Q: I was a single professional for much of my adult life. Six years ago, I married a banking executive who received a golden handshake at age 55. When he stopped working, so did I. Since then I've depended on him for an allowance. Now his money management has gotten us into trouble: He overextended us by buying real estate. I have my own properties, and I even refinanced them to support his investments. I've tried talking to him about budgeting, but he continues to make major decisions without consulting me. He runs hot and cold, one minute charging up the credit cards and the next robbing the change bucket for lunch money. I know I promised to support him through thick and thin, but this is no way to live. What can I do?
A: It's obvious that your husband isn't respectful of your needs, but you're also being disrespectful—of yourself. You've given him complete control of all financial matters. Kids get an allowance, not adults who love and trust each other. You didn't just quit your job when you married him, you also quit being a powerful woman. I don't care if he was a big-shot banker; you should have equal control over and access to whatever money exists.
The challenge is to get him to start treating you as a peer. I want you to write down everything that's working—and not working—in your relationship. Dig deep to think about how you've contributed to this unfortunate dynamic. Women often let their need to nurture keep them from speaking their minds, and they end up resentful.
Arrange a time to talk about the issues that bother you. Don't spring this on him or attack him. That's not how you save a marriage. Use your notes as a guide to help you communicate everything you're feeling. If he doesn't agree to reassess how you handle money, see a marriage counselor. And if that doesn't help, you have to consider that maybe this isn't going to work. Staying with him could put you in deeper trouble. You're both responsible for all debts run up during the marriage; if your husband has no intention of cleaning up his act, you can't afford to be dragged down by his poor judgment.