How do we settle our differences?
My husband and I have a constant tug-of-war over money. I know we both ran up our credit cards, but now I feel like I am always the one to sacrifice spending money to try to pay off our debts. He says that it's impossible to get out of debt when we keep getting hit with unexpected bills—medical expenses, college tuition, plumbing problems—but everyone has some surprise expenses. I get so frustrated with him. What can I do?
Arguing over money is the number one cause of divorce in the United States, and over the years, I've gotten so many letters just like yours that I have come to believe the wedding vows should be changed to say "till debt do us part." It's important that you talk with your husband about how you are feeling before you drift further apart.
Please note that I said talk with your husband, not to him. He does not need a mother; he needs a friend and a wife. Even in the 21st century, many men feel like complete failures when they don't make enough money to support their wives in a way they think they ought to. They keep buying things to assuage their feelings of inadequacy—going deeper in debt and adding to the frustration.
The two of you should sit down once a month to go over your finances: Since it's so much easier to spend money when you're not actually paying the bills, you should let him write out each check. You can balance the checkbook and figure out how much money is in your accounts.
You should also request copies of your credit reports from one of the three major credit bureaus (contact Equifax at 800-997-2493 or www.equifax.com; Experian, 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com; Trans Union, 800-888-4213 or www.transunion.com). If you've had a hard time keeping up with your debt, my guess is that you do not have the best credit. When you and your husband look at your credit history, he'll be able to see your financial picture realistically.
Remember, you cannot change people you love through anger, but you can influence them with understanding, patience, persistence, and love. Keep your conversations on the positive side; try to focus not on the mistakes of the past but on what you both can learn from this experience. Once you've faced your situation, you and your husband will be in a position to end the tug-of-war and begin repairing your finances as a team.