dougfir

Honesty Problems in Marriage

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Hello,

I've been married for nearly 3 decades and am still struggling with how to deal with my wife's dishonesty.  She is dishonest at times to cover up silly things she has done, bad spending decisions (credit cards, etc.), dishonesty in public and private conversations and so on.  I can never trust that what she is telling me is accurate.  My kids all notice it now and are equally frustrated by it.

 

Our first 10 years were pretty good before I started noticing these problems in a big way.  She did all of the finances and I rarely got involved.  But then the first large credit card balance was discovered and I started noticing all kinds of things that I had been oblivious to.

 

It has really affected my feelings for her.  I have gone to counseling a couple of times and have come away heavy hearted because the counselors tell me that where there is no trust there is no love.  I do love her but I don't trust her which encourages me to detach emotionally.  I avoid talking to her because I never feel like I get the straight scoop.  She is very secretive and guarded anyway and it really has been hard to have a deep, close conversation as a couple, almost since Day 1 of our marriage.  I did not notice those things before our marriage.  Looking back to when we were dating I realize that I did most of the talking in what I thought was a deep conversation and she would just respond with pleasantries.

 

I feel like I always have to watch our finances because things disappear and I worry that she might start using another credit card.  We have been down the secret credit card road 3 times and she doesn't seem to be sorry for doing it.  I think she feels entitled because when cornered, she cites reasons why she had to use the card.

 

My ongoing question is:  How do I improve our marriage when these trust issues are ongoing problems?  I want to be a good husband but I am often detached and indifferent toward her.  I feel like I can forgive her for these things but they keep going on and I don't think she realizes that she has a problem.  She doesn't seem to care.  I feel super guilty when I go to church and hear lessons on loving your spouse and forgiveness.  

 

I am in this for the long haul but I don't know how to change my feelings of distrust in the face of ongoing dishonesty.

 

Any ideas or thoughts are welcome.

Edited by dougfir

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Usually (barring mental health problems), when someone is dishonest it is because they fear the consequences of being honest more so than the consequences of being dishonest.  This is the root of the problem and, therefore, is where you can work on the problem.

Simplified to the maximum degree, the solution is for you to find a way to make her feel that being honest is where safety and security and being loved is found.  If all she's going to find for being honest is censure, anger, frustration, fighting... she won't be honest.  Trust, for her, is not the issue.  She already doesn't feel she could trust that she'll be loved for choosing the things she chose to do - or simplified to the maximum degree, she doesn't trust you, so you not trusting her is not the problem for her.

So here are some practical suggestions from the anonymous internet who doesn't know you at all - from your post, it seems like you have 2 different views of how to spend the money.  She doesn't trust that she is going to be loved if she does the finances her way, which means she doesn't like your way of dealing with the money and she feels she is being dictated to and treated like a child in matters of finance.  This is just my extrapolation of your post and may not be accurate.  But if it is, then how you deal with it is to sit down with her and put her desires on where the money should go into account in your budget.  Then you both can decide how to pay for everything or negotiate on your desires if there's no money to pay for it.  In this entire process, the exercise is not simply to have a good budget, this is an exercise in showing her that she can trust that she is loved and listened to and her desires taken into account and that both of you are on the same team in creating the rules you both have to live by to avoid ending up in the poor house.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

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Losing trust in a spouse is hard - sorry to hear you're going through it.  Something important to understand, is that she needs to regain your trust if she wants it back.  And that will require her ploughing to the bottom of her own crap on why she's been doing these things all this time.  Not everyone wants to do that.  

For your part, I'd suggest you start thinking healthy about what lost trust means to you.  What boundaries will you put into place for future behavior from her?  What consequences will happen if she blows past them?  Is she willing to hear you out on them?

Stuff like this can kill a marriage, or get fixed, or get tolerated.  Much is on her, much is also on you.

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You've been married for 3 decades.  You want to stick this out.  Here is my advice:

You need to accept the fact that this is how she is.  She is not going to change.  You need to love her as is.  There is no need for forgiveness, only acceptance.

 

I'm not you, but for me this behavior would be intolerable.  I would advise her that the next Credit Card deception will result in separation and divorce.  If she doesn't want that then you will need to take over financial control with an iron fist.  If she still lies about Credit Card use, then  you follow through on your threat.  

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39 minutes ago, mdfxdb said:

I'm not you, but for me this behavior would be intolerable.  I would advise her that the next Credit Card deception will result in separation and divorce.  If she doesn't want that then you will need to take over financial control with an iron fist.  If she still lies about Credit Card use, then  you follow through on your threat.  

This makes me cringe.

"I love you and covenant to be your eternal companion but love and eternity ends when you max out the credit card." 

But then that's just me.

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Yep - you see the seriousness of picking your boundary and enforcing it.  Is the behavior intolerable or isn't it?  You get to pick the answer.  If she continues the intolerable behavior, what's the consequence?  You get to pick the answer.  Divorce?  Counseling?  She must cut up the credit card?   Will she agree to the consequence or won't she?  If she doesn't, what will you do?

No easy answers here.  But if you don't pick clear answers for yourself and then follow through, you're asking for more of the same.

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4 hours ago, anatess2 said:

This makes me cringe.

"I love you and covenant to be your eternal companion but love and eternity ends when you max out the credit card." 

But then that's just me.

The trouble with this is that in many jurisdictions, a party is liable for debts incurred by his or her spouse.  In Utah, I could rack up $100K of credit card debt, divorce my spouse, bankrupt out of my portion, and leave her holding the bag for all of it—her only recourses would be to pay off the debt or file for bankruptcy herself.

If a twenty-something female in a country where this sort of thing were permitted, discovered her husband had borrowed money using her as collateral—we’d tell her that her first and foremost priority is to keep herself safe from bondage, even at the cost of her marriage.  But unless @dougfir‘s wife has undisclosed income that she has used to pay off the credit cards she’s racked up—that’s exactly what she’s done to him.  Not once, not twice, but three times.  

That’s not a spouse; that’s a pimp.

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54 minutes ago, Just_A_Guy said:

The trouble with this is that in many jurisdictions, a party is liable for debts incurred by his or her spouse.  In Utah, I could rack up $100K of credit card debt, divorce my spouse, bankrupt out of my portion, and leave her holding the bag for all of it—her only recourses would be to pay off the debt or file for bankruptcy herself.

The more I hear stories like this, the more serene I become as a bachelor.

I had a friend who went through a long and bitterly fought divorce that had almost reached combat intensity.  After the divorce became final, he literally started dating the first single woman who crossed his path, and after a warp-speed courtship they got married in Vegas.  Then the bride broke the terrible news that she was about to file for bankruptcy because of mountainous debts that she had kept secret from him.  I guess his assets weren't at great risk because she incurred these debts before he was her husband.  Still, that's probably the 2nd-most unwelcome news you could get on your honeymoon.  (I did read about one man who got married and then discovered his wife was also a man.  For reasons that the National Enquirer never explained, he didn't discover this until several weeks into the marriage when the space aliens finally told him.)

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@dougfir, in my experience, somebody with out-of-control spending issues is that they are usually buying stuff for an emotional pick-me-up, frequently to cover up some other pain.  I don't know if that applies to your wife, but either way it has to be something SHE wants to change and work on.

Which makes your positions all the harder, and my heart goes out to you.  There's not a magical solution here.   

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12 hours ago, anatess2 said:

Usually (barring mental health problems), when someone is dishonest it is because they fear the consequences of being honest more so than the consequences of being dishonest.  This is the root of the problem and, therefore, is where you can work on the problem.

Simplified to the maximum degree, the solution is for you to find a way to make her feel that being honest is where safety and security and being loved is found.  If all she's going to find for being honest is censure, anger, frustration, fighting... she won't be honest.  Trust, for her, is not the issue.  She already doesn't feel she could trust that she'll be loved for choosing the things she chose to do - or simplified to the maximum degree, she doesn't trust you, so you not trusting her is not the problem for her.

So here are some practical suggestions from the anonymous internet who doesn't know you at all - from your post, it seems like you have 2 different views of how to spend the money.  She doesn't trust that she is going to be loved if she does the finances her way, which means she doesn't like your way of dealing with the money and she feels she is being dictated to and treated like a child in matters of finance.  This is just my extrapolation of your post and may not be accurate.  But if it is, then how you deal with it is to sit down with her and put her desires on where the money should go into account in your budget.  Then you both can decide how to pay for everything or negotiate on your desires if there's no money to pay for it.  In this entire process, the exercise is not simply to have a good budget, this is an exercise in showing her that she can trust that she is loved and listened to and her desires taken into account and that both of you are on the same team in creating the rules you both have to live by to avoid ending up in the poor house.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Anatess2 - I have thought of this continually and have really tried to be better about my reaction to her dishonesty.  In the past I would get pretty upset but that was almost 20 years ago and I have changed my approach.  When it comes to the lies I usually just ignore them.  I understand that it is an integral part of her personality.  Her parents do it and so do her siblings and don't think it's wrong unless someone gets hurt.

 

When it comes to her financial dealings I have established clear boundaries but separation and divorce are NOT an option for me.  I haven't established a consequence for her dishonest financial dealings and am not sure what it should be.  I want to treat her like an adult.  Like I said in my post, she did the finances for the first 10 years of our marriage with very little interference from me although before we were married and over the years we have had countless discussions on finances and she knows exactly where I stand on credit cards and other things.  But she has continued to use them secretly anyway.  

 

You are right that she disagrees with my approach.  She wants to spend more money than we have in the budget.  We actually do quite well financially and she has a large monthly free spending amount.  

 

I have repeatedly tried to include her in budget discussions over the years although the discussions happen less often now.  She usually looks completely uninterested and won't offer any input when I ask for her opinion on it.  If I push harder for her input she gets angry and then I feel angry and just have to drop it. 

 

Thank you for your input.  I realize that it's tough to know what advice to give when you've never actually met the person and don't know my character.  But I hope to learn and apply ideas from forum participants so I appreciate your response.

 

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2 hours ago, Texan said:

The more I hear stories like this, the more serene I become as a bachelor.

I had a friend who went through a long and bitterly fought divorce that had almost reached combat intensity.  After the divorce became final, he literally started dating the first single woman who crossed his path, and after a warp-speed courtship they got married in Vegas.  Then the bride broke the terrible news that she was about to file for bankruptcy because of mountainous debts that she had kept secret from him.  I guess his assets weren't at great risk because she incurred these debts before he was her husband.  Still, that's probably the 2nd-most unwelcome news you could get on your honeymoon.  (I did read about one man who got married and then discovered his wife was also a man.  For reasons that the National Enquirer never explained, he didn't discover this until several weeks into the marriage when the space aliens finally told him.)

It is tough being married but allows for growth!  

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2 hours ago, Jane_Doe said:

@dougfir, in my experience, somebody with out-of-control spending issues is that they are usually buying stuff for an emotional pick-me-up, frequently to cover up some other pain.  I don't know if that applies to your wife, but either way it has to be something SHE wants to change and work on.

Which makes your positions all the harder, and my heart goes out to you.  There's not a magical solution here.   

I agree completely.  I know it's an emotional pick-me-up.  She also buys some stuff for our kids that she knows I would not want her to because she is looking for approval.  She wants to be the champion in their eyes. 

I know there is no magical solution.  I now react to her behavior much better than I used to.  But I still feel emotionally distant because of the pain I feel.  Wish there was some way I could erase all of my negative feelings and get close to her like a good husband should.  I feel like a bad husband most of the time.

My mom has cancer right now and my parents think I'm a golden child because I help them a lot.  They aren't perfect either but I feel a bond with them that I don't feel with my wife.  But I also don't live with them.  

Thank you for your response!

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8 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

Yep - you see the seriousness of picking your boundary and enforcing it.  Is the behavior intolerable or isn't it?  You get to pick the answer.  If she continues the intolerable behavior, what's the consequence?  You get to pick the answer.  Divorce?  Counseling?  She must cut up the credit card?   Will she agree to the consequence or won't she?  If she doesn't, what will you do?

No easy answers here.  But if you don't pick clear answers for yourself and then follow through, you're asking for more of the same.

I agree with your statements but I can't come up with a good answer to the problems.  I have established a clear boundary but there's no penalty other than her having to see my displeasure.  I don't know what a good penalty would be without feeling like a mean and controlling husband.  I want to treat her like an adult. 

She doesn't seem to care how I feel about her secret debts.  The first credit card took me 8 years to pay off working a second evening and weekend job (we didn't have the money to pay it off at that point in our marriage).  I missed all of my kid's Saturday sports events, a lot of family events, etc.  I don't think she understands how hard that was for me.  She really hasn't said anything about it and to this day (if the topic comes up which is virtually never) she says she used the credit card to pay family bills because I didn't make enough to cover them.  This is not true at all.  She was buying extras on the credit card and then couldn't pay family bills on time because of the card payments.

 

Thanks for your thoughts!

 

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10 hours ago, mdfxdb said:

You've been married for 3 decades.  You want to stick this out.  Here is my advice:

You need to accept the fact that this is how she is.  She is not going to change.  You need to love her as is.  There is no need for forgiveness, only acceptance.

 

I'm not you, but for me this behavior would be intolerable.  I would advise her that the next Credit Card deception will result in separation and divorce.  If she doesn't want that then you will need to take over financial control with an iron fist.  If she still lies about Credit Card use, then  you follow through on your threat.  

I agree that I need to love her as is.  I'm not counting on her changing.  I want to figure out how to change my feelings and love her more anyway, warts and all.  I don't think she is going to sink us financially at this point.  She knows that I'm watching and I do the bills now.  But I can't seem to stop distancing myself when I catch her in another lie, big or small.  It happens all of the time.

Separation and divorce are too harsh.  Not worth it to me.  The devastation to her and the kids (even though they are grown) would be worse than the dishonesty, even if it is ongoing.  

Thank you for your comments!

Edited by dougfir
Better sentance structure

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12 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

Losing trust in a spouse is hard - sorry to hear you're going through it.  Something important to understand, is that she needs to regain your trust if she wants it back.  And that will require her ploughing to the bottom of her own crap on why she's been doing these things all this time.  Not everyone wants to do that.  

For your part, I'd suggest you start thinking healthy about what lost trust means to you.  What boundaries will you put into place for future behavior from her?  What consequences will happen if she blows past them?  Is she willing to hear you out on them?

Stuff like this can kill a marriage, or get fixed, or get tolerated.  Much is on her, much is also on you.

Great comments - thank you!

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6 hours ago, dougfir said:

Anatess2 - I have thought of this continually and have really tried to be better about my reaction to her dishonesty.  In the past I would get pretty upset but that was almost 20 years ago and I have changed my approach.  When it comes to the lies I usually just ignore them.  I understand that it is an integral part of her personality.  Her parents do it and so do her siblings and don't think it's wrong unless someone gets hurt.

 

When it comes to her financial dealings I have established clear boundaries but separation and divorce are NOT an option for me.  I haven't established a consequence for her dishonest financial dealings and am not sure what it should be.  I want to treat her like an adult.  Like I said in my post, she did the finances for the first 10 years of our marriage with very little interference from me although before we were married and over the years we have had countless discussions on finances and she knows exactly where I stand on credit cards and other things.  But she has continued to use them secretly anyway.  

 

You are right that she disagrees with my approach.  She wants to spend more money than we have in the budget.  We actually do quite well financially and she has a large monthly free spending amount.  

 

I have repeatedly tried to include her in budget discussions over the years although the discussions happen less often now.  She usually looks completely uninterested and won't offer any input when I ask for her opinion on it.  If I push harder for her input she gets angry and then I feel angry and just have to drop it. 

 

Thank you for your input.  I realize that it's tough to know what advice to give when you've never actually met the person and don't know my character.  But I hope to learn and apply ideas from forum participants so I appreciate your response.

 

Ok.  So from this post, you seem to know that this is her weakness and it comes deeply rooted from her ubringing.  You also acknowledged that you treat her as an adult.  So, my next idea stems from these information.  So, first of all, I suggest you go beyond treating her as an adult to thinking of her as your teammate - on the same side in this battle.  The other side of the battle is the poor house.  This is not you vs her.  This is both of you vs the poor house.  So, you're both fighting against ending up in the poor house especially as you get older and retirement starts looming on the horizon.  When you look at it this way, then your conversation in addressing the issue changes - you're gonna be asking her for her cooperation to keep both of you out of the poor house.  And here's another fact - You can't control what she does.  You can only control how you react to it.  And so you'll need to mitigate the risk of her succombing to her weaknesses.  There are many ways to do this, the one they show on TV is getting rid of all the credit cards except one that you put in the freezer.  You can think of other ways that can apply to your situation.

I'll share how my household is set up maybe you can glean something from it.  In my marriage, I'm the one that is "not good with money", my husband is the "no debt except for mortgage" guy.  Before we got martied, I had $45K worth of mall cards.  I was fresh off the boat from the Philippines.  I got to the USA and my sense of value was completely thrown out of whack because a haircut was $20 while in the Phils it's the equivalent of $2 home service and gasoline was $2/gal while in the Philippines it's $3/liter.  Then, I open the paper and see ads for cars priced at only $199... per month.  And TV ads are $29.99 per month... And I get all these "money cards" in the mail with my paycheck that I can just sign and start using.  So that's how I ended up rebuilding my value system - I look at my paycheck per month and look at the price of the item per month and think... whoa that's cheap!

Anyway, my husband told me that if I agree to marry him, he'll have to take care of the finances until he pays off my credit cards.  He cut up all my cards and paid them all off within a year.  He gave me cash every week that I can do whatever I want with.  But it was super difficult for me because I had to once again shift my value system from  "per month"  to cash and I realized I couldn't afford much.  After a year he gave me full control of the finances.  After 5 years, we were back in debt.  My philosophy is - if we need more money, I can always make more money.  I didn't see credit cards as a problem, just something I can use while the kids were young that I can pay off when the kids start school and I can make money again.  Every time the finances come up we ended up fighting.  We both got tired of fighting so we sat down and figured out how to resolve it and we decided that we can't see eye to eye when it comes to money.  So we agreed that my husband will take over money management and we go back to that set-up on the first year of our marriage that my hysband gives me money that I am free to spend on anything I want.  This time, it's not cash but a prepaid card that I swipe at the cashier.  If it gets declined for insufficient funds then I wait until it starts working again.  I don't know how much is in the card or how much my husband puts in it and I don't want to know.  Because if I know, then I'd spend it all in a day.  Not knowing means I have to think harder about what I'm buying because my card might not work when I really need something.  I don't know how much money we have until Tax Day.  My husband made me do the taxes every year so that for at least one day out of the year, I'll be forced to sit down and know where our money is.

Anyway, that system is working for us for over a decade now.  And it only works because we both agree we don't want to be in the poor house even if we vehemently disagree on the method of keeping us from ending in it.

Hope this helps.

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3 hours ago, anatess2 said:

Ok.  So from this post, you seem to know that this is her weakness and it comes deeply rooted from her ubringing.  You also acknowledged that you treat her as an adult.  So, my next idea stems from these information.  So, first of all, I suggest you go beyond treating her as an adult to thinking of her as your teammate - on the same side in this battle.  The other side of the battle is the poor house.  This is not you vs her.  This is both of you vs the poor house.  So, you're both fighting against ending up in the poor house especially as you get older and retirement starts looming on the horizon.  When you look at it this way, then your conversation in addressing the issue changes - you're gonna be asking her for her cooperation to keep both of you out of the poor house.  And here's another fact - You can't control what she does.  You can only control how you react to it.  And so you'll need to mitigate the risk of her succombing to her weaknesses.  There are many ways to do this, the one they show on TV is getting rid of all the credit cards except one that you put in the freezer.  You can think of other ways that can apply to your situation.

I'll share how my household is set up maybe you can glean something from it.  In my marriage, I'm the one that is "not good with money", my husband is the "no debt except for mortgage" guy.  Before we got martied, I had $45K worth of mall cards.  I was fresh off the boat from the Philippines.  I got to the USA and my sense of value was completely thrown out of whack because a haircut was $20 while in the Phils it's the equivalent of $2 home service and gasoline was $2/gal while in the Philippines it's $3/liter.  Then, I open the paper and see ads for cars priced at only $199... per month.  And TV ads are $29.99 per month... And I get all these "money cards" in the mail with my paycheck that I can just sign and start using.  So that's how I ended up rebuilding my value system - I look at my paycheck per month and look at the price of the item per month and think... whoa that's cheap!

Anyway, my husband told me that if I agree to marry him, he'll have to take care of the finances until he pays off my credit cards.  He cut up all my cards and paid them all off within a year.  He gave me cash every week that I can do whatever I want with.  But it was super difficult for me because I had to once again shift my value system from  "per month"  to cash and I realized I couldn't afford much.  After a year he gave me full control of the finances.  After 5 years, we were back in debt.  My philosophy is - if we need more money, I can always make more money.  I didn't see credit cards as a problem, just something I can use while the kids were young that I can pay off when the kids start school and I can make money again.  Every time the finances come up we ended up fighting.  We both got tired of fighting so we sat down and figured out how to resolve it and we decided that we can't see eye to eye when it comes to money.  So we agreed that my husband will take over money management and we go back to that set-up on the first year of our marriage that my hysband gives me money that I am free to spend on anything I want.  This time, it's not cash but a prepaid card that I swipe at the cashier.  If it gets declined for insufficient funds then I wait until it starts working again.  I don't know how much is in the card or how much my husband puts in it and I don't want to know.  Because if I know, then I'd spend it all in a day.  Not knowing means I have to think harder about what I'm buying because my card might not work when I really need something.  I don't know how much money we have until Tax Day.  My husband made me do the taxes every year so that for at least one day out of the year, I'll be forced to sit down and know where our money is.

Anyway, that system is working for us for over a decade now.  And it only works because we both agree we don't want to be in the poor house even if we vehemently disagree on the method of keeping us from ending in it.

Hope this helps.

That is great that you are open and honest about your behavior and that you have progressed together.  Thank you for the ideas!

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