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financial secrecy in marriage

My Spouse is Secretive With Money

Feb 9th, 2021 • Gayle E.

I’m married to a man who refuses to share money details with me. I worked before we married then quit when we had our son so my husband has been the sole breadwinner. I know he makes good money as an attorney but I have no idea how much exactly, how much we have saved, or if we have any debt. He gives me an allowance to fund our living expenses and he pays for our son’s school. I secretly save from the allowance for a rainy day. Unfortunately, he also pays alimony to his ex-wife even though the court order expired and he pays some amount for his adult children from that marriage. He works really hard to support everyone so he’s always stressed out and avoids this topic like the plague. This is driving me nuts so do I get him to talk to me about money?

I’m sorry you’re in the dark. You sound frustrated and understandably so. I would be too! 

Your husband’s refusal to talk about family finances is most likely an indicator of a larger problem. Perhaps it’s his own insecurities? Maybe he doesn’t want to have to explain the choices that he’s making that he expects you won’t support? Maybe this is the way he and his first wife handled money? It’s very difficult to say but I’m pretty certain there’s more to it than he just doesn’t want to talk to you about it. He may feel like he’s doing his part by making money and your job is to manage what is needed for the household. Reading between the lines, I’m also picking up that perhaps there’s some distance between the two of you? If so, this is as good a time as any to get your relationship back on track, and it will be necessary to dig into this issue.

Money between couples is often messy and complicated. There isn’t a one size fits all way that couples handle money and there’s probably about as many ways as there are couples. All you have to do is find a way that works for the two of you. My recommendation is to broach the money conversation in a more roundabout way, which means don’t start with it at all. 

“In order to reconnect around your finances the focus has to be about getting on the same team.”

The best approach is to begin by talking about being partners in your marriage, what that means to each of you and then ease into talking about money over time. You can begin with sharing how you both see your future with your marriage, your son, and common life goals. This will help you both build back the trust that’s going to be needed to talk about money. In order to reconnect around your finances the focus has to be about getting on the same team.

Here are some tips to make your conversations go more smoothly:

  • Schedule time for each other to talk
  • Pick a quiet spot and put your phones away so you can talk uninterrupted
  • It’s not about you or him, but the both of you as a team
  • Be supportive, not accusatory or aggressive
  • Use we and our, not I, me, or you
  • Show you’re interested in what’s being said and model good listening skills
  • Cover a little at a time – start with positive things, things you’ve accomplished together and goals
  • Leave emotion out 
  • Do not judge 
  • Be patient 

It will take some time to unravel whatever is preventing your husband from being able to talk with you about family finances but hopefully, he’ll open up and you’ll be able to better understand what’s going on with him and finances. Once you start talking about money, you can help him see that working together, as partners, equals a better future with less stress. It will take some finesse, patience and leadership but I do believe it can be done. If all goes well, it won’t be long before he realizes that you’re stronger together than each of you doing your own thing and you’ll both be happier and more emotionally connected once you’re able to get through his.

It is very important that you and your husband come to terms about this and that you find out what your financial situation actually is. Any debt or assets are yours together so you need to know what your financial liabilities are. Additionally, if something were to unexpectedly happen to your husband, you’d be completely in the dark and could potentially be on the hook for debt you didn’t even know existed. Life insurance is another critical topic that you need to know about; does he have a policy on himself and is the coverage sufficient for you and your son? These are just a few of the items you’re entitled to know about. As you can see, it’s not only important for your relationship, but imperative for your financial well being.

If you try this approach and he still refuses to open up, the two of you should meet with a marriage therapist. Lastly, if for some reason your husband refuses to go, be sure and go by yourself.

If you are in a similar situation, you need support. Our Hey Money experts can help you with unique problems like this five days a week, 12 hours a day. To learn more about this affordable solution, click here.

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