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I really apologize for the length of this, but I have a lot to say.

My wife and I have been married for 6 months, and we'd been together nearly 4.5 years before we tied the knot. Last week, we had a major fight regarding money and finances that nearly destroyed everything and almost resulted in her leaving or throwing me out, and I’m afraid that another one of those situations is just around the corner.

A little background: I currently work in architecture, and three years of our relationship (part of which included the engagement) included my attending architecture school, which is an extremely tense and stressful experience in its own right. She and I met about a year before I started grad school, when I was working as a graphic designer and photographer at an architecture firm. In the interest of full disclosure, my mother works as an architect at the firm, the boss was her professor in college, and I’ve known the guy for 20+ years. I was taking a year off between college and grad school to save money and shore up for the reduced income stream I would endure for the following three years. At the same time, I began dating (partially at the urging of my hospital-bound father, who wanted me to be able to meet new people and develop a better social life) and in the process met the woman who would become my wife.

My wife and I come from markedly different backgrounds. Her parents are divorced and both re-married (and the divorce itself was extremely bitter and partially stemmed from a financial issue as well). Her mother taught her that it’s the man’s responsibility to pay for everything on dates, or at least shoulder most of the load. My parents taught me that while it is traditional for men to be the givers and to pay, if the woman offers to pay or split (and is insistent), I shouldn’t prevent her from asserting herself. My wife and I were both living at home and were, more or less, making the same amount of money at our respective jobs. We would usually see each other and go out 2 or 3 times a week, and most of the spending was on me, but things were fine financially, and I had little to no credit card debt.

Things got bad after she and her mother had a major blowout on her birthday during our first year of dating, and she left home. She moved into an apartment, but a few months later she was laid off from her job due to the suffering economy. Within a few months, her savings had been all but depleted due to rent and bills, and unemployment wasn’t enough to pay everything, so I helped her out and paid half her rent, all the while continuing to do things like take her out to dinner. Things got a little tighter, but I managed, and she and her mother eventually reconciled and she moved back home.

She decided to enroll in graduate school to earn her certification to become a theatre teacher, and at the same time she became certified as a substitute teacher. I started architecture school, but was only able to work one day a week, except for during spring, winter, and summer breaks. Otherwise, I was making $400-$500 a month. I tried to get us to scale back on the activities we did when we went out, but that didn’t exactly pan out. We’d do things that might be a little less expensive, but I was still the one paying. As a result, I began to lean on my credit card, and between maintaining my relationship, gas, and supplies for school, my balance started creeping up. After my first summer break, I was able to get myself back to zero, but then the cycle restarted. Then came the talk about getting engaged and ring shopping, and the pressure from her mother (and to a lesser extent mine as well). As a result, during the summer after my second year, I couldn’t pay off my debt as readily in order to save for a ring. I sold old gold jewelry my parents gave me, cashed treasury bonds and other small mutual fund resources that relatives had gifted to me over the years, but when the time came to pick a stone for the ring, my mother-in-law-to-be came with me to the jeweler, and her disappointment was palpable when she heard how much I was willing to spend. She offered to loan me more money, but not wanting to be in debt to her or a bank on personal loans, I mustered up the rest. All the while, my wife and I would still go out, and I’d be paying.

Meanwhile, my wife (then-fiancee) finished grad school and was hired for a full-time teaching position (a great accomplishment considering the economy), and I had one more year to go. We opened up a joint savings account in order to start saving for the wedding, since we’d be paying for part of it, and while she would start putting in, at the same time she would overpay by a lot on her student loan for grad school in order to pay it down more quickly. I told her I was OK with it, and all the while I was still paying for our weekends. We were engaged in August 2011, I would be graduating in June 2012, and she wanted to get married in Fall 2012. I told her I would prefer June 2013 so I could have more time to work and re-establish myself after graduating and contribute more, but she said she would carry us for a while. With that giving me some glimmer of hope, I agreed to November 11, 2012. Some months later, before I graduated, she and I had an argument and she let slip about how she was the only one putting money into the savings and that as soon as I started working I’d have to do the same (which I had always intended on doing). Given the limited timeframe I had between graduation and the wedding, I would put in as much as humanly possible with each paycheck, and would be working hourly instead of salary in order to make extra. I’d put in anywhere between $1000 and $1500 per paycheck, while making smaller payments on my credit card. I was working at the same firm as before, but making more, and every now and then I’d get the question of when I would be looking for a job elsewhere so that I wouldn’t be working with my mother anymore, but I would shrug it off for the time being.

After we got married, we settled into our new life and things were good. We used some of the wedding money to pay the photographers and florists (who were friends of ours), and my wife paid off her credit card with a decent chunk of the money. I made the choice to not do the same, as I wanted us to have money saved to get things for the apartment, and I know she wanted to go away. Since she’s a teacher, we delayed the honeymoon until after the school year and went to the Catskills on a “mini-moon” after Christmas. At the same time, we both got pay increases and I went from hourly to salary so I could be able to have things like paid vacation. Things seemed good.

However, things have cracked financially. She makes around $60k a year and I make $50k a year before taxes. Our rent with parking for her car is around $2000 a month, and we have bills for electric, cable, cell phones, etc. She works 10 minutes from our apartment, and I have a 35-90-minute drive depending on traffic, with over $5 in tolls each way for 5 days a week. My car is paid off, but my gas and tolls cost more per month than her gas and car payment, and we split the insurance. We went to Las Vegas at the end of March, despite my reservations (which I stated) since we wanted to go to Hawaii for the honeymoon, but she wanted to go and I kept quiet. Her rationale was that we would be getting a lot of money back for our tax refund and that we could use that for Hawaii. We are in fact getting a lot back, but there’s a major delay from the IRS that I’m powerless to force along, despite their apologies.

Things came to a head last week when we had a fight about something unrelated to money, but my anxiety over our financial situation has factored into the subject of the fight and past fights. My anxiety of the situation has almost totally eliminated my libido and my romantic side. My checking account is limping and my credit card is dangerously close to its $8K limit, and this has never happened to me before. When she asks me what I want to do during a weekend, I give her a standard “I don’t know” and deflect it back to her to ask what she wants to do, fearful of a backlash if I say that I can’t afford us doing anything. I gained an intense work ethic from graduate school in which I never allow myself to do the bare minimum, and as a result I try and do whatever work I can outside my current 8-6 job. I try to do photography jobs, design spec work, or even transcribing and doing surveys on Amazon Mechanical Turk -- things that would allow me to still spend time at home so my wife and I wouldn't wind up having one of those marriages where we never see each other at all. She told me that all I want to do is work and that I don’t want to enjoy life, that she feels I don’t want to be happy. She’s said that to me before and I held back, but on this particular occasion I told her that I would love to but I can’t afford to because I had bankrolled the events of our relationship despite making less than her for so long. I didn’t want to throw it in her face like that, since there was nothing she could do about the past, but she talked about how no guy ever said that to her, and that the last boyfriend she had was poor and spent whatever he had/could on her. (I controlled myself enough not to blurt out that I think he was a reckless moron if that was truly his behavior.) I told her that I had my commute and my student loans (which I pay the minimum on) on top of everything else, and her suggestion was for me to find a different job, despite the fact that many of my fellow graduates are making less than I am (if they’re employed at all). I don’t want to stay at this firm forever, but I need the financial stability to be able to move, and I don’t have that. Regardless, I had a bag packed and was ready to leave on her insistence, but somehow we stepped back. Let me also say this isn’t the first time she’s suggested separating. A couple days ago she said how she thinks she’s going to change her name back (so she wouldn’t have to worry about it if we’re no longer together).

We resolved to open a joint checking and put a certain amount of each paycheck in solely for rent and monthly bills. It’s a start, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have a philosophical difference that was bolstered by my capitulation to hers, and that I have a mounting personal financial crisis that I was never given the time and space to adequately deal with when I was finally free from school. I refuse to ask my family for money, as they’ve done enough for me for 27 years, and I don’t even want to consider bankruptcy. I understand that I’m putting what could be considered unnecessary constraints on myself, but I want to get myself out of this the right way...the honest way...and manage to keep my marriage intact. All the while, she still wants to do this and that, and I’m afraid of what’s going to happen I tell her I’m at the very end of my options.

I saw that some people suggested this “No More Mr. Nice Guy” book as something worth reading. Does anyone have any other suggestions as to what I can do? I understand I need to stop being a doormat and “grow a pair,” but I’m looking for more than that. I’m sorry for the length of this, but I thank you for taking the time to read and listen to my problem.
 

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Your post is too long for me to read fully.
Here is my advice.

Talk to your wife to see if she agrees that as a policy in your marriage, that the two of you should spend less money than you earn. If she does not agree with this as a policy or a belief than you should get a divorce becuase she is clearly unable to function as an adult. If she agrees with this as a polilcy then combine your finances and come up with a budget that makes Expenses < income.

Then come up with a way to stick to that budget. So for example, if you have a budget that uses $X for cash expenses, then match up your weekly cash withdrawals to the planned cash expenses.

Use financial planning software.

And, it's a mistake to work too hard and ingnore having fun with your wife and making her feel good. Wives are not intersted in being married to robots who constantly work and worry about money.
 

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Two things :

You have a voice. Use it. Learn how to say NO! I didn't even read the whole post but saw so many references that basically boiled down to "I didn't want to do it, but I did it anyway..." You wonder why you are in this position?

Get a financial planner or look through your state/county for free financial planning workshops. Some of the choices you mention baffle me - why are you paying down student loans faster than credit cards? Why are you accumulating credit card debt at all to sack away so much in savings? Why are you having to wait on these huge tax returns to make ends meet - adjust your withholdings properly so you are making more during the year.
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There is more to be concerned about than just money. Time to have a serious talk with her to determine what exactly she is looking for out of the marriage that she is not getting that would make her even consider seperation so early into your marriage.
That's not a good sign.
 

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OP,

There is simply too much minutia in your post that will bore even the most detail obsessed member on this board. Try editing a bit for clarity and brevity for more responses. A quick perusal of your post leads me to #1 do not get her pregnant until this is settled but something tells me she's not mommy material. Just a hunch.
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Two things :

You have a voice. Use it. Learn how to say NO! I didn't even read the whole post but saw so many references that basically boiled down to "I didn't want to do it, but I did it anyway..." You wonder why you are in this position?

Get a financial planner or look through your state/county for free financial planning workshops. Some of the choices you mention baffle me - why are you paying down student loans faster than credit cards? Why are you accumulating credit card debt at all to sack away so much in savings? Why are you having to wait on these huge tax returns to make ends meet - adjust your withholdings properly so you are making more during the year.
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Agree!

You need to take a course together in financial management AND you need to learn to say no. Women don't love weak men - they leave them. Be the leader in your family and put your foot down when you're uncomfortable with something.
 
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