What often keeps us in troubled marriages is fear and doubt, not knowing that we manage the logistics of living alone, not knowing if we could manage financially, fear of simply being alone or lonely and of course, fear of judgment. For IronSpineSally, her husband’s deployments gave her the opportunity to take more responsibility for the household and made her realize she was far more capable than she’d given herself credit for. Here’s IronSpineSally:
His deployment before the last one had been after I’d had my back surgery. I couldn’t even walk at that point, so I had people coming in and taking care of me. He was in control of everything we did, all the money we spent, the money coming in, my pay check went to him and he “paid the bills” with it.
The last time his was gone was different. I discovered a lot of issues with money. He would come in and take money without telling me, and what he needed it there for, I really don’t know to this day. So, with him being gone, I straightened out the finances, I took care of a lot of things I didn’t know I could do or that I didn’t know I understood. I just got more confident in that.
We had bought the house the same year we got married, so from that point on, he took all of my money, with the exception of $200 every paycheck, and apply it to our household bills. He would take a percentage of his income to do that with, not the entire thing. Yet somehow, we would always end up overdrawn from our bank account, or I would go grocery shopping and I would check the account balance first and there would be plenty of money, and then I’d come home and things would be moved around and I would be overdrawn because I went grocery shopping. There was a lot of that kind of things going on.
So when I was paying the bills while he was gone I was surprised at how much money we actually had when and with that money I was able to pay off credit cards. I had thought we were so in over our heads, that we didn’t have enough money and that we wouldn’t ever be able to do that. I was actually able to save towards other things and that was just something I had always been told we weren’t able to do because we didn’t have the income for it.
I started exercising and my back got better than it had been in years. I was going out and doing things alone, and I got so confident in that the things I had been dealing with before, the porn issue and the other stuff, to me I was, like, “why do I need to deal with this? There’s nothing wrong with me that I should have to settle for something like that.” It definitely made a big difference.
When he came home, at first he would tell me he was handling things, and then things wouldn’t get paid and things would get shut off, so I would go back in and fix it. And then he took everything back and he didn’t want me to have any access to it anymore.
I had bought a kayak while he was away and I loved it. I saved my $200 out of my paycheck every two weeks and I bought it with my money. When he came home, he was so upset about this kayak that I bought without asking him, and I had said,
“Well I bought it with my fun money, that I keep in my account.”
He said, “Well, I’ve always resented the fact that you keep your own money, that you have a separate checking account. I don’t want you to have it anymore, but I need mine because when you go in and ruin all the finances, I need to be able to swoop in like Superman and save the day.”
So it was a big deal for me to realize that I wasn’t just okay at handling finances but I am actually better than he is, and yet he didn’t want me to do it anyway.
He was hiding a lot of stuff from me. We both got paid twice per month, and every time he got paid, he would transfer $350 out of our joint account into an account I didn’t ever see, and I never did find out where that money went. I assumed it went to pay for his half of the divorce because I never found where it went to. When we did do the divorce paperwork, we found an additional checking account but there was never a financial disclosure so I never knew where he was hiding his own money.
It was a combination of finding out that things were being hidden from me, I was being manipulated more than I thought, and “hey, I can actually handle this if I go off on my own,” that gave me the confidence to think about leaving.
The Divorce Coach Says
IronSpineSally isn’t the only woman I’ve interviewed who found out that her husband’s handling of the finances was less than stellar or that managing the household budget doesn’t require a college degree. Martha learned about getting a mortgage, Sue learned declared bankruptcy and learned to budget and Holly learned that less can mean more.
The message here for those of you thinking about divorce is to make sure you know about your household finances – what’s coming in, what’s going out and where it’s going. You’ll need this information for financial settlement discussions and you’ll need these skills when you’re living alone. If you don’t know where to start then Suzanne Cramer is guest blogger here and posts about finances – browse through her posts. You can also check your local adult education classes for basic money management class.
And if your spouse tells you, he’s got it covered, that you don’t need to worry about, then that’s a red flag about the equity in your partnership. This is not about trust, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself and being accountable.