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Discussion Starter #1
Where to begin...it's such a long story, and I feel like leaving any tiny bit out is not properly representing the situation. But, because I actually want help and not to put people to sleep, let me try and put together a shortened version of events.

My wife and I have been together for 12 years, married for almost 10. Money was pretty good early on, but over time, moving, changing jobs, marriage, kids, debt, etc., things at this point in time are pretty dismal.

We are living paycheck to paycheck. We make it look like we are doing ok, but we are not. Together we make just over $70,000 a year, but after all our bills we pretty much don't have anything. Buying groceries can sometimes be tricky. Over the course of our relationship, my wife has on occaision tried to help out by doing side work. The first time she tried to do an online marketing deal that didn't work out, and we got scammed out of $3,000. I knew she was just trying to help, so I stood by her and we worked through it. The second time she wanted to help was going to be the same kind of situation, and I put a stop to it before it got too far. The third time she decided to do something more legit and be a seller of cosmetics (won't name names).

Between her full-time job and this one she never really seemed to have enough time to devote much to the second. It was a lot of start-up cost and we didn't make a whole lot from it during the time she was selling. A combination of a bad market, her not being able to really devote the necessary resources to it, and a family member that decided she would also sell cosmetics, interfering with the business my wife had been able to get.

She quit for a couple of years and a mountain of inventory stayed in our posession. She had told me up until recently she was done and so I had been pressing her to sell off her inventory so we could just be done with it. Recently we had an argument about money and she was upset because "she" didn't have any money and couldn't spend any for herself. Apparently she forgot that I am in the same boat she is, but it was very centered around her.

I reminded her that we are in bad shape and that I also cannot just go buy something. I also do side work but all of my extra money goes back into the family account, which is another source of tension for us. We started with a joint account, and somewhere along the line she decided she just had to have a split account, so we split our paychecks into separate accounts and laid out the bills we each would pay. She liked it because she had "her" money and could spend it how she wanted, and did sometimes, causing problems she covered up with balance transfers. I too had problems and would need to balance transfer, but my main issue was that I had no idea where a good chunk of our money was.

After a time, we switched banks and put everything back into a single account. I like it because I know exactly how much money we have (or don't have), but she feels like she has to ask me to spend any money. I told her that was not true, but if it were a sizeable amount of money, (probably over $100), that it needed to be discussed.

So now all of a sudden she has decided she wants to sell cosmetics on the side again, but didn't really come out and tell me. It was all done kinda hush hush. Not hidden, but not directly stated either. We discuss getting back into this and I remind her that we still have lots of inventory that is just sitting and needs to be sold before we attempt to spend any more money. She said she wouldn't have to buy anything she could jus sell what she had. I told her that after she had a party and sold some of it we would see if it was worthwhile to continue.

After she went to bed the other night on a hunch I checked her credit card and found that she had spent almost $500 on startup items and more inventory. I was so angry with her that I couldn't think straight. It wasn't just that she spent the money, it was that she lied about it. Also, I had worked hard to get her balance on that card down, and this put it right back up to the limit. As an aside, there were also also frequent purchases for ebooks on her account that were getting out of hand.

I spent the next hour or so writing her a letter about my feelings and frustrations and also stating that I needed her to turn over her card to me, and left it open but minimized on my computer (we both use it). After that I went for a drive and eventually about 2 AM I went to bed. Sunday came and went and she never made mention of the letter, so I can only assume she never saw it.

So...what do I do? I am not looking to start WWIII, or get divorced, but I cannot let this go on. Both of us have been pretty liberal with spending in our time but we are out of options as I see it. We refinanced, moved loans around, got loans to pay off other loans, etc. We are hanging on by a thread and all she can worry it about is not having any money "she" can spend. I agree it's depressing and I hate it too, but with 3 kids depending on us I think we are headed in the wrong direction.

Additionally, I would like input on how to handle this in a manner consistent with being more Alpha, as suggested at MarriedManSexLife. I am a long-time Beta trying to break out of it and I feel this could be a good opportunity, but I want to do it right. As I said, I'm not looking to become single or anything like that.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
 

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You lay it on the line right now.
Either the money is controlled, or she can have her seperate accounts with an all new seperate last name as well.
If you think it isnt that serious, check out my story. With the exact same careless and secretive methods my exwife who earned 40%more than I did a year still blew thru all the money left over after we paid bills. We had a household account, and two seperate bank accounts for ourselves. As long as the household bills were paid, as previously agreed, we could do whatever we wanted with the leftovers.
This led to her amassing 30K in personal credit card debt, and me having to repair things like furnaces in the winter, and our airconditioner in the summer. When emergencies happened, she already spent everything and then some.
But if I were to make her go one day without air conditioning, you can imagine the b.s. I heard.

After years like that, nothing in the bank, nothing saved up, I find out shes been seeing someone and wants a divorce. I suddenly have no money for an attorney, no money to move out on my own, and thanks to her dooshbag inability to listen and cooperate like a married couple worried about their future, she decided to go fk around and then wanted a divorce.
So I get forced out of the house and home, forced away from my kid for 50% of the time, and lifes a gddamned struggle because of how many years of my pleas falling on insultingly immature and selfcentered ears of a little piece of sh!t person with a little mind and a dried up dog turd for a heart.

So,,,,
How many more years will your pleas fall on deaf ears? How often will you have to revisit the extremely simpleton idea of managing money?

There needs to be some kind of line drawn in the sand on this, as it aint alway about you both together...

If she's influenced easily, I would get her the "total money makeover" by Dave Ramsey and start from there.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well, it happened last night. I work in a town an hour away from where we live and my wife happened to have a doctor's appointment in town, so I took off work early and met her at the doctor's office. I always like to go and be supportive if I can be. Only because I feel it is relevent I will divulge that she has pretty major depression, and this visit was to a psychiatrist/psychologist, whichever can prescribe medication. Anyway, we met with him and talked for a while. He switched up some of her medication and all but told her she needed to be in therapy. He also suggested we should both be in marriage counseling.

After the appointment I offered to take her to dinner before we left town. At dinner, the money issue and the cosmetics sales issue came up, and so I figured I had no choice but to talk to her directly about what I had written the letter about. It was pretty much a disaster.

She got very defensive and irate because even though I tried to explain through my thoughts and concerns, all she was hearing was that I was telling her "no", which was not exactly the case. More like a conditional "yes". Anyway, here is an excerpt from my journal about what happened:

We got around to having the talk that I mentioned writing the letter about, where I couldn’t trust her after she lied to me about spending money on inventory, and that as a consequence I would require her to give me her card. She got wildly belligerent in the restaurant and although she didn’t make a scene, others around us were tuned in to what was going on. She told me that if I took her card she was going to report that I had stolen it, and that I couldn’t tell her what to do. Basically she was losing control of the situation and was grasping for any straw she could find. She did say at some point during the conversation that I should have asked her for it rather than just demand it.

She also was pissed that I had to check her accounts, and my response to that was that someone had to. She plainly admitted she didn’t know what was on [her credit card] and basically that she was in the dark about our finances. My response was that if I wasn’t giving her enough information that both I needed to make a better effort and that she needed to ask for more. Two-way street… She had no idea what her [credit] card balance was, I had to tell her, and she still had the nerve to berate me for checking it. I told her that someone had to keep an eye on it.

I also asked her to put herself in my shoes and look at it from my point of view, something she’s rather poor at doing. I asked her what she would do if it was reversed, and eventually she figured out that I was going to take her card away. She tried to tell me I was too controlling, and I told her that in fact I was the opposite and let too much go, but that moving forward I would be more assertive with my opinions and actions. I don’t think she liked that. I’m not sure why she would think I’m controlling, other than being broke and telling her we actually don’t have any money, I really don’t make her do anything. She more or less has carte blanch with what she does, I just like to know about it beforehand.

At the end of the conversation I did restate what I wanted in a more question-like way and she did give it to me. Then she completely overreacted and gave me all her cards[...]I again stated that we were only discussing the [one card], but she got up and left. A few moments later I saw her car leave the restaurant.


Frequently in arguments she brings up how I am too controlling over spending and that she feels like she can't spend money, like she has to ask permission. That isn't the case, it's just that frequently we don't have the money and that's where the "no" comes from, not that I don't want her to spend any. Since I keep an eye on the finances I know where we are and so that's why it seems like I have control. In reality we really have no control, otherwise we wouldn't be broke. If she would work with me to keep watch of our finances it would be better. I told her that she doesn't have to ask permission to spend money as long as we have it, but if it's over a certain amount, say $100, we need to discuss it because that is a large amount of money for us. It's not about permission, it's about discussion and communication. She has equal access to all our accounts, she just doesn't check them.

Anyway, she was upset that I was checking on her cards and bank accounts, and I told her that I was being forced to because she doesn't keep track of them. She has created the very situation she has been arguing with me about, where now she has to ask permission to spend money.

She tried to argue splitting the bank account up into separate accounts again and I tried to explain that it doesn't matter if the money is all together or split a hundred different ways, it's ALL spoken for, and none of it belongs to her or to me. We just don't make enough for that. If we did we would each get an allowance out of it to spend on whatever we wanted.

During the argument over dinner I told her that I was afraid because I thought she would be willing to sacrifice anything, even our marriage, for spite. To fight to the bitter end just to be "right". It's a frightening thing to realize. I don't think she cared by that point of the conversation, but it's how it feels to me. I want so badly for us to be able to work together rather than against each other. My job is to be the Captain of the ship and for her to be the First Officer, but she'd rather be Captain of her own ship and not have a crew, it seems. You can be a strong independent woman and still be married with a family. Work for the bettermen of all of us and not just for youself. Work with me because you're on my team and not against me.

As an aside, I am running the MAP, as suggested by Athol Kay at MarriedManSexLife.com. I've been a reader for several months and am seeing many things in a whole new light. As I said, I am a natural Beta, and an still early in Phase I of the MAP, but last night's conversation was reminiscent of Athol's descriptions of Phase III/Phase IV. It's almost as if even though I'm the lower sex rank partner right now, I am feeling the "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" vibe towards her, and I'm at the point where I almost feel like it's time to lay out my expectations, but it is WAY too early for that.

I intend to stay married unless it just cannot work, but I find I am getting rapidly impatient and resentful about how things are going. I'm putting real effort into trying to better myself for our whole family, and she's just staying pissed. Sigh...
 

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One person needs to handle finances. PERIOD. That does not mean that she cannot have spending money. ALL $$ belongs in a joint account and there is no reason why she needs a debit or credit card if she cannot be responsible. I would just like to share something with you that I am confused about - based on my personal experience. I don't understand WHY she needs a second job. I don't understand why with your combined income of 70,000 you have no money after paying bills. I would bet you are BOTH irresponsible. (champagne taste on a beer budget???) My husband and I raised 6 kids with under 60,000 per year. We had a hefty mortgage and our car insurance was outrageous (At the time, we lived in RI). My oldest one had medical problems that required we buy the highest tier medical plan which was not cheap (her specialist was out of state and we needed an HMO with great options). We ate well and we were warm in winter and cool in summer. They went to public school because, it is not only free but public schools offer services that private ones don't (and they are well educated and decent kids). They all had decent clothes and we even took mini vacations once in a while. And we did not blow stupid money on cell plans. My kids don't get phones til they are old enough to be responsible and they don't get a 300.00 phone with a 100.00 plan. They get a free one with a 10.00 add on plan. And when they abuse the PRIVILEGE of having a phone, they LOSE the phone. And when the next one is old enough, I unsuspend the phone and pass it on! Three of them still live at home. So I am not talking about 30 years ago. My oldest are 23, 21, and 18. The oldest have moved out and the ones at home are 17, 16 and 12. (And my 12 year old does not have a phone.... she is 12 and does not NEED one). Maybe you both need to reevaluate your living situation. You can always own a smaller home, use coupons and shop wisely. I just cannot fathom how you cannot manage on 70,000.00 unless you have more kids than me, live in a home you cannot afford, buy things you don't need or you are playing catch up for having lived beyond your means in the past. Sometimes, people just have to suck it up and take a step down. (currently we are considering dropping cable TV. (We pick up 3 digital channels! That is enough for me)! As long as we can get online then the kids are able to watch lives stream shows on History that the high school requires). As far as your wife.... Well, she has a problem but I suggest that you sit down and look at where you are spending money on a lifestyle you may not need. Good luck to you!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks Laureen for your thoughts. I was actually kind of waiting for a response like yours when I put in how much we made. It's a combination of things ranging from how living and working an hour away affects how much gas you buy, which while budgetable is highly volatile, to student loans that racked up over multiple years of college, to credit cards that weren't able to be paid down and just started slowly building, to eating out more times a week than we should. It all clumps together into a big "dingleberry of debt" (I think I may have just coined a phrase!) that finally gets to a point where all you can do is maintain it.

Yes, you are absolutely correct when you say we pushed beyond our means. We make it look like we're doing ok, but we are slowly heading towards a situation where we may be skipping this bill to pay that bill. But our spending was typically on small things, something here, something there, and for some reason or another we could not pay it off before the next thing came along that we either wanted or had to buy for whatever reason, like a repair.

I have been over our budget several times lately and the heavy hitters are mortgage (gotta have it), daycare (gotta have it), my fuel (gotta have it), groceries (gotta have it but could do better), home equity loan to take care of some older credit cards (gotta have it), medical bills (no way out of it), utilities (gotta have it), student loans (huge problem, 1st place), and finally credit cards (2nd place).

We just don't have enough extra to start wittling away at any one thing, and I've spent lots of time moving and shuffling things around to get the lowest payments and interest possible.

I totally agree we are both to blame for the credit card debt. But I have worked hard to start putting down things we don't need. We recently refinanced the house, I paid off my car and didn't get a new one like a wanted to! Our cell plans is the most basic for calls and just enough texting and data to function and be useable at work. We get over the air HDTV, but I do have to have cable Internet for my work. I got a recent medical bill reduced by the hostpital. We did have to take out a new loan to pay for an old student loan that had us by the neck, so the payment is lower. Our oldest kid is just 7 so there will be no cell phones or cars for the forseeable future. I actually need a new cell phone but we aren't getting new phones like I want to. Our home was sold to us super cheap, and after just getting a refi the payment is down quite a bit from what it was.

I have frozen all extra spending, 80-90% of any side money I make goes back into the family account. I might use some to buy lunch once in a while or something. Grocery shopping would be an area we could work on. It's usually just a look and grab, although we are buying food to prepare at home so we don't go to fast food so much, and to try and eat healthier.

If we kept a better eye on the small stuff we don't think about, and could get rid of just one of the big cards or loans, I think we could make some headway. But without any extra money to devote to that it is hard to see how to do that. So I understand my wife's desire to earn extra money, I just worry that she only wants it for herself.

I guess that last point almost sounds like I'm arguing for her, doesn't it? It's not so much that she spent the money, it's that she didn't tell me when I'm working hard to try and reign in what we are spending. It's a trust issue more than it is a money issue.
 

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Have a couple of questions.....

home equity loan to take care of some older credit cards (gotta have it) credit cards (2nd place).

The exbanker in my picked up on this pretty quickly.....when we did HE loans to consolidate credit card debt, it was a REQUIREMENT for debt/income ratio purposes that the accounts being paid off had to be CLOSED. Did the bank not require this? Even so, knowing you both were weak in this area, hence the HE loan, why in the world did you continue to do so?

Our cell plans is the most basic for calls and just enough texting and data to function and be useable at work.

Is a 'cell phone' with text & data capabilities a requirement of your job/s? If so, then your employers should be providing them (same with your home internet); if not, then I don't see the reason you NEED texting/data....those are luxuries, as is a cell phone; however, being that you commute, I deem A cell phone for 'emergency purposes only' a must.

Some employers offer 'free' counseling for employees & families in their benefit packages.....does yours/your wife"s? If so, I would HIGHLY recommend financial counseling your both of you.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Heavensangel, I don't recall if they required us to close those particular accounts, however we did close them, we just had others that were still open at the time. It almost a joke at this point we've had conflicting advice for years about leaving older accounts with no balance open vs. closing them. There's good and bad to both.

Anyway, yes we were both bad in that on the remaining open cards we did continue to spend when we made rationalizations for things we did not truly "need". I'm sure a good majority of the population suffers from this particular syndrome.

As for the cell phone, I chose the word requirement because we no longer have a landline at home, another cost savings, but I cannot just call me wife at work all the time when there is an issue, so sometimes it has to be a text. As for me, I work in IT and have to have data for keeping tabs of things at work when I am not there, hence the Internet as well. I do agree in principle about the organization paying for it however it is a non-profit and as such they do not really have the resources to afford that.

I think after some thought that I agree with you about financial counseling, if just to get us both on the same page. My wife's parents would always try to do anything they could to make sure my wife (or her sister) or us as a couple, got the things we wanted. My folks were kinda the other way. I guess I liked the feeling of being able to get something I wanted, but I know what kind of havoc that causes and so I am trying to switch that around.

But when your partner holds that same belief system it can be hard to get through. You know, old habits and all. Thank you for your input. Highly valued.
 

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Perhaps your wife is so resistant to your suggestions, as a way to rebel against feeling controlled. I completely understand why you feel the need to watch her spending because it seems like your wife is not financially responsible.
There must be a way for you to compromise so that your wife doesn't feel powerless or punished. Is it possible to raise the $100 limit for permission to $125? As an adult and your partner, she has a voice in the marriage too.

"......My job is to be the Captain of the ship and for her to be the First Officer, but she'd rather be Captain of her own ship and not have a crew, it seems."

The relationship model which you are describing may not be something your wife is interested in. Some women resent being led or being told that the husband is the Captain.

I do not mind that my husband controls our finances, simply because that is not my area of expertise and there are no restrictions on my spending. Of course, my husband trusts me because I look for deals on everything and discuss all large purchases with my him. I am not working because I am a student and I cannot find a job which does not conflict with my class schedule.

For example, I think we spend far too much money on food. Our grocery store is high end with organic meat and other luxuries. Before I lived with my husband, I only shopped at discount grocery stores. My husband loves the quality of the food where we shop now, so we do not get groceries from a more reasonable store.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
FirstYearDown, you could be correct when you say she might not be interested in that particular relationship model. I think at this moment in time it is more confusion over my attempts to nudge it in that direction. It's a lot of blowback over who has control over what.

As I've said before I've always been very laid back and went with the flow, but I can't help but feel that is part of what got us here, so I'm trying something different. I hear tell the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over hoping for different results. Instead of insanity I think I've opted for a temporary Hell until things settle into new grooves, I just really hope that my wife will have the light-bulb moment about some of our money and relationship stuff that I have. Right now it's active vs. passive.

I really want her on board but I can't do that for her, she has to want it. My thinking is a marriage counselor is the next logical step. Thank you for your thoughts.
 

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Additionally, I would like input on how to handle this in a manner consistent with being more Alpha, as suggested at MarriedManSexLife.
OK, so with the disclaimer up front that I find the whole "alpha" thing to be largely a crock... what do you think an "alpha" would do in this situation? If you imagine yourself standing gallantly on a cliff... wind whistling through your long locks as you cut a dramatic pose in your black leather pants and pirate shirt... what are you thinking here? All kidding aside, try to put yourself in the moment of this thing you visualize as "alpha" and imagine what would the man of your dreams do?

I agree with FirstYearDown that your wife may not be interested in a patriarchal relationship model. If that's true and you push it, then I would think of you as unethical.

Why are you trying to "nudge" anything. Why are you debating control with her? Why are you doing any of this? Your wife STOLE $500 from you. If you're cool with that, can I do it too? I'll send you a paypal account to send it to. Your wife feels no remorse over having done that. She has lied to you and deceived you. She feels no remorse over those things either.

None of that has anything to do with control. It DOES have to do with boundaries though. Boundaries are not created by nudging stuff. What happens is you draw a line in the sand and you say "You shall not pass". It [mostly] worked for Gandalf and he was an old man. Maybe it'll work for you?

Here's a little tip. You cannot control her. It's a fool's errand to try. You CAN, however, control yourself. You can remain calm and assertive and loving. You can simply decide what works for you and what does not. If she wants to ride the ride along with you then that is wonderful. If not, then you get a divorce. See, that's the rub. The only thing which backs up ANY boundary in a marriage is "divorce". If you're afraid to talk about it then you can't set a boundary.

If she says, "So you're threatening me with divorce?" You say, "No honey. I am not threatening you with anything. What I am telling you is that if you do X then I will do Y and we will not have another conversation about it. I thought you'd find it helpfully informative."

At dinner, the money issue and the cosmetics sales issue came up... She got very defensive and irate
And you tolerated that behavior because.....???

because even though I tried to explain through my thoughts and concerns
...whyyyy?????

all she was hearing was that I was telling her "no"
Well, that would have been nice if she had heard that. But that's not what she heard. She heard you TRYING to tell her no and she wanted to make sure you didn't succeed. She won. Why are skirting the issue here. Just tell her "no". Given what she's done, you should be OK with that.

I really want her on board but I can't do that for her, she has to want it.
EXACTLY! So the only thing you CAN do is get on the ship and set sail. She either boards or she does not. Make a plan. Execute it. Don't discuss it with her. Don't negotiate with her. Don't get into debates and hysterical scenes. Just execute the plan. If she thwarts you in executing it, divorce her. Make it plain that that's the consequence right up front.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Why are you trying to "nudge" anything. Why are you debating control with her? Why are you doing any of this? Your wife STOLE $500 from you. If you're cool with that, can I do it too? I'll send you a paypal account to send it to. Your wife feels no remorse over having done that. She has lied to you and deceived you. She feels no remorse over those things either.
I agree. She stole and does not feel bad for it. I used the word "nudge" purposefully, as you cannot slam yourself into a new behaviour model suddently and not expect a mutiny. Then you're just an as$hole. That's not my intention.

None of that has anything to do with control. It DOES have to do with boundaries though. Boundaries are not created by nudging stuff. What happens is you draw a line in the sand and you say "You shall not pass". It [mostly] worked for Gandalf and he was an old man. Maybe it'll work for you?
Aside from that being my favorite movie quote of ALL TIME, that's what I was trying to do was to set a boundary. The line = don't spend this money. Line crossed = spent this money. Line crossed and then spat upon = spent money and then lied about it. She crossed the line on purpose, resulting in a consequence.

At dinner, the money issue and the cosmetics sales issue came up... She got very defensive and irate
And you tolerated that behavior because.....???
Honestly, I don't know. It's untested ground for me as I've always either let it go or grumbled about it to myself rather than getting it out in the open. I'm trying to learn to be different, but theory and implimentation are different animals. I'm still figuring out what is what.

because even though I tried to explain through my thoughts and concerns
...whyyyy?????
Because I've always been the guy that just blows up all of a sudden because I keep it all bottled up. I'm trying to change that. I don't want to be that way anymore, it doesn't work for anyone.


The whole Alpha thing is not a "we will do this because I said so" kind of thing, it is a balancing act of decision making and communication that is really described best as "Captain and First Officer". Yes the Captain in general calls the shots, but he also takes input from the First Officer and trusts the First Officer to lead the ship as well. Really what the Captain is supposed to do is to create a situation in which the crew wants to follow, not where they are forced to follow. But those of us that are new to the experience are having a little trouble with it.
Your post in general is a representation of what I'm trying to achieve.

And about using divorce as the ultimate line in the sand, I have not yet become ok with that. That is something I need to get over. But it sounds as if you are saying that's the line for everything, and eventually that line will be tested if you throw it around so much. I do not feel I am in a position yet where I can actually use that as an effective means of behavior modification. At this point I feel she'd just be like, "Ok, whatever." = Not what I want, and why I'm trying to change me.

I just thought for once in my life I would stand up for what I felt was right rather than sit back and take it. I've taken a lot of sh*t over the years, and I'm getting to the point in my life where I'm sick of it. You are right about one thing for sure. She does not respect me, and I want/need to figure out how I can do things differently so that she will. I thought that by taking the card away I was enforcing a boundary and that she would see I was serious. It's just new territory for me and I'm trying to figure it out.

I appreciate your comments, Jeff/BC, truly. Each comment on this thread has helped me see a piece of the puzzle I had not really noticed before. My job is figuing out how to put theory into practice.
 

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I'm going to be really direct here - you have two problems. The first is you have a level of debt (thus a monthly expense level) that is out of line with your income. The second is you have a wife of poor character.

You already know how to resolve the first problem. Increasing your income is a tough proposition, especially in this economy, and should not be looked as the answer. Among other money-savers noted, you should drive as little as possible (the IRS calculates the total cost of driving at $0.55 per mile currently) and make sure your insurances (health, home / renters, auto) are obtained as cheap as possible. Auto insurance in particular can vary widely in price for the same driving situation.

The second problem is more problematic, and I don't think you are handling it particularly well (I tried the same things and have the benefit of hindsight and honest self-evaluation). Your wife's actions belie an attitude that she is entitled to a certain minimum lifestyle and working out the money situation is ultimately your problem.

Consider her actions again. She does help out, but limits what she will do to certain things (taking the side job that does not really pay off). She chafes at cutting back her own spending and takes money where she feels she is entitled. She really is like an employee that says "I know business is not good, but my check had better clear every week".

Your comment "I am the captain" shows the wrong attitude. This sounds like you are resolving a strictly interpersonal issue by leading. This creates resentment given her adversarial attitude and ignores the significant practical impact of her actions. You are jointly liable for what she spends while you are married, and every dollar she spends is one dollar less you have to live on in the future. As was said, she stole $500 from you.

Your attitude should focus on the practical. One alternative is: you are a team and need to right the ship together. Neither of you are entitled to a minimum standard of living. You need to balance your individual needs with the best interests of the community (the marriage as a legal and financial entity) now and in the future (you guys want to retire someday, right?)

The fall-back alternative is: she admits that she is in the dark about finances. And, her conduct shows that she really does not care to be a part of the solution. She continues to connive to extract value for herself. She would rather keep her head in the sand and do as she pleases. Your response is that every dollar she spends puts you in debt, not just her. If she refuses to cooperate you will do what you can to protect the family finances. If she makes that impossible, you will sever your financial ties and limit your responsibility as the law allows.

You also can mention future improvement once the bills are paid. Less money will be spent for stuff already consumed and more money will be available for the future. But, along with that you need to set and enforce clear financial boundaries. It is possible that as bills are paid she will find other things on which to spend family money or increase what she claims as "separate money" disproportionately, leaving you no better off.
 

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DTO, thank you for your response. It was a bad assumption on my part to try and infuse interpersonal behavioral changes with financial behavior, and I didn't understand the different dynamics of each. I have a ways to go, it seems.

So given your post, in that situation, what would have been my best course of action? I am great at learning theory but not so great at applying it to a custom situation that I am personally involved in. I can tell others what I think they should do but when it comes to myself I really have trouble.

At this point tensions have cooled. She still makes comments here and there about not wanting to spend money for fear of being yelled at or getting in trouble. I have ignored them all as "****-tests". Last night she asked me to go and buy stamps so she could mail out invitations to her cosmetics party this weekend. I forgot and when I got home we had a small argument about it. I did end up going to get the stamps because I initially said I would, but she said at one point that she didn't have any way to pay for it. I told her she had a debit card. She said that she didn't think she could spend any money and wanted me to do it, I guess forgetting it was the credit card that was the focus of that discussion. It did turn out that she was ill last night so once I realized that and the fact that I said I'd get them in the first place I just shut up and got them.

Anyway, long story short, over the course of the last week, I really haven't brought it up or talked about it at all. I still have the card, and I will keept it until after her party and we see if it will be worth while to continue moving forward.

I also had a surprise call that could possibly turn into a contract position for me, so that would be the extra money we've been needing to start satisfying some of our debts.

I am open to recommendations on how to proceed.
 

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Just a quick red flag question. Is it possible that your wife has bipolar rather than depression? One rather common symptom is irrational spending and some of her arguments just scream bipolar to someone who has been through that and been in support groups with others with similar situations. One thing you want to remember in case this is the problem--you can't argue rationally with someone who is currently irrational. You may need to sit down with her calmly at a time when she is thinking rationally (it could be a while) and make arrangements to handle expenses while allowing each of you some spending money.

It might be more "real" to her if things are divided so that her "business" expenses come out of her spending money and a percentage of her "business" profits go directly into her spending money so at least the whole cost isn't coming out of the household expense account while any profits are seen as completely hers.

She won't agree to anything if she isn't rational. It might be a discussion to take on with a counsellor of some sort present.
 

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DTO, thank you for your response. It was a bad assumption on my part to try and infuse interpersonal behavioral changes with financial behavior, and I didn't understand the different dynamics of each. I have a ways to go, it seems.

So given your post, in that situation, what would have been my best course of action? I am great at learning theory but not so great at applying it to a custom situation that I am personally involved in. I can tell others what I think they should do but when it comes to myself I really have trouble.

At this point tensions have cooled. She still makes comments here and there about not wanting to spend money for fear of being yelled at or getting in trouble. I have ignored them all as "****-tests". Last night she asked me to go and buy stamps so she could mail out invitations to her cosmetics party this weekend. I forgot and when I got home we had a small argument about it. I did end up going to get the stamps because I initially said I would, but she said at one point that she didn't have any way to pay for it. I told her she had a debit card. She said that she didn't think she could spend any money and wanted me to do it, I guess forgetting it was the credit card that was the focus of that discussion. It did turn out that she was ill last night so once I realized that and the fact that I said I'd get them in the first place I just shut up and got them.

Anyway, long story short, over the course of the last week, I really haven't brought it up or talked about it at all. I still have the card, and I will keept it until after her party and we see if it will be worth while to continue moving forward.

I also had a surprise call that could possibly turn into a contract position for me, so that would be the extra money we've been needing to start satisfying some of our debts.

I am open to recommendations on how to proceed.
My sense is that your wife is just being difficult. She does not really think you are not clear about where money can and cannot be spent. She is punishing you for setting some limits.

The first thing is for you to not take the bait. When she complains about not buying some small necessity or what not, tell her you don't appreciate the sarcasm and ignore the rest.

The second thing is that you set a way forward. Set some common sense rules. If she needs an income (and that may become a must), she needs a regular job. Any situation where you need to invest your own money to make money is at best a business (with all the attendant risks) and at worst a scam.

I still get the feeling that she wants to not be part of a solution. She wants to shop, she wants to avoid a regular job with a boss and accountability (by selling cosmetics and doing the work-from-home thing), and so on. That is just not going to work here.

You need to work to instill a sense of accountability and duty to the family in her. It is wrong for her, as your partner, to ignore her responsibility to do for her family. It is wrong to put her own comfort first at a time like this. It would be wrong for her to use any future income from you as an opportunity to resume old spending habits without coming to a joint plan for the future.
 

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Sounds like she's manic depressive.

She gets in the manic phase and the spending starts, in her mind she's going to be in a successful business and all that unsold inventory is nothing more than a figment of her imagination.

she's reckless, irresponsible, badly treated with meds, and past the point of being rational.

You're in a financial war. Cut up her cards, close accounts with her name on it and tell her you are taking over.

Otherwise she's going to bankrupt you.
 

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To be fair, yes she does suffer from severe depression. Recently the topic of bipolar disorder was brought up, however the therapist does not think this is the case based on meeting with the both of us. She is on medication, but does not feel comfortable talking to me and had a bad experience talking to a counselor and is afraid to trust a new one.
 

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The second thing is that you set a way forward. Set some common sense rules. If she needs an income (and that may become a must), she needs a regular job. Any situation where you need to invest your own money to make money is at best a business (with all the attendant risks) and at worst a scam.
I'm sorry if I misled you or did not give enough information. We both already work full-time jobs. She is looking at this as a means of adding income, except that in the past it was for "us" as a family unit and now it feels more like it's for "her" individually. I bring in about 60% and she about 40%.

You need to work to instill a sense of accountability and duty to the family in her. It is wrong for her, as your partner, to ignore her responsibility to do for her family. It is wrong to put her own comfort first at a time like this. It would be wrong for her to use any future income from you as an opportunity to resume old spending habits without coming to a joint plan for the future.
Totally agree. Now to work on getting that done...
 

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Where to begin...it's such a long story, and I feel like leaving any tiny bit out is not properly representing the situation. But, because I actually want help and not to put people to sleep, let me try and put together a shortened version of events.

My wife and I have been together for 12 years, married for almost 10. Money was pretty good early on, but over time, moving, changing jobs, marriage, kids, debt, etc., things at this point in time are pretty dismal.

We are living paycheck to paycheck. We make it look like we are doing ok, but we are not. Together we make just over $70,000 a year, but after all our bills we pretty much don't have anything. Buying groceries can sometimes be tricky. Over the course of our relationship, my wife has on occaision tried to help out by doing side work. The first time she tried to do an online marketing deal that didn't work out, and we got scammed out of $3,000. I knew she was just trying to help, so I stood by her and we worked through it. The second time she wanted to help was going to be the same kind of situation, and I put a stop to it before it got too far. The third time she decided to do something more legit and be a seller of cosmetics (won't name names).

Between her full-time job and this one she never really seemed to have enough time to devote much to the second. It was a lot of start-up cost and we didn't make a whole lot from it during the time she was selling. A combination of a bad market, her not being able to really devote the necessary resources to it, and a family member that decided she would also sell cosmetics, interfering with the business my wife had been able to get.

She quit for a couple of years and a mountain of inventory stayed in our posession. She had told me up until recently she was done and so I had been pressing her to sell off her inventory so we could just be done with it. Recently we had an argument about money and she was upset because "she" didn't have any money and couldn't spend any for herself. Apparently she forgot that I am in the same boat she is, but it was very centered around her.

I reminded her that we are in bad shape and that I also cannot just go buy something. I also do side work but all of my extra money goes back into the family account, which is another source of tension for us. We started with a joint account, and somewhere along the line she decided she just had to have a split account, so we split our paychecks into separate accounts and laid out the bills we each would pay. She liked it because she had "her" money and could spend it how she wanted, and did sometimes, causing problems she covered up with balance transfers. I too had problems and would need to balance transfer, but my main issue was that I had no idea where a good chunk of our money was.

After a time, we switched banks and put everything back into a single account. I like it because I know exactly how much money we have (or don't have), but she feels like she has to ask me to spend any money. I told her that was not true, but if it were a sizeable amount of money, (probably over $100), that it needed to be discussed.

So now all of a sudden she has decided she wants to sell cosmetics on the side again, but didn't really come out and tell me. It was all done kinda hush hush. Not hidden, but not directly stated either. We discuss getting back into this and I remind her that we still have lots of inventory that is just sitting and needs to be sold before we attempt to spend any more money. She said she wouldn't have to buy anything she could jus sell what she had. I told her that after she had a party and sold some of it we would see if it was worthwhile to continue.

After she went to bed the other night on a hunch I checked her credit card and found that she had spent almost $500 on startup items and more inventory. I was so angry with her that I couldn't think straight. It wasn't just that she spent the money, it was that she lied about it. Also, I had worked hard to get her balance on that card down, and this put it right back up to the limit. As an aside, there were also also frequent purchases for ebooks on her account that were getting out of hand.

I spent the next hour or so writing her a letter about my feelings and frustrations and also stating that I needed her to turn over her card to me, and left it open but minimized on my computer (we both use it). After that I went for a drive and eventually about 2 AM I went to bed. Sunday came and went and she never made mention of the letter, so I can only assume she never saw it.

So...what do I do? I am not looking to start WWIII, or get divorced, but I cannot let this go on. Both of us have been pretty liberal with spending in our time but we are out of options as I see it. We refinanced, moved loans around, got loans to pay off other loans, etc. We are hanging on by a thread and all she can worry it about is not having any money "she" can spend. I agree it's depressing and I hate it too, but with 3 kids depending on us I think we are headed in the wrong direction.

Additionally, I would like input on how to handle this in a manner consistent with being more Alpha, as suggested at MarriedManSexLife. I am a long-time Beta trying to break out of it and I feel this could be a good opportunity, but I want to do it right. As I said, I'm not looking to become single or anything like that.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
The way to respond alpha style is to not write those letters, confront her face to face, in a very firm manner. All important issues should not be addressed in e-mails or letters, it should be done in contact situations.

She lied to you, you have to inform her that this is totally not acceptable and you are not going to bail her out of her poor decisions. Make her liable for this, take her credit card away from her, and with the allowence she gets to spend on a person level, take x-amount out of it for her credit card installments until that balance is clear. You now have to be the dominant "bread winner" and when you know finances are an issue, act accordingly and let her know you have a plan for getting the family out of this situation and she must support you in that regard.
 

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It has been some time since I've updated this topic. Since all of that happened, we had started to do better with regard to financial discussions. It wasn't really what it should be, but better.

~~Skipping a lot of back story~~

In an effort to be spiteful of what had happened, she ended up changing her password on that credit account so that I could no longer view its activity. Each time I would confront her about having it she brought up the whole deal about it being illegal for me to be in her accounts and be messing around, which although she has a point, because no one else was paying attention to it, I thought I didn't have a choice.

Anyway, fast forward a ways and we come to this past Friday. I had noticed that the minimum payment on the card was steady at a particular level, until last month when it went up again. I found this strange but did not say anything at the time. Then again this month it went up, and I found myself wondering what she had been buying, especially with the card being withing a couple hundred dollars of the limit. Of course without being able to see the account I could only assume she had used the card information stored on a website somewhere because I physically still had the card.

(This is the part where I must admit that I am not very good at starting these kinds of conversations. Usually I come off very accusing tone even when I don't mean to.)

I confronted her about the issue and she blew up all over me about it, but then said that she had changed the minimum payment to pay more so it would be cleared faster.

(Fast forward through some back and forth about me being accused of hiding financial things from her and me giving back specific examples of her hiding financial stuff from me.)

She also happened to be ill over the weekend and barely spoke to me the rest of Friday and all of Saturday. On Sunday morning we got back into it.

I had been patient and calm but decided I had sat there in stalemate long enough. It was at this point that I told her I was sick of having this same discussion/argument/fight every few months and that I wanted it to stop. I told her that I was going to give her back her card and that I expected her to give me access to the account again. I also told her that if she did not I would have no choice but to lock her out of a secondary checking account she has been using for her Mary Kay operating money, as the account happened to be in my name.

There was a lot more to the argument than this, and from her viewpoint she is loosing control and privacy, but what I am trying to explain is that with shared/family money, there is no control or privacy, and that all I am wanting is to know where we sit so I can make decisions based on that. All she hears is that I am "taking away the keys", sort to speak.

I also told her that she knew all of my passwords and could easily get into any of my accounts. In fact I invited her to so we both would know what was going on. I told her that all she had to do was ask me and I would give her the information.

Even beyond all of that, I told her that I didn't want to know what was going on in her business account, as long as it didn't affect the family finances, and that she was free to do what she wanted there.

Anyway, I put an end to the conversation with my ultimatum. I wasn't wanting to take it that far, but she would not hear reason. I know she is trying to find a way to make a power grab because I stated my expectations and what I would do if they were not met. Consequently, I found her password written down this evening when I got home.
 
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