or how come you didn’t tell me or i didn’t know you were in so much debt.” All a result of poor communication about money and spending in the relationship. Wishing you lots of luck and don’t be shy about asking for help if you need it from a trusted professional.

  • Julieboboolie

    Money is not ruining your marriage — a lazy, freeloading husband is ruining your marriage.  Go get counseling, with or without him and figure out why you are willing to accept less than what you deserve.  If you don’t stop this pattern now, your children will relive it when they are adults.  Is that what you want?

  • Poetgirl67

    Jessica, I am so sorry to read this.  You sound a strong woman and a great mom and you deserve an equal partner in your marriage.  I divorced after 14 years of marriage and two kids over financial infidelity — and what your husband is doing is definitely financial infidelity.  It becomes more than just about the money — it becomes more about the lack of trust and resulting loss of respect and love that erodes the marriage.  I would recommend running a credit report on your husband — it was the only way I was able to figure out mine was opening secret credit card accounts and having the statements emailed to him.  There is no excuse for your husband not to show you his paychecks.  That should be non-negotiable.  Tell him you are opening a joint account for household expenses and insist that a certain amount be automatically deposited in each pay period.  I would also recommend a counseling/mediator session with his family, because they should respect you as his wife and daughter-in-law and understand how their actions (giving him secret money) are affecting your marriage — they need to stop doing this.  I don’t recommend divorce except as a last resort but you don’t deserve this mess.  We went to 3 marriage therapists and it didn’t work for us — I might recommend a financial mediator instead.  I’m now remarried to a financially-responsible/transparent man and the difference and lack of drama in my life was worth all the heart-ache…  I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you… 

  • Jen

    after 20 years, he knows how to apologize, promise he’ll change and keep me from pursuing a separation or divorce”… that isn’t a problem with money or gender roles, that is abusive behavior. I really hope she seeks counseling so that she can have an outside, professional 2nd opinion to help her make a good choice for herself and her children. 

  • Guest

    Thank you for posting this. You have no idea how relevant this is to me right now. My husband of just of two years is an “actor” with over $80,000 in school loan debt for him alone– I graduated debt free. I work full time while trying to start my own business at night, but, like you, most of my time is spend cleaning up after him. The only semblense of a job that he does have is a night job at a theatre. He’s gone before I get home from work and I’m asleep before he gets home so we rarely see each other. I feel like a single mom even though we don’t have any children. I really appreciate your courage in sharing this. It encourages me to make a change in my marriage now before we get to the 20 year mark.

  • Guest

    Bravo Jessica, for being so brave and forthcoming with your story.  It was painful to read because I see some of my marriage (and our woes) reflected in your story.  I wish there were a simple answer to your problem.  There isn’t.  I’ve been to marriage therapy and through that realized that basically my husband and I value money differently, and even without the other issues in our marriage, that will always be an issue.  How can you be a true partner with someone who shares a different outlook on money?  All I can offer you is good luck and strength. 

  • Cheryl

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Your husband sounds like my entitled 19 year old daughter. He’s always had someone to pick up the slack in his responsibilities for him so he could do what he wanted to do.

    I feel like you’ve realized the problem and eloquently stated it. Realizing what’s happening is the biggest step in fixing things. Your husband has to become a partner in the marriage if it’s going to work. I agree that you need counseling. I feel like you should see a financial planner and a divorce attorney also to see exactly what the laws in your state are. Seeing an attorney does not mean you have to follow through, but it’s best to get the information pertinent to your specific situation.

  • Alexis Greenwood

    I hate seem unsupportive… but get out of that relationship! My mother was in a similar situation for 15 years with my stepdad and it wreaked havoc on our entire family. He probably won’t change… ever. At least not enough to justify your hard work, passion and attention to the family. Get out while you can. 

  • Zee

    Thanks for sharing your experience. My husband has been unemployed or underemployed for most of the past eight years. I have tried to be supportive because I believe he wanted work, (although he did not try as hard as I would have in the circumstances to find it), but I kept track of every penny he owed me for carrying him in the hard times. We are still not past the worst of it (he has a 3-month contract but after that who knows?), so it’s too soon to say that we got through it… we may not. I love him; he is a good dad and a kind person, but I can’t afford to support the entire family (we have two young kids) by myself, and even if I could, I don’t want to. I don’t want to be the only one working 40 (or more) hours and paying for everything. (I might feel differently if he kept the household clean and running smoothly, but he doesn’t… he’s had nothing but time on his hands for years, and the house is a disaster.) I also can’t afford to support him in his declining years, and I’d rather part ways now while he has his retirement savings than later when I’d essentially be leaving him to starve. (We don’t live in a community property state.)

    Some things just suck.

  • anonymouscoward

    If it were the woman that was home taking care of the children, while the husband was the breadwinner, everyone’s tune on this board would suddenly change.

    The fact is that the husband left his career to take care of their daughter. The husband has consistently made sacrifices for the family. I think we need to recognize and applaud that in this day and age. 

    The husband is indeed entitled to half of THEIR assets, and he deserves it considering he WATCHED the children so that she could work. He contributed significantly to the household.

    • Shazzer

      You know, that was my thought BEFORE reading the article, but that’s not actually the case here. She is working 2 jobs and he is not really doing a whole lot. She does most of the child care, cooking and cleaning. She shares her income and he does not share his. Not the same situation at all.

    • amandainbk

       I disagree with this assessment of the situation. Yes, he did originally stop working to take care of the kids. But the kids no longer need full-time supervision. At 16 and 7, they are both in school during the day, so there’s really no reason he can’t work at least part time. And if the 16 year old can watch the 7 year old for a few hours after school, that gives him time to take on a full-time, 40hr/wk job. Another point to be made, when one spouse stops working to care for the children, home, etc, that is always a decision that the couple makes as a couple. Not one person in the marriage deciding they don’t feel like working and forcing the other person to carry the full financial burden of the relationship. This should be the case whether it is the man or woman staying at home. Women who refuse to work just because they don’t feel like it while their husbands struggle to support the family are just as bad as the husband in this story.

    • Cameroa

      I was thinking the same thing!  When a woman makes the choice to stay home with the kids and be a housewife, if they get divorced, everyone is totally on board with her getting half of the assets, as well as child support and spousal support because it’s not easy, and it’s a thankless job.  Women have been complaining for years about husbands that “don’t understand” that sometimes the house is a mess and things aren’t done when he gets home from working all day.  Also, everyone has been fully supportive of wives having their own money to use and spend as she wishes, without having to ask permission from her husband to do so.  And why the suspicion that he’s cheating?  Does that mean that every stay at home mom who doesn’t keep a perfect house, doesn’t work and contribute to finances is lazy and a cheater too?

      So interesting that when the shoe is on the other foot, everyone jumps on the attack against the man.  I’m not disagreeing with her emotional issues and that she and her husband need to work on their relationship.  I have been in the same situation, and I always just told myself that his not working, going to school and me paying for everything was in the long term going to benefit us as a couple.  I have lots of friends that are students and are so preoccupied with the demands of school, they barely get their homes clean or dinners made.  Was I frustrated as a sole provider?  Yes, and I won’t deny it, mostly because he was also un-supportive of helping with chores, the kids, cooking, cleaning – anything except helping me spend my money – but I worked through all of that thinking that our society would be supportive if we were a traditional “family” with a man as a sole supporter.

      That being said, when I was getting laid off, and he was working full time, that’s when he chose to start badgering me about finding work and not going back to school although long term it was best for us.  Then the fight was on, and eventually we just called it quits.  I think deep down although he expressed resentment at me making more money, he liked that I paid for everything and his money just went for his toys and fun.  And when he felt like he was going to have to chip in more around the house with finances, he wanted out (even though I’d never asked it of him and my severance was 30 weeks of pay!)

  • Queendivakat

    Sweetie–it’s time to move on.  I understand your position perfectly, as I have been in it myself for the last 25 years.  We’ve done the couples counseling for the last 6 months and nothing is going to change.

    Like you, I live in a state where he will be entitled to half the retirement fund that I created, and I could possibly have to pay spousal support.  Those have been my last challenges to overcome as I don’t see it as “fair.” At this point though, enough is enough.

    Life is too short to keep expending your energy in a negative way.  Your children need to see a strong role model in you.

    I wish you well in your future journey.

  • Anne

    I think it is time to find a divorce lawyer and a forensic accountant and find out exactly how much money he has had all these years so there can be an equitable distribution of your family assets. You are continuing to increase your assets and therefore his while you are still in a joint situation with him. I would think that it would be hard to love a person who has been disrespectful to you and your children and marriage for so long. I had a similar, but of course very different situation, and while I think he had secret assets which were never declared, and I declared every penny, it was over in the end and I am thriving and have my own life and self respect

  • Sherretasa

    i do feel your pain and i hate commenting on anyone’s marriage because each is their own…but i am in your shoes as well…you have to do whats best for you and your children…we teach our kids how to be great people through our actions..nothing is given to us, we work hard for what you want..your daughter chooses her mate by the things she see in her father, you don’t want this pattern repeated…make a decision within yourself, be steadfast in it and decide whether or not you deserve to be is too short and not a day should be wasted on it…be blessed hun

  • Bcalnyc

    I SO-O-O relate.  My husband also is a minor contributor to the family finances and hides what he really makes.  He also completely stinks at money management.  When I’ve asked for his help he pulls an ostrich and we end up in deep trouble.
    I’ve also asked him to leave – to no avail. Mine is from overseas so there is no family to go to so he always pulls the “no where to go” thing and I cave since we still have a young one (6) in the house and how do I tos his dad on the street?
    But Jessica, you have some options.  There are no assets for him to take – the house is yours from BEFORE the marriage.  The money in the kids college funds should be transferred to their names so it’s untouchable and then he can only get a piece of your retirement money (maybe) when it comes time to retire.  For yourself and for me and others like us, show us it can be done and shake yourself free of this dishonest person.

  • takabanana

    WOW.  This part is 100% correct: “it’s not even about the money at this point. If he’s hiding money from her, that’s financial infidelity.”
    It is NOT about the money anymore.  Secrets?  Where did the TRUST go?  I don’t get it.  I went through something very similar.  The income difference didn’t bother me at all.  But the SECRETS did.  I had always been 100% open, especially with finances.  I had all of our login information for everything – insurance, banks, investments, credit cards, utilities, even emails, etc – available for both of us, always.  Unfortunately, through the years, it was one secret bank or unpaid credit card account after another I did not know about that would pop up..  that includes a credit card she got under MY name and let go unpaid for half a year.  Next thing you know, she got a separate PO Box – I assume to mail things she didn’t want me to know about (bills) – but also included overdue insurance bills and collections letters coming to ME that I never even knew about.  I’m not even including the things done to throw me under the bus (i.e. blaming a job firing on the “crazy husband”  while telling me she was laid off, or telling a complete stranger that she was secretly saving up money for a divorce using couponing, which I was always publicly supportive of and even helping her brainstorm on and help promote it as a business).  I finally decided to “give in” to divorce when she told me that she “didn’t know whether or not she could win my trust back.”  It’s extremely sad for my kids.  
    Secrets? Spouses shouldn’t have secrets, especially on important topics like finances. You lose trust.  And what’s a relationship without trust?  

  • Cathswart

    Sounds like a really tough situation. It’s a really hard thing to end up having to deal with a situation that you didn’t sign up for – sounds like this is a relatively new problem, and not one that was there when you first met. But on the other hand I think you really need to start taking control of this situation. Hiding anything (especially financials) from your partner is a huge issue that goes much deeper than his unwillingness to work. It’s causing trust issues and resentment for you, plus the anxiety over what to do, when you’re already doing so much. 

    Since you do not really share financial information, you have no way of knowing if the money he is contributing is from a legal source, or if he has racked up debt without you knowing – which you may also end up being responsible for. It may be worth your while to speak to a lawyer about the alimony laws in your state. If you can show that your spouse contributed little or nothing to the family’s overall worth, you may be able to at least reduce the amount he would take with him if you wanted a divorce.

  • mvzy

    This article struck a
    strong chord in me and I had to respond.  I have never commented on any of
    the LV articles,
    although I read all of them when they arrive in my inbox.  But this one
    struck so close to home, I thought of a lot that I could share…


    I think it’s difficult
    for women that haven’t been in this type of situation to relate to your
    story.  What may seem like a black and white matter is never actually
    that.  No one will ever know all the complexities that exist in your
    relationship based on this article, but I do know from reading it that you
    are a smart, driven, compassionate, giving, hard-working woman who loves her
    husband and family very much and is doing her very best to take care
    of them in whatever way she can. 


    But what about
    you?  Who is taking care of you?  The money is not ruining your marriage.  All of these behaviors and reactions to them


    The alternate title of
    this article could have been, “How I Burned Myself Out” and made just
    as much sense given some tweaks here and there.  We have to put our
    own oxygen masks on first before putting them on the child or person next
    to us during that in-flight airline demo you get when taking a trip. 
    It can be hard to realize that we actually need to do this in many areas of our
    life as well.  I think that’s what a lot of ppl on here are getting at
    when they tell you what to do (“Dump him!”, “Go to
    counseling!”, etc.) In other words, give yourself a dose of oxygen,
    girl!  Maybe it happens by doing one of these things, all of these things,
    stopping some of your activities for now (why are you loading yourself up with
    so many extra responsibilities all the time?  What would happen if one of
    those things weren’t there?  How would you spend the time?)  or other
    things not even mentioned–but I would say from personal experience that the
    way to resolve this type of issue is not going to come from what you DO
    externally.  It will come from you sitting with yourself and getting quiet
    and in touch with your feelings and figuring out what you want.  From
    your BE-ING you will find what you want to do. As long as you are not
    clear on that, as long as you are not giving any “oxygen” to yourself
    so to speak, in this way, you’ll stay in this uncomfortable place with
    your husband and in your life.   Maybe that’s what you need to move
    ahead in your life’s spiritual path in the end, who can say.  Not
    me.  But if your husband now has a job and is still in the energy of
    “underachieving” and you’re still not happy with the vibe, then there
    is still something to be worked on in you first.  Find your truth first,
    own your part completely first, and the rest of the truths will come out into
    the light more easily.


    By the way, now that I’m
    done with my little coaching corner J here’s a little background on
    me: I say all this b/c I left my relationship of 3.5 years with
    my fiance this past January.  After dating for 8 months, I moved into
    his apartment before getting engaged, something I never thought I would ever
    do.  But the lease on my apt was up and my landlord didn’t want to renew, we
    were head over heels for each other and knew we had each found, “the one,” so
    we thought it made sense. When I met my ex, he told me that he managed a hedge
    fund and was working hard to be a music producer at night, which was his
    dream.  Come to find that his “studio” had been downgraded to
    being in his apartment (our bedroom) for the time being. He would wake up
    at 9am, trade stocks and then work on music until late at night.  I worked
    a regular day job but had also worked in the entertainment business for many
    years as a singer, and still did part-time here and there.  So I naturally
    was supportive and understanding of this “rough patch” my ex was
    in.  And of course it was only temporary. He
    was destined to become a music mogul soon. We decided to split all of
    our expenses down the middle: rent, utilities, food, etc.  Each of us was assigned ownership of certain
    bills and then we agreed to reconcile our “budget” at the end of each
    month.   Well, it soon became clear that
    my ex never wanted to reconcile things on time. 
    He would delay doing the budget with me for 2-3 months at a time, while
    I used my paycheck to pay for all of our groceries, dry cleaning, laundry, plus
    my own lunches at work, my own transportation, clothes, hair appts, nails,
    etc.  He never gave me anything towards
    these things, even though we lived together as a couple.  And then when I finally did get him to submit
    his expenses, it would always work out that somehow now I owed him!  Or he would try adding things in for us to
    share the cost of—like a new mini-trampoline for our basement for both of us to
    use for workouts (when he had had knee surgery and actually was the one who
    needed it.  I think I bounced on that
    thing 3x max and kept my workouts to the gym) And he would always talk about
    how he never had any money but yet always pay his share of the bills
    somehow.  Whenever I pressed him about
    it, the conversation seemed to go in circles or he would mention making some
    small commissions off of his stock trades. 
     Then I got a raise at my
    job.  I took that raise and invested in my boyfriend finding a studio to
    rent and paid half of the monthly bills there for 6-8 months.  We
    justified it by saying I would be using it to to offer voice lessons.  I
    barely ever used the studio b/c I was so busy working.  But my name was on
    the lease with his.  But whenever anyone at the studio asked who’s studio
    it was, naturally my name got left out of the conversation.  I stopped paying after 8 months as I had to
    take care of some owed taxes and needless to say, this caused a lot of grief in
    our relationship.  As one of my best
    friends said, “You’re always helping him, when does he get to help YOU?”  But of course, she was just being harsh and
    didn’t understand the big picture, I told myself.  To make this very long story short, 3.5 years
    later I learned that how he made money was from trading his mom’s retirement
    savings on the stock market and he would pay himself commissions from that…but
    I also think he had started to “borrow” money from her account.  But I never knew exactly how much or how
    little he had and he always made it out that he had nothing.  Every time we went out with friends he would
    complain about how much we were spending and try to be as cheap as possible.  One morning, I woke up to work from home and
    couldn’t use the internet—it turned out our service had been shut off due to a
    very delinquent bill that my ex hadn’t paid. I thought, how can this be
    happening?  Needless to say, a lot of
    things unraveled from day to day and it became clear to me that this person   The studio business had grown and he now had
    a partner and also an investor—his best friend, a wealthy banker who seemed to
    love helping his friend out here and there with extra cash.  But they were barely making ends meet every
    month.  In the meantime, I had added more
    and more of my share of the household expenses to my “steady” paycheck, waiting
    to be reimbursed every few months when we did our budget.  I would buy my ex gifts, clothing, cologne,
    things that he needed that he wasn’t buying for himself.  He rarely gave me gifts unless it was on my
    birthday or xmas.  And whenever I pushed
    to plan our wedding I got met with tons of resistant remarks like, “I don’t
    want a Kim Kardashian type of wedding!” and “I don’t want to spend a lot of money
    on a wedding!” even though the wedding plans I would present were all way below
    $10K.  Not only that, but I had begun to
    realize that my ex was constantly trying to one-up me and put me down for every
    little thing he could think of.  If I had
    a big success at work, he would down play it. 
    If I bought a new dress that he didn’t like, he would berate my
    appearance in it.  He was 45 with an MBA
    and hadn’t held a “regular” job in over 10 years.  He was an entrepreneur, he said.  After months of fighting, losing all of my
    retirement savings on the stock market after trusting him to trade them and
    grow it, and having the secret of his income sources revealed to me, the
    universe did an intervention on me in the form of my family, friends and
    spiritual counselors.  They all came to
    me within a two week period to confide that they thought I was making a huge
    mistake by choosing to live my life this way, and that it pained them to see me
    so unhappy.  I had been swimming in the
    same water for so long that it took something like that to finally give myself
    some “oxygen.”  We didn’t have kids, so
    that layer wasn’t’ there, but in January I lost my job but even so—with no job,
    no huge savings and no new place to live lined up, I decided to leave my
    ex.  I couch-hopped between NY and DC for
    a month with friends while looking for work, only finding temporary positions
    to tide me over.  I even landed a temp
    spot working as the assistant to a very famous fashion designer for a week
    while his regular assistant went on vacation. 
    That week’s worth of work paid the deposit on my new apt.—which turned
    out to be a rental share with roommates. 
    I went from having my own apartment for 11 years, to living with my fiancé,
    to living with roommates.  It was a
    strange thing to consider but I have to say that it’s worked out fine.  I wasn’t able to find the job I wanted and
    finally had to accept one that was below my regular salary and title, but I’ve used
    the experience to give me leverage at creating the job that I do want and
    having my own business within the next year. 
    It’s been a challenging time but I am grateful for all the good things
    that have come my way from it.  It could
    have been much worse.  

    I can only imagine the
    pressure you feel with having kids in the equation, your house, potential
    alimony, etc.   But trust me, once you
    get clear on how you’re feeling and COMMITTED to what you want, what you need
    to do comes easily.  And you’ll be amazed
    at who and what shows up to help you along the way.

    • mvzy

       by the way, not sure why my post formatted in the weird way it did!

  • ellerene

    WOW, you are a patient woman.  There is no way I would let my husband keep any financial secrets from me. There are too many awful things that people do with their money. That is a really big deal.  There should be complete transparency in a marriage, whether you have joint accounts or not.  It is incredibly unfortunate that if you left him he would get your money (any of it!) but you are obviously capable of taking care of yourself and your kids.  And now that he has his own job, he can’t claim alimony.  I would continue to confront him on his openness and honesty.  It’s your choice, but I could not live with a man who kept secrets from me.

  • Guest


    I completely empathize
    with you as I just got out of a very similar situation with my spouse. You are
    insanely courageous to speak out about what’s going on—I know all too well how
    hard it is to look at these situations from an unbiased place and really see
    the destruction that your loved one is doing to your finances. 

    unfortunately–it doesn’t seem like your husband is willing to change ($150/week
    towards household expenses seems like an awfully low contribution for him to
    make now that he’s employed). My advice is to seek legal counsel if you are
    even considering separation or divorce. YWCA even offers free legal advice. They
    will be able to provide you with options to hopefully protect your money
    starting from here on out. 

    If you decide to stay with him, I’m afraid this is
    going to be your life for the rest of your marriage. You sound like someone who
    is motivated, driven, and financially responsible. For your sake, I hope you
    can find a way (quickly!) to cut ties to that financial lead weight of a
    husband so you can soar! I wish you all the best!

  • Dockld9

    Even if he does get 1/2 of your current assets, at least you are young enough to recoup some of that loss and continue saving for retirement. It’s okay if your children need student loans for college… so do 75% of other people! I say cut your losses and run before he literally makes it impossible for you to retire!! Try to think of all that you will gain without him instead of what you will loose (besides dead weight…) Good luck mama!

  • Jill

    I was in a similar situation with my soon-to-be ex.  I asked for counseling many times, I asked for us to have a monthly “date” each month to talk about finances, I bitched, moaned and nagged… NOTHING HELPED.  I too, did EVERYTHING.  From cooking, cleaning, childcare, yard work, etc.  It didn’t bother him.  Sadly, I’d probably have kept trucking along with the same level of disatisfaction had he not decided that he then wanted a girlfriend as well.  I’m hear to say that if he’s dishonest and unwilling to work with you on finances and other household responsibilities it shows he’s not as “invested” in the relationship as he needs to be.  I’d get out before you’re haivng to deal with adultery to (though I’m somewhat grateful that I finally was given the final “straw” that allowed me to make that decision and know I’d made the right one without any other doubt).

  • Ora

    My love and my prayers go out to you, dear one.  You are very brave.  I see your situation as more than financial…it’s a matter of integrity.  Is sounds like your husband isn’t being open and honest with you.  You’re to be commended for putting your children first.  Please take very good care of yourself too.   

  • Jennifer Simpson

    My thoughts are that her husband not getting a job is rooted in something other than laziness (he’s passive aggressive maybe?) and any nagging she does to try to get him to do what she wants him to do will result in him digging his heels in further.  It seems like there are no shared goals in this marriage and that’s not what marriage is supposed to be.  I’d be really interested in hearing the situation from the husband’s point of view….it’s not really fair that she gets to vent without him being able to state his side of the story :),

  • K. W.

    I don’t see this ending well, honestly. Moreso than the income disparity and his ‘laziness’ are the various breaches in trust like not telling you how much he makes or where the income source is. This is a massive red flag. I’m concerned that something sinister is on the horizon…something that’ll hurt her more than it hurts him.

  • Julie Malloy

    Jessica, I think we married the same guy.  I too was too consumed with my job, volunteer work and family to make getting him a job a priority.  Unlike most couples it wasn’t our finances that was the primary reason we split (although that was a factor), it was his lack of wanting to work that put me over the edge.  He was unemployed for over 8 years.  Like you, I would come home in the evening and take on the role of housewife as none of the chores were done and the kids were at school or daycare until I picked them up after work.  I often wondered, and still do, what he did all day.  It was evident what he wasn’t doing.

    It took me 8 years to come to my senses and realize HE was the drain on our finances and relationship.  The sliver lining was that I was paying all of the bills and for our lifestyle so when he finally moved out, I still could pay all of the bills.  Plus the bills were a lot less since I wasn’t feeding or clothing him.  Even the electric bill was less since he wasn’t home during the day.

    I made the hard choice to end the relationship.  Even though I knew I would have to pay him alimony and I live in a community property state, he was unwilling to work and it was out of my control.  Paying him is hard to swallow but I keep focused on knowing it isn’t forever.  Divorcing a deadbeat was the best decision I’ve made.  My only regret is that I should have done it sooner.

    I wish you the best.     

  • LaTonia

    I think the selfishness from your husband speaks volumes!  I am not in the position of advising people to end their marriage but sometimes you just have to know when to let go.  He knows you won’t leave because of the community property thing and he uses it to his advantage unfortunately.  I read somewhere although you may not be wealthy sometimes a prenup is a good investment. I hope things work out for the better

  • George Jetson

    While I’ll agree with the author about his being secretive about his income and assets I am astounded by the double standard with the rest.

    Women, for centuries felt entitled to sit at home while he worked, living off his sweat.  Not only justifying it but trying to make it sound noble (which in some ways it is).  Claiming their stay at home labor is worth hundred of thousands of dollars for housekeeper/maid, chef, nurse, and God knows what else.

    Now that the roles have changed they denigrate what they used to justify and complain about what they used to do and still do, in large part.

    • Sxswann

      I don’t believe this is actually true.  If my ex had done ANYTHING around the house, I’m sure I would still be putting up with unemployment/underemployment.  Then he secretly went through his $54K in early distribution retirement money in one year with nothing to show for it – and an inability to pay the taxes due on it.  But the fact is that I came home from travelling every week for my job no less and nothing had been done and I PAID for a cleaning service every two weeks.  The lawn was never mowed unless I pitched an absolute fit.  No laundry was done.  No dishes were done.  Nothing.  He sat around and read the papers, watched TV and played around on the computer all day every day as far as I could tell while I was literally working myself into an early grave at 18 hours a day for over a year.  The final straw was when he filed bankruptcy behind my back and I only found out when I was working from home one day and got to the mail first.  And how humiliating that he used a lawyer that I see in social situations to this day!  I was nice enough to let him stay for another 6 months to get some money together because he was 62 years old and had ZERO money at that point and he did manage to get back a job that he had previously.  I won’t go into the vehicles I gave him and the many times I bailed him out financially in the nearly 15 years we were together.  And BTW, he had a Master’s degree and I only have a lowly BA – something he never let me forget either.   He honestly had a cushy life with me – vacations to Europe and all over the US (many times to see HIS family), nice house, his own car, nice clothes (which I bought), etc.  If only he would have met me even half-way.  But I got fed up with being taken for granted.  It’s funny because even his own MOTHER warned him that if he didn’t get it together, he was going to lose me.  Truer words were never spoken.  

      And BTW, I do think that if a woman is a stay at home mom and her kids are 7 and 16 and she has no physical disabilities, then I DO think she is lazy if she doesn’t have the cooking and cleaning and laundry done.  I took care of kids as a nanny and I’m here to tell you it can certainly be done.  Is it fun?  NO!  That’s why I never had kids.  Sorry- but not the way I would ever want to spend my time and I found that out by the time I was 17 so I didn’t make that mistake for myself.

  • Rachel J

    I’m also the sole breadwinner for our family. We have 2 little girls and another one on the way. I know how it feels to be the one “doing everything.” I often hear those words coming out of my mouth. My husband lost his job several years ago, but is now going back to school. Even though it’s harder on me (because I have to pay his tuition as well as pay for everything else), it is an investment in our future.

    To be honest, money is not ruining your relationship. Your husband is ruining your relationship. He is not being honest with you and not contributing to the household. Marriage is a partnership. I feel that it’s perfectly fine for each person to have separate bank accounts for personal spending, but you should also have a joint account where the money for the household should be held. And both people need to make the decision together about how much should go into each account.
    I’s not fair for one person to do all the work and the other gets all the leisure time. If he’s not willing to talk about these very important issues, then there are major problems with your marriage that go deeper than money management and you should protect yourself and your future.

  • George Jetson

    While I’ll agree with the author about his being secretive about his income and assets I am astounded by the double standard with the rest.

    Women, for centuries felt entitled to sit at home while he worked, living off his sweat.  Not only justifying it but trying to make it sound noble (which in some ways it is).  Claiming their stay at home labor is worth hundred of thousands of dollars for housekeeper/maid, chef, nurse, and God knows what else.

    Now that the roles have changed they denigrate what they used to justify and complain about what they used to do and still do, in large part.

    • George Jetson

       not sure why the double post, sorry about that.

  • Nnwinston

    Jessica, thank you so much for your courage in sharing this story. I can’t believe how similar our stories are. My husband is an artist and our situation is exactly the same. Over the years, my resentment just keeps growing over the fact that my husband is living this luxurious life where he spends his days as he wishes while I work hard to make ends meet. Divorce is an option that is constantly on my mind, but i struggle with the feeling that my kids should not suffer for our issues. I am also resentful of the requirement to pay alimony if we go that route. I wish someone educated me about these risks before I got married.

  • xjykim

    To Jessica:

    Thank you so so much for having the strength and courage to share such a personal story. As a young woman in a relationship, I definitely think seriously about my partner and the potential for finances to affect our future together. This is a thought-provoking perspective, and I really appreciate your sharing it with the rest of us.

    Thank you again, and best of luck – whatever you decide for your future.

  • Krista

    I’ve been in this position and it is terrifying. Thank goodness for brave women like Jessica for sharing their story and giving others in the same position strength in the knowledge that they are not alone. My situation ended in divorce – and did not involve children, thank goodness – and every day I wake up grateful that I was able to take control of my earnings, financial situation and life back from my negligent, less-than-truthful ex-husband. 

    Thank you, LearnVest, for sharing this story and providing us with resources and a forum to  help us move forward in a positive way.

  • tjmarquez

    Darling, leave the bum. You deserve better.

  • LKM

    Money is not ruining your marriage. Sneakiness and lying is.

    If he really were “Mr. Mom,” and creating a well-ordered home life for you and your children, would you really mind that he brought in no income? Many of us have grown up in homes with only one breadwinner and it can be a good situation even if it means you have less money than your friends down the street.

    But that’s not what he’s doing. It sounds like he’s not doing all the home and child care. It sounds like he’s lying (and that you, frankly are letting him get away with it.) Perhaps he’s discouraged or depressed and needs help. Perhaps he’s acting like a bum and you need to get into counseling.

    But money is not the issue here.

  • tjmarquez

    I’m sorry. I didn’t want to sound flip. Be there – done that – lived your situation. Eventually walked out with the shirt on my back and my children. I walked away from a business we owned jointly, but he controlled the $. He played golf seven days a  week while I worked the biz and raise our children. He stripped me of my dignity and my self-respect during our years of marriage. I am still struggling to find a job that pays a a living wage but even on my worst days, I can still remind myself it is better than living the way I was.

  • anitsirc

    Have you seen the Suze Orman Show? No, I’m not joking. There are
    several episodes in which she helps couples in similar situations,
    where it seems like the problem is money, but it really is a matter of
    communication, and trust. When my husband and I had trouble with money
    - and he refused to listen to me – I started watching the show with
    him “casually.” The fact that the advice came free (just the cost of
    cable), from a certified professional, and not from me nagging, helped
    a lot… Also, to learn of other people’s similar money issues and how
    they end up, really helped.

    I also had to put a loot of effort into finding a way to express my
    anger regarding our money issues in a way that would not interfere our
    communication – I had to learn how to present a good argument to my
    husband calmly, without letting my anger control my words. Becoming
    honest about money takes a lot of energy, but it is worth it. It is
    also a matter of safety. If you do not know where the xtra money comes
    from, how can you feel safe? How do you know if you are filing your
    income taxes correctly? Or one day the IRS will knock on your door?
    How do you know if there may be a potential issue in the future
    regarding the stop flow of that money? How can you assess the future,
    and potential risks, for you and your family, if you do not have the
    full picture?

    You are not a pushover, you are a great hardworking woman, an example
    for many. My recommendation is to focus on what you can control- start
    thinking and acting for your safety / security from now on. Now that
    your kids are older, and obviously on a good track to be independent,
    focus on you – learn about your rights/options in case of a divorce,
    work on a plan: your savings, your financial goals, your safety net if
    things don’t turn… you deserve it!

    Also consider this: If at the end, you choose a divorce, and “loose”
    money to him (house, alimoney, etc)… Please remember that money is
    not everything in life, Peace of Mind and a sense of safty/security
    are much valuable. Think of it as an investment instead of a loss.
    Sometimes money does not buy peace of mind, but loosing some money,

  • Guest

    I know you have heard of the saying “I can do bad all by myself” …what I’m basically getting at is: What do you need him for if your kids are school-age and you are providing for the family all by yourself?? He obviously has no concern about emergency funds and securing a healthy financial future for you and your family. And I’m sure it is affecting your love life big time because who wants a lazy man who sits at home all day and spends money that you all technically don’t have? I am going to pray for your family because that man is clearly driving you all into a ditch and believe it or not, your kids are going to suffer because of it.

  • Tia Mory

    DIVORCE HIM. Forget about giving him half of your earnings…you will be much happier without that DEADBEAT.

  • Dmh

    OMG. That is my story. My husband so uninterested in looking for a job. We have been to couples therapy- the therapist I’m sure thinks I am an idiot to stay with him. I am hugely resentful, angry. I think he is an awful example for our kids. Unfortunately, my husband does not have a secret source of money- I am his source. While it sounds easy to just kick him out, I want him to stand up and be a father and get a job, or get himself the hell out!

    • Sxswann

      This is what was happening to me!  I was turning into someone I did NOT like because of the anger and resentment at being the only one to shoulder the burdens all the time.  Luckily we did not have any children so my decision was easier.  It still took me and my mom packing up his stuff and giving him a deadline for him to get out!  

  • Drinkcoffeenow

    dump him. period.

  • Tania

    Wow…not the article I expected to read. I hate to judge other people’s marriages generally but after reading this article, I’d say money is not ruining their marriage.  The husband’s lack of honesty, accountability and support for his partner are the real reasons. Money issues are just a manifestation of those issues. 

  • 53lori59

    Gotcha! Two things that truly helped me with my sweet husband  and MONEY where a FABULOUS book…Boundaries in Marriage, by Townsend and Cloud. Oh My Gosh….PRICELESS!! and REAL life, so doable and sensible..I am valuable for more than my money in this crazy life together…and some of the issue was ,,, But that was OK as I started making the changes I could. And ..’Have a new husband by Friday”…funny title, GREAT book, Alittle offensive at first (I felt picked on)…but I read to the end…..and got it!!  Oh, and Dave Ramseys stuff is great…Why?  For me, he SO values his wife…in all areas of their life together. I needed the encouragement, I felt so invaluable. And the only person I can change is me. (And sometimes that makes him a wee bit uncomfortable.) And GOOD professional help, I am right there!!
    I am praying for you!!

  • Cat_mansion

    It was my understanding that we were going to work towards having me become a stay-at-home mother. While I might help out financially my husband would be the main breadwinner. Two years into our marriage he was let go from his job. He never had another “real” job. He worked at a thrift store at my insistence. He held several low pay part time jobs and got fired from them–often for poor attendance. He was working at a thrift store that was to help him find a “real” job but that didn’t happen. He was expected to work 40 hours weeks. Often he’d work 15 or 20 hours a week. I foolishly put up with this for 20 years. I finally divorced him. Fortunately I didn’t have to pay alimony. If your husband does not want to work and it doesn’t look like he will ever get a job and finds excuses not to work then get out of your marriage now unless you want to pay alimony. My husband wanted it but did not get it because he moved back in with his mommy, even though he was almost 60 and I made barely enough to support myself.

  • Run, do not walk, to a divorce lawyer. 

  • Sissy

    In any partnership, there should be no room for secrecy. I truly believe that a lazy man can’t be broken. Not contributing to a household significantly as a husband is the ultimate form of disrespect. It is a shame that a husband can watch his wife work herself into the ground and then hide money. He sounds like a big kid. He doesn’t need therapy he needs a diaper. 

  • evr

    His secretive behavior is unacceptable. I understand your concerns about divorce, but I think it would be best in the long run for you to get a divorce ASAP.

  • Auntb1961

    I am so glad he is finally at least contributing.. My husband has been out of work since 2007 and is not in the least bit trying to find a job.. Very stressful and frustrating.. Understand how she feels..
    Lost wife,

  • Bmacgirl1

    LV-  be sensitive really? If she didn’t want to share this foolishness she would have kept it to herself.  This is a woman crying for help because clearly finance is NOT the issue. Self-respect and demanding it from others is this writer’s issue. At this moment, she’s choosing her husband’s selfish laziness over the well-being of herself and her children. Better he take half of 20 years, than half of 40 years. Run, girl!

  • Tara

    Thank you for sharing! I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I agree that counseling for you could be very helpful. I didn’t see any mention of love. Do you still love him? Do you still want to be with him? Or are you staying because you feel trapped by what you might have to give up financially? I suggest talking to a divorce attorney to find out exactly what your rights are in this situation. Obviously losing half of what you’ve earned (in a divorce) sounds terrible, but if you’ll ultimately end up going down that path then the sooner the better for your bank account. Good luck!!

  • somebodyshoulder

    I would urge you to be very careful about what he is hiding from you. In a divorce not only would he be entitled to half your assets, but you would also be entitled to half of his liabilities. I had a friend who was in the same situation. When she finally got the courage to leave him, she ended up being responsible for paying the IRS more than $25K of tax debt he had accumulated behind her back. They went after her harder than they did him because she was the one who actually had a job and was able to pay.