You ruined me!
December 22, 2007 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I truly love my wife, but I am really angry at her for screwing me up financially. If you have been in a similar situation, what have you done to forgive and forget?

Backstory: about 12 years ago, I had some serious debt, which took me 7 years to resolve. But I did it and I felt accomplished, and was excited at the thought of living the life I dreamt of while working all those dismal second, and third jobs.

I got married to a wonderful and kind person. 5 years later, she continues to be wonderful and kind. But 3 years ago she completely destroyed me:

Wife wanted us to buy a house.
I explained that we could not afford it.
She said her dad had some money put aside for us to buy a house.
I said I couldn't accept such a large gift. But I added that I respected her and her parents' culture/wishes and offered this compromise - the money from her parents would be for her and only for her. I would pay my own way. But right now, I couldn't pay my own way, so I wanted to wait a few years (2 at most).

I wanted to pay my own way b/c I felt that it would give me some control. I didn't want to owe anybody or be dependent on anyone. My ability to be financially independent was a source of pride for me, self-actualization, perhaps.

So I explained this to her. Many times. In different ways.
It's not that she didn't listen. It's just that she couldn't understand.

The next thing I knew, she had contacted an agent and they were looking at houses.

I wrote down my calculations and showed them to her. "We cannot afford this right now. Let's wait a bit!" I said.
She said, "but my dad is giving us money".
I said, "Your dad is giving YOU money. I don't want the money"
She said "But my money is your money".
I said "Thanks, but it is important for me to be able to pay my own way" and repeated the reasons I gave above.

She continued to search for houses.
I repeated my concerns. I said, "Just wait a few years, that's all I want. This way we both get what we want."
My pleas were falling on deaf ears.
I said, "I will probably have to go back to working 2 jobs again."
She said "But my dad is giving us money" - and so the conversation would repeat itself again and again.

The house was going to be purchased. If I didn't co-sign it, her dad/brother/aunt would have co-signed. It was going to be purchased whether I was in or not.

So I caved - well other than divorce, I had no choice, really.

So today, I am back in debt - $44,000 to be exact - making $65,000 annually - one full-time job, one part-time job, and a couple of contracts on the side.

The financial bleeding has stopped, I hope. I am paying off my debts slowly but surely.

But the emotional toll continues to weigh down. All I do is work and sleep. All I think about is money and how much this is going to cost me. My zest for life is gone. And I just cringe when people ask me about the g@ddam house, and give some stupid answer when they ask why I work so much. My already strained relationship with my own family is bordering on estrangement. I have no close friends to talk to, and even if I did, I think I would have chased them all away with my whining.

Worst of all is that I continue to be angry at my wife. Not dirty looks/yelling angry. But more of the bottled up angry. And it is being expressed in so many ways - no interest in sex or kissing anymore, sarcastic remarks, constant seething, or thinking to myself how stupid she is. Every time something goes bad, I blame her:
- "I wouldn't have slept in if she didn't make me sign for the house - I wouldn't be working so hard";
- "I can't go to the gym because I have to work - all her fault"
- "My dog died because the move was hard on him. Her fault"

I am hoping to regain my zest for life and zest for my wife when my debt is paid. But my question for you is this:

For those of you who have been in a similar situation, how did you deal with your anger? How did you forgive? Does is get easier when the debt is paid?

Please no "see a therapist comments!" I know this is the next logicial step! But what i want to hear is insight from people who have "been there, done that"

For the record, my wife loves me a lot, and I love her. But for some reason she cannot understand certain things about me - like my need to pay my own way, my reluctance to take such a large gift. And unfortunately this lack of understanding has put me deeper in debt than I have ever been.

Her dad is nice too. He just wants to take care of his daughter. I respect that 110%.
It is just that I want to be the one who will take care of me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (75 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm. I think it's time for her to start balancing the books (because you don't have time) and also pick up a job or two, and add to the houshold income.

And your anger and frustration needs to go to therapy with or without her. Or a divorce lawyer, cause that's where this will end up.
posted by filmgeek at 6:32 AM on December 22, 2007

I was in a similar situation, and I am still paying off the CC debt.

But I am divorced now for several years and living with my current gf who understands financial responsibility.

Divorce was truly the best thing to happen to me.

Sometimes dude...that's the solution as sad as it may be.
posted by evilelvis at 6:38 AM on December 22, 2007

It is just that I want to be the one who will take care of me.

It sounds like this is a near-obsessive need.

You are torn between being completely responsible and working your way out of this as soon as humanly possible, and rejecting the situation entirely, completely denying these years as part of your life in this world and with your family.

This wil not magically go away once the house is paid-- you will be acutely aware of the sacrifice and the years lost and the repercussions, and you will take any opportunity to remind people of it, even unconsciously .

You make it sound like martyrdom, like this house is your cross to bear and you're only doing it out of love and responsibility. As much as it feels like your wife is to blame for putting you up on that cross, it's been your decision to stay there. There are other ways, approaches you're not seeing because your very identity at this point is consumed with making this sacrifice-- perhaps needlessly-- and your vision is clouded.

You're right that counseling is the next step. If not for you, then for your wife, because years of living side-by-side with this is bound to be just as damaging to her as it is to you. You have a family who needs you, needs the real you. Is your desire to take care of yourself really worth more than that?
posted by hermitosis at 6:43 AM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

If I'm understanding this correctly, your FIL gave your wife the money for a down payment, and you now have a $44K debt. Which is...a mortgage? Something else? You earn $65K a year, which is supporting two people.

Why are you working two jobs? You haven't suggested anywhere that your wife could get a job, even though that's the very obvious solution to the problem. Have her take a part-time job, you keep the full-time job, and everybody is, if not happy, then at least solvent.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:45 AM on December 22, 2007

Time for her to get a job. You guys need the extra income.
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Right now your pride and financial independence aren't doing you, your wife, or your marriage any good. It's very admirable, and I do understand the sense of self-worth and the comes with being fully responsible for your finances. But the house has been bought and you now have a situation you need to deal with. If you had accepted your father-in-law's gift, would you and your wife be splitting the rest of the mortgage right now? Is she paying anything? If I were in your shoes, I'd sit down with my spouse and see how we could retool our monthly contributions as if you had accepted the gift for the both of you. If I were your wife, I'd want to find a way to make the financial situation work so that I had a happy husband again (but, then again, I wouldn't have charged ahead on a major life decision without having my husband on board to begin with).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:48 AM on December 22, 2007

You need to remember that you made the choice to cosign. You could have refused. Do you really have a right to be angry with her?
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 AM on December 22, 2007 [11 favorites]

I think what you're really looking for is to TAKE responsibility for your current situation. I think you want her to tell you she's sorry that her pushiness about the house caused your debt. It's unclear whether you've had this conversation or not, and if you did, I'm guessing it didn't go well, since you're still resentful.

I'm guessing that she doesn't understand that she manipulated you into the house-buying. Perhaps in her view, the men in her life *can't* be manipulated into doing things they don't really want to do, so if you agreed to the house, you must have wanted to. This allows her to evade responsibility for the debt, since it was ultimately your decision. Do the men in her family have the last say on things?

It's going to be difficult to get her to see her responsibility in this situation if you're coming from such fundamentally different places. One thing that can help is to put the numbers on paper - the house payment is $ x, the credit cards are $ x, my take home pay is $ x. If you do this for your financial situation both before and after the house, she may see how much it's changed, and grasp the financial impact of the house-buying. There's also the temporal impact - if you're spending more time at work, you're not spending as much at home. Graph that. Of course, these things shouldn't be used as weapons in an argument, but during a calm conversation.

To reduce your frustration in the short term, try physical activity and/or meditation. When you feel calm enough, broach the subject with her. Tell her that you still feel resentful about the house, and this is why. Your resentment may come as a complete shock to her if you've been bottling it up or disguising its source ("Honey, I don't want to have sex tonight, I had a rough day at work"). Tell her why you've been stressed out, why you're not as affectionate, etc. Tell her that you really DO love her, and you want to move past this. If - and only if - she offers her help, give her some way to make amends. Can she pick up a job? Can she cut expenses? What concrete action can she take to make you feel better? If you can't think of ANYTHING, or if she doesn't offer any help, then it's going to be really difficult to ever forgive her.
posted by desjardins at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2007

You should have graciously accepted the money from her father. You will have to speak to your wife - outline what you wrote above including the bit about your anger - and try and perhaps learn to compromise in future.
posted by fire&wings at 7:07 AM on December 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

I agree with hermitosis.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2007

You are responsible for this problem.

1. You say your wife couldn't understand what you were saying when you explained why you didn't want the FIL's money. Perhaps. Perhaps you were not communicating effectively, which is as much your problem as hers.

2. "If I didn't co-sign it, her dad/brother/aunt would have co-signed. It was going to be purchased whether I was in or not. " OK, well, you shouldn't have signed. Doesn't sound like there was a gun to your head. Perhaps in that moment, it would have become clear to your wife "oh, he's serious."

3. This $44K. This is your share of the house? The only person who considers this a debt to be repaid is you. Don't blame your wife, or anyone else. And if you insist on blaming yourself, remember that most mortgages are 20 or 30 years. It sounds like you're killing yourself trying to pay this off as quickly as possible. If you had financed the house more conventionally, would you be doing the same?
posted by adamrice at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think it's difficult when two people in a relationship have differering financial views. However in your situation, I think you're also being hampered by the fact that you think your view of this is the correct one [even if only correct for you] and the way your wife is looking at it is the problem. A marriage is all about both people and both of their desires. So if your wife is happy taking money from her family and you are not, then you can do what you wound up doing, but that was YOUR CHOICE to cosign and not get a divorce. I realize that divorce seems extreme and almost unthinable (and I am not suggesting it) but you had a set of choices and this is the one you made. You. So, part of helping forgive your wife is to take responsibility for the fact that now that you have decided this is a choice that the two of you have made.

You seem to be constructing this story -- and I'm aware that you are saying that this is part of your problem, the outlook thing -- so that your choices were forced and you are now mad at having had those choices be forced. Agreed, that sucks but everything is on the table and you are acting like your options were "be killed or cosign this loan" They weren't. It also sounds like you could use a friend to commiserate with because your wife isn't really going to be that person in your life.

So, while I think therpay is really good at helping deal with anger and blame issues I think some of the things you can do in the meantime include

- acknowledging your own choices and decisions you made that got you where you are. Put another way, hey it was nice that you were in a low debt situaiton so that you and your wife could get this house. It's nice that you are a person that can get out of debt. You seem to have good financial skills, go you!
- acknowledging that debt, while a personal value/choice that you would not make, is not inherently evil and if the debt you are talking about is your mortgage, that is not an entirely bad thing. Put another way, what is the worst case scenario you have to deal with, when carrying this debt? And it migh tbe helpful if you could follow up and let us know if you are talking about a mortgage or some other weird loan situation. Most people see mortgages as "good debt" and being frantic about taking 2-3 jobs to pay off a mortgage seems more like out of control anxiety than rational financial planning
- let things go. I am sorry about your dog, but you made the choice to move because it was prudent for your marriage. You are not going to the gym because you are not going to the gym (you had time to type this, fund time to go to the gym if it's a real priority). You slept in. Take ownership of your own life and don't pass blame.
- marriage is a partnership and you seem to act like you are 1) stuck in this one and 2) hating it. Have some serious talks with your wife about how this isn't working for you and the two of you need to make some decisions, actual compromises not "you do things my way now because we di things your way in th past" to help you feel more comfortable as well. You get to be comfortable and she does. If you're working harder to make ends meet, she should be contributing something to the equation as well whether it's getting a job, helping make your life easier, borrowing more money from her family, etc. Make your happiness AND her happiness the things you are working towards.

At some level, her thinking "my money is your money" is really how most people think of a marriage. While it's totaly okay for the two of you to hammer out whatever your own financial patterns and habits are, it sounds like maybe this wasn't clear enough before this whole house thing started. Then at some point you threw up your hands and went passive on the whole deal and have been fuming ever since. It is NEVER trus that you have no choices. If being out of debt is more important than being married to this woman, than that gives you a choice to make. If it's NOT, then you have another set of choices, but claiming you are forced into choices and then just being an angryman about it isn't really honoring your marriage, your own role in this or your wife. Let yourselves both off the hook and try to move forward with a cleaner slate to make next year a better year than this one has been.
posted by jessamyn at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2007 [14 favorites]

my sister is in a similar relationship. they don't make a lot, but they love each other, and my parents realize that her happiness in life is tied to his (and vice-versa) so they try to help them out with things that will advance them in the world (like buying the bf a computer for his schoolwork). the thing is, he almost can't accept it, because he feels beholden. finally, my mom gave him a talking-to (i don't know what she said) but he accepted it.

this is a therapy issue. the reason she couldn't understand your need to pay your own way is because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. your fear of financial entanglement, of financial obligation, is an issue you need to come to terms with. your compromise was reasonable, but the impulse that drove it was not.

are you really worried about the money? or are you worried about being beholden to your wife and her family? are you worried that this diminishes you in their eyes? are you worried that accepting help diminishes you in your own eyes? or your wife's? do you suspect your marriage will not last as long as the mortgage, and you'll be left in debt to people who hate you? do you feel like the financial assistance was really just a bribe for fidelity (or whatever)? or are you just angry that you got bullied into something before you were ready? were you ever really going to be ready, or were you just saying that to placate her?

i don't mean to rag on you. i hate debt, too, and my school debt puts me in a bad mood every time i have to write that check every month. but there's nothing i can do about it except make it worth it--do the best i can with my career and life. sometimes you just have to lean in. so you've made this massive investment....invest more into it. make it beautiful. invest in your wife (and tell her to get a job to help pay it off) by investing in your relationship. lean in, embrace the fact that you have this 500 pound gorilla and make the best of it. i hope that doesn't sound too dr.phil-ish, but really, that's the only way i've found to come to terms with stuff like this.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:12 AM on December 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

If the $44,000 is a mortgage, and you won't settle or stop being angry until you clear your mortgage, then you need to give yourself a bit of a reality check. There's nothing wrong with a mortgage, and it is a nice, pleasant long term plan to not have a mortgage when you retire. Not now.

Living totally debt free is a total luxury. It is not available to someone earning that little money for a long time. You are obsessing about the debt in a very, very unhealthy way. Your feelings toward the debt are what need resolving, not the ones toward your wife.

Seriously. The problem is with the debt - not the money at all, your unnatural aversion to it. It's just manifesting itself at the most likely tangible/nominal cause, which is your wife. Everyone has a mortgage unless they are super rich/been paying it off for 25 years. As long as the monthly payments are copable with (and at $44,000 surely they are) then slightly overpaying a mortgage with a savings account alongside it is a very sensible way of doing it. You are just utterly obsessed with this concept of it 'hanging over you'.

That is what needs to change.
posted by Brockles at 7:13 AM on December 22, 2007 [11 favorites]

Not entirely clear on what happened when you "caved"--did you both wind up in debt from not being able to afford the house, or did you personally go into debt to avoid taking a gift from the dad, or some other thing? Because if the option of taking some money from the dad is still open to you, I'd say go for it. Believe me, I understand--I'm exactly like you when it comes to money--but pride just isn't worth it at this point. You're not going to change your wife's attitude toward money by setting a sterling example of responsibility. Accept her dad's help, if you can still get it. It doesn't have to set a precedent or anything--you can still refuse to take part in irresponsible schemes in the future.
posted by equalpants at 7:13 AM on December 22, 2007

I think your anger is pointed in an odd direction, since you are the architect of your own misery. It doesn't sound like the two of you ever really act as a team, but that's the only way you're going to get through this. You guys need to start working together, rather than you imposing your total need for control on her, and her just barging along with her own plan.

You need to sit down together and work the numbers and find a solution. You need to rework your perspective on debt, because regardless of the source of the debt it doesn't mean you have to be miserable just because it exists. You're already so entrenched in this "I wanted to do things a certain way and that didn't happen and now ALL IS LOST" attitude that you are probably blind to all your options.

I think before the mental-health type counseling, you guys need to go to a financial counselor. Leave your emotionally-laden side of the story outside the door, set out the real actual numbers and let that person help you make a reality-based plan.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding fire&wings–and I take it you can still accept the gift. Bear in mind that your father-in-law will probably be gratified by your acceptance–not of the money, but of the house you share with his daughter–and that accepting his gift is a reciprocal offering. You are not just taking care of you anymore.
posted by generalist at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2007

Could some clarification be possible? Is the 44K credit card debt, the amount the father gave, or the outstanding amount on the mortgage? Because honestly, if it's the last one, then my advice for getting over this would be looking at your situation differently. You have an asset that will grow over the years in value, and you're likely paying less per month than you would with rent while also enjoying tax write-offs. If this is the situation, then you learn not to hate her by realizing maybe she was right and you were wrong?

If it's credit card debt, it's a different story though, because 44K in debt in 3 years is really a bad pace, and yes she moved you towards a bad decision (and you had the choice not to do it). I guess the way you learn not to hate her here would be to realize no one could force you to sign that loan, and understand that everyone makes mistakes and this one was probably based on a dream or something she thought was a need. You weren't assigned to her, you chose the person with this dream or need. So in many ways, you are responsible still.

And if it's the amount the father gave, my advice would be learn how to accept a gift. I understand your pride in financial self-realization, and guess what... you deserve to have it because you did it on your own, which deserves a lot of kudos. But you already proved you can do it, why drag this dogged self-determination into the rest of your life, and someone else's life?You chose to marry a different person, and she didn't have the same stringent regulations to feel good about herself, so you have to make allowances for that. It's fairly normal that parents or relatives help with the downpayment on the house. To help you get over you hate for her if this is the case, I think you need to take a deep breath and say, "What's the big deal? Someone who wanted to give us something did. I can handle this." Wouldn't you like to give you children something some day? Giving is fun.
posted by visual mechanic at 7:22 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hold on, I'm confused about the math here. Did your "the money is just for you" position mean that you (she) only took half of what her dad offered? Or did he give all of what he'd put aside but you just considered it "her share"?

When you showed her the math, did it include all, some, or none of his contribution? Did she end up picking a more expensive house than you could afford because it was based on taking all of Dad's money but you only took half? Or did she just pick a more expensive house than you could afford, period?

And now you're $44K in credit card debt after three years? (Unless it's the mortgage, which doesn't make sense because I don't know why a $44K mortgage would be unduly burdensome to someone making $65K.) If you're in that much credit card debt I would be surprised if it's just having bought the house that's caused it-- either you, she, or both are overspending in your daily life. If it's mostly her, then that's probably an ongoing source stoking your anger and resentment, and something you ought to address.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:26 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

You really need to chill out. Regardless of how you got there, what's done is done and you can't change the past. Dwelling on it will only destroy you and your relationship with your wife. As has been pointed out, no one made you do it. Was divorce really the only alternative, or were you a pushover in the end, and that's how you justified agreeing to the house?

What you need to do now is move forward. You're not in a hopeless place, you're just making it seem so. From what you've explained, you've got two choices. Work the hours you're working to make ends meet, or take her fathers money. Which is more important.

I'm also unclear as to what the problem with the debt is. Is it $44,000 in addition to the mortgage? Because if its just a mortgage, a salary of $65k/yr is more than enough to cover it. Unless you guys are spending crazy lumps of money elsewhere. If its debt above and beyond the mortgage, then there still must be crazy amounts of money being spent.

To your question, how do you forgive your wife? You don't. You stop BLAMING her. Your wife had goals and needs too. She wanted a house, and had a solution to keeping the financial burden from affecting you. You chose to cosign, and you chose to not accept her money. You put yourself in that situation, not her.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

You were only willing to buy a house if you could pay cash for it? And you expected your wife to wait for a house until that kind of cash was laying around? No wonder the dad stepped in. I think you have some basic misunderstandings about money, debt and mortgages.

You should be grateful that her dad contributed that kind of money. That is very, very unusual.

And I don't think you should regard a $44K mortgage as "debt." It's an investment, really. If you've got that much equity in the house, that is an asset, not a debt.

Get counseling --- from a psychologist, who can help you learn to deal with these issues, and a financial advisor, who can help you understand some fundamentals of adult finances.
posted by jayder at 7:43 AM on December 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

Seems to be a kind of harsh "this is obviously your fault" tone developing towards the OP -- he said he wasn't ready to buy yet, and his wife made a unilateral decision to buy. That is not right and I doubt it's cultural (what culture is that?). Give the woman credit for understanding the meaning of her own decisions. How would you feel if your spouse made the most significant shared financial decisions that most couples make, without heeding a definite and repeated "I'm not ready" from you? It isn't even clear if he ended up investing in the house he would have wanted if he had been ready.

I agree with Anonymous that it was a bad piece of behavior that made use of a power imbalance (financial) in order to bypass the process of healthy negotiation about such things and I don't blame him for feeling hung up. It's his right to not want to be beholden to dad money -- there are a lot of very good reasons that people are hesitant about things like that, and some of those reasons can also wreck a relationship if ignored.

However, I do think that there is stuff like this in most otherwise-good relationships, and good people can get caught up in their desires and do dumbassed things which affect the other party. So I do think you should be working towards getting your own head straight about this one thing so you can go back to enjoying what sounds like a good marriage, since it really sounds like you're mostly cheating yourself of happiness by being fixated, and I'm sure she knows things have changed and she doesn't like it either.

I agree with others that if you have that amount of debt and n amount of equity, and you're no longer paying rent, it's unlikely that you have really traded down in terms of your financial health, and you're probably reflexively seeing it that way because you are really upset about the power thing. I think you've made a good start by acknowledging that it's bad to blame her for every little thing that could possibly be seen as emerging from the house purchase, and I suspect that at some point, you are going to have to say "I've been angry since we got this house and I don't want to be anymore, can we talk about this?"

But I'd try to find a good therapist to get the unproductive venting out of the way with first, and who can help you get re-acquainted with all the things that you value so that you can just talk about this one thing, and the circumstances that led to it which you'd like to handle differently in the future.

Also, just keep in mind that love is awesome and rare and you won't be happier without her, so it's worth putting in the work, and forgiveness shouldn't be in short supply between good people.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think you need to let us know more about the nature of your debts here because as other people have pointed out, this doesn't totally make sense. You were paying something for rent before you bought the house. Are the monthly payments on the house so much incredibly more than the rent payments? A 44K mortgage sounds pretty cheap. OTOH, if the 44K is some other debt, what does that have to do with the house?

Buying a house together is a pretty standard part of marriage. For that matter, loving in-laws often make a contribution. Unless your FIL is giving you the fisheye and asking when he's going to see his money back from you, I'd thank him, apologize to your wife, and try to be more accepting of her (and his) love.

Now, if the FIL contributed $10K and your wife insisted on a million dollar home, that's another story. But then I still don't see where the 44K comes in.
posted by ubiquity at 7:46 AM on December 22, 2007

It sounds like you're imagining the financial situation to be worse than it is. Many financially responsible people have mortgages... have you considered the long term cost vs. renting? Taking a mortgage to buy a house is often a good investment. Maybe you should find a financial planner you trust and discuss the situation.

The more serious problem is that your wife forged ahead in buying this house despite your serious opposition; there is a real communication problem here. I'm assuming she didn't understand how serious you were (because if she did, her behavior would be sociopathic), but some counseling really might be in order to 1) help her understand how angry you are, and 2) help you get over it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:54 AM on December 22, 2007

It sounds like your wife's lack of understanding is really driving you bonkers. I agree with you, living without debt is very worthwhile. But she has other priorities, which are reasonable -- she wants to live in a house, where the time she puts into it will create something lasting, and she may have other reasons too -- but you feel that being debt-free is more precious than that. At the same time, she seems totally incapable of seeing why being debt-free is incredibly important to you, even after you explained the huge difference it's made to you.

I know you said no counseling suggestions, that you know this is the logical next step. I'd just say that a counselor could be the one to finally help her see how important this is to you, and why.
posted by amtho at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2007

Nthing everyone who says that your ideas about money/debt/macho individualism are an important issue that you seem to be overlooking. I also think that your caving on the mortgage and passive-aggressiveness are about a fear of your wife leaving you.

Please no "see a therapist comments!"

Well, when someone breaks their leg, they go to a doctor. What else would they do? Seriously, this is exactly what therapy is good for.
posted by mpls2 at 7:56 AM on December 22, 2007

Others are right about you taking some responsibility (for giving in and cosigning), but your wife's actions were the problem here. She doesn't understand you (at least this rather large segment of your values and priorities), and she has poor financial decision-making capabilities. Those are two things that can haunt a relationship if you don't fix them.

You'll get over the house thing eventually. It'll be easier when you pay down more of the debt and it's further in the past. You won't be as awful to others around you. If you're lucky you'll completely forgive her, and if you're unlucky you'll carry a small knot of resentment towards her but otherwise continue with the satisfactory marriage everyone else has.

But you have to worry about the next time something like this comes up. She's going to have to put more effort into grasping your concerns. She's going to need the patience not to just run off and do what she wants when she fails to grasp your concerns. She needs to think ahead to the toll her actions take on you. These are fundamental spouse requirements, and they're non-negotiable. They're also not going to happen spontaneously, so talk to her. It can be done without a therapist if that's a requirement, but you're going to have to work to make her understand you.
posted by aswego at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2007

You wanted to work to save up for a house and instead you're working to pay off a house. I fail to see how this makes you working her fault.

Like most people here, I'm not exactly seeing what the $44k in debt thing is about. If it's a mortgage, no big deal. Those things are not meant to be paid off overnight. If it's in addition, where did it come from? That would be your real issue there.

I mean, you were easily being just about as stubborn as her, and she could just as easily say "I think he doesn't understand my desire to have a house." You both wanted something for yourself, the two things were mutually exclusive, you caved and continue to be bitter about it years after the fact. This is not healthy behavior.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2007

The house was going to be purchased. If I didn't co-sign it, her dad/brother/aunt would have co-signed. It was going to be purchased whether I was in or not.

You should not have signed the papers. If she truly would have divorced you over this, good riddance.

Quit your extra jobs. If you then cannot afford your mortgage, put the house up for sale. Or she can get a job. Her choice.
posted by konolia at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

I have been in debt and had to work extra jobs and live very frugally to pay it off. I then bough a house and continue to live frugally to make accelerated payments so I will own it free and clear in a few years. I totally understand not wanting to "owe the man" and have to work like a dog to pay bills, however, I think you are blaming your wife and her family for things that are not rational. Think about it. Owning a home is one of the best hedges you have against inflation and it will increase your financial stability. Who is to say you wouldn't be churning the same corporate wheel paying rent instead of a mortgage? Lighten up. Her family was exceptionally generous TO BOTH OF YOU and you need to see that and stop seeing it as "her" gift. My brother's wife's family helped them buy their first house 20 years ago and my brother has been able to parlay that one initial helpful gesture into a string of successful home purchases that have yielded nice profits and allowed them a better lifestyle. It is a stepping stone, use it. Accept it in the spirit it was intended by her family--to help the two of you develop a solid financial foundation. You have to stop focusing on what you owe and start living and appreciating what you have. Your anger will drive your wife away and will destroy your quality of life.
posted by 45moore45 at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2007

I think we're all confused about exactly what went down with the money situation.

1) Did you end up taking money from the FIL?
2) If not, did your wife end up getting the full amount that her father was going to give to the both of you, or did she get half of that?
3) Is the $44k related to the mortgage, or is it from other expenses that snowballed, probably with the move, buying new things, etc?
4) You mention things like your wife's culture -- is that preventing her from getting a job?

I can't imagine that you're talking about a $44k mortgage, which is what some readers are interpreting. If that's the case then you need serious counseling, because mortgage debt is good debt, and $44k is beans. So I'm sure you don't mean that.

FWIW, I don't think you sound obsessively concerned about paying your own way. I seethe when my mom gives me money sometimes. (Except I am graciously accepting her offer to help pay for my dog's current vet bills because, c'mon, I don't need to owe this kind of money at Christmas time.) But accepting money from an in-law is far different than accepting money from your own parents. What if you were to divorce? Even if you didn't divorce, to have that kind of gift hanging over my head would just be too much to bear.

This resentment is going to end your marriage. I mean, I know those feelings of just recoiling from the person you're with, and that's not going to change on its own. You do both need to seek therapy, which, incidentally, I interpreted from your post that you are going to get, unlike others who jumped on the "BUT YOU NEED THERAPY IDIOT" bandwagon.

This is an issue of respect. Your wife has completely disregarded your feelings this whole way. The whole controlling-wife-whose-parents-have-money figure is so cliche that I continue to be shocked that people still behave that way. Or, that is, that husbands allow themselves to be controlled that way. I know it's hard when you love someone. You're trying to compromise to preserve your investment in this relationship that you want to last forever. But she was unwilling to compromise, or to try to understand at all.

Now, I'm going with the assumption that the spending just kind of got out of hand along the way, and that's what the $44k is all about. Really, really, she HAS to work to contribute to this. Or you have to sell the house and live low rent for a few more years. I've made your salary, and I've owed thousands to credit card companies, and I'm only supporting myself, and it's damn hard to pay down even $1k per month. (And Christmas rolls around and you end up increasing your debt by $2k, goddangit.) Need. More. Income.

And I can't believe that your dog died during all of this, too. That would wreck me. I feel for you, and I hope you can get over the immense stress you must be feeling. You really need to get past these feelings of resentment if you have any future together, and I think that you can try to rely on therapy for that, at least in the beginning. A therapist can give you personalized ways to figure out how to live together in harmony.

The only thing is, and this goes against what I would want to do as well, but: If there is still money on the table from the father in law, you might want to accept it at this point. I doubt your resentment could get worse, and this would save you thousands. If it makes you feel better, take the money, pay your debt, and then save up $X per month after that and pay the FIL back. He won't expect it, and he won't charge you interest. It would be like a re-gift. :)

Good luck.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:37 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you don't get over this anger, you will wind up losing her and STILL be in debt. Think about that.

And why not counseling? You guys have issues deeper than monetary. Her bullheaded insistence on going ahead without you on board, and your apparent horror of having a mortgage....y'all need a neutral party to sort that out.
posted by konolia at 8:37 AM on December 22, 2007

Anon, you're shifting all the blame on her. She didn't force you at gun point to sign any papers, or to agree to anything, did she. Od course not. You're a grown man and you went along with it.

But there is a fix. Stop working so much. Get that zest for life back, whatever it takes (within the boundaries of your marrage covenants). If you fall short of money, your wife or her parents can pick up the tab. It's either that, or your relationship is over and the house will be gone anyway.

And stop blaming her. Accept the blame full-on and start loving her again!
posted by JaySunSee at 8:39 AM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been reading through your post over and over, but there seems to be one important thing missing: does your wife have any clue that you are angry? You mention that it's all bottled up. If you can't even communicate with your wife, the best way to forgive and forget is to end the relationship and get on with your own lives. No matter who is at fault in the situation, the lack of communication is obviously doing the most damage. You may love her to bits, but if you cannot communicate your anger and are just keeping all inside, you are doing the both of you a disservice.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2007

Jess had some very good, insightful and practical advice up thread. I suggest you read her comments carefully. Some others have commented that you seem to want her apology for this. You think you are right, and that she is wrong. This attitude will rip you apart, both personally and as a couple.

I am also confused about the nature of this debt. If you have a $44k mortgage and a $65K annual income you are in terrific financial shape. Debt per se is not bad, especially when the interest is tax free. The monthly payment on that exclusive of taxes and insurance is somewhere under $300. That's cheaper than rent. I hope that is your issue.

If your issue is getting $44k of other debt, easy enough in furnishing etc. a new house, then you have quite valid concerns, although I agree with others that it is not entirely her fault. In any event, it would seem prudent for your wife to start earning a wage as well.
posted by caddis at 9:11 AM on December 22, 2007

Visit a financial counselor together so you can both hear objective advice. Also go to couple's counseling because the resentment could easily destroy your relationship.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:25 AM on December 22, 2007

I think you sound very controlling in your attitudes about money. You seem to be obsessed with your individual needs and your personal financial needs. I have bad news for you. You don't have an *individual* financial situation. You have a joint one. And its not about your wife wanting a house and you explaining that its not possible.

It sounds like you have the following problems:
1. You don't understand how to plan financially. As a single man you lived by a credo of no debt. Some debt, at the right rate, under the right circumstances is a good thing. Learn about financial planning

2. You need to start thinking of your financial situation as a joint one. It may well be that you are inappropriately trying to work off the debt. That is senseless and irrational. An outside observer would say that is nuts. Your wife may have decided that you didn't know what you are talking about and made a unilateral decision.

3. You have terrible communication in your marriage. If your wife made the decision to buy the house b/c she thought you don't understand how to plan financially. Apparently you didn't communciate how you felt correctly and NEITHER did she. You are both not listening to each other.

First you need to sort how what is normal for financial planning. I would read a 101 financial planning book, talk to your parents (or other financial mentors, if your parents are not good with money), and to a financial planner.

Second, you need to change your attitudes about money and financial planning AND about being an individual financial entity. This will be hardest because you seem to have a high degree of emotional irrationality associated with money/obligation. This will likely take therapy.

Third you need to talk/work with your wife to improve your communication in your marriage.
posted by zia at 9:30 AM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

The house was going to be purchased. If I didn't co-sign it, her dad/brother/aunt would have co-signed.

It seems to me, from this statement alone, that your wife's family knows about your issues with finances and at some point they decided to "rescue" her from you (financially), and make it possible for her to own a home whether you were on board with it or not. Is it possible that they weren't going to let her be hostage to your neuroses about "debt"?
posted by jayder at 9:39 AM on December 22, 2007

I went through the same thing about 15 years ago. I have much less comfort with debt than my wife. The mortgage seemed insurmountable. I had sleepless nights. My advice, based on experience, is that things will work out in the end. If the mortgage is going down slowly and steadily, and you can pay a little extra now and then, you are in a good financial position.

Go to a financial planner - without your wife. The planner will tell you that everything is pretty good. You will hear "Your family won't starve this week." If your wife were there, she'd hear "You are rich - go and spend more of it." (That's why you don't take her.)

Explain to your wife that one of the costs of owning the house, in this particular case, is your high level of stress. She has to factor that into her financial calculations. Marriage is a Good Thing, because your over-the-top financial conservatism will eventually make you both wealthy, and her good sense will help you enjoy it later. Either of you alone would not achieve the same goal.
posted by mediaddict at 9:59 AM on December 22, 2007

For those of you who have been in a similar situation, how did you deal with your anger?

Well, I've never been in this situation, or even a similar one, but here is my take on it. Forgive your wife. Whether or not she wronged you. Whether or not you're unhappy with the situation. Forgive her, right now, for both of your sakes. Keeping that anger bottled up isn't doing either of you any favours. If you don't do this, you're going to end up poisoning the relationship more than it already is, and it will probably eventually lead to divorce.

I kinda get the feeing that not only are the pair of you on completely different pages of the financial hymnsheet, you're singing in different languages. You either need to learn each others language, and e able to communicate, or it's going to drive a wedge between you. I hate to say this, but if you can't forgive her after 3 years, it doesn't bode well for your continued relationship. Unless you want to stay in "someone else's house" with someone you resent?

How did you forgive?

Until you're ready to forgive, you can't. There's no way of forcing it.

Does is get easier when the debt is paid?

It wont get easier until you make it get easier. The debt being paid, or not, is immaterial. It's just a symbol of the thing that you resent her for. You could forgive her right now, if you wanted to, in debt or out of it.
posted by Solomon at 10:05 AM on December 22, 2007

1) Go see a financial advisor WITH your wife that way you can BOTH be on the same page about your finances and work out the best strategy to pay/work/save (pay your bills together so both of you know exactly what is coming in and going out, money wise)

2) Go see a counselor TOGETHER with your wife that way you can work out the communication issues, you expressing your thoughts and your wife in listening/hearing them with a 3rd party translator. From the question you and your wife don't seem to be operating as a team and that real is important, remember you are both on the same side.

3. Good luck
posted by estronaut at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2007

You asked for personal experience. I've never been married or bought a home or been in serious debt. I have been mostly able to learn how to not be angry at some people who are important to me, and I have dealt with cultural differences about interdependence vs. independence.

First of all, about the culture aspect. I used to be adamantly independent. Even just being offered various kinds of help from my parents made me feel nepotistic and less impressed with myself and the world at large. At least one person was going to be principled here, damnit, and sometimes I had less respect for my parents for not understanding that. Offers for money or employment connections or general help made me feel coddled, beholden, and intensely uncomfortable.

Lately, even though I still refuse most help and still make a point of paying things back and still have limits on what I will accept and what I won't, I've started to feel differently about what it all means. I think a lot of that is because in recent years I've spent more time in the country that informs a lot of what my parents do. The relationships between parents and (adult) children here are very different than they are in the US: kids take it for granted that their parents will support them well beyond the time they get married themselves and have kids of their own. I don't know when that support ends -- probably when the parents are retired and need help themselves. At which point their children support them, as well as their own children. And so on. And it's not just financial support -- parents and children are deeply involved in each other's lives and take it for granted that they've got each others' backs.

Personally, I think it goes a bit overboard and that when taken to extremes it leads to overdependence and, if we're already at it, to moral and political corruption and Bad Things. I'm very glad the family dynamic my parents want is nowhere near as co-involved (if that's a word) as what's considered normal here. On the other hand, it seems to go along with a mentality where it's considered not only normal for people to help each other out but a blessing and priviledge that they can do it. I know it sounds corny, but I see my parents' offers now more as a kind of embrace than a stranglehold. Another part of the reason for that is that over the past few years I've been able to give them a lot of help that was unexpectedly needed. I don't feel so guilty now when they want to go out of their way to do something for me, because I know that sooner or later what goes around comes around. It's really kind of nice, the idea that no one has to go through life on their own.

That might not be relevant, I don't know what culture your wife is from or how her family sees things. But if it's like the culture I'm starting to know, it is probably deeply fulfilling for them to be able to help you, and there's a sort of ingrained understanding that you will take the money, use it wisely, grow and prosper, and when needed you help your own kids or wife or family or world at large.

So much for that. About not being angry, I think a person has to profoundly decide to stop being angry. To actually want to not be angry, and to hell with who it was that was right. In this case, think about it. If you take stock of what you've got, you have a spouse that you love, who loves you, and who is probably uncommonly kind and wonderful, given that you married her. You've also got a house under your belt, which is one of the few things it's probably worth going into debt for. Those are two things that, if you play your cards right, are not going anywhere and will just grow in value over time. That is a really big deal. (Me, I'm single and own a table and a bed.) If you can decide that overall life has dealt you a really decent hand, that it's worth the debt you're carrying, that is a good first step.

I don't know the details of your financial situation, but if it's kind of possible, think about trading a little financial independence for quality of life. That is, take off the part time job, keep the contracts, and invest in friends and most importantly in your wife. You'll be in debt for longer, but you might have so much when you come out of it that you won't mind and the wait won't seem as long.

Beyond that, the whole thing about your wife not being capable of understanding you goes both ways. Whatever the Right Way to be is probably lies somewhere between full independence and the ability to accept goodwill with grace. If you learn to seriously understand where she's coming from, you'll be able to explain yourself better too. (Which'll be important next time this sort of thing happens, whether its kids' tuition or a car or medical procedures I sincerely hope you'll never need.)

Still seeing as this is all easier said than done, and seeing as you probably have little time or inclination or money for therapy right now, try checking out some books on cognitive behavior therapy or whatever else might help you see out of your rut. Try getting to know your house and re-getting to like your wife.

on preview: how ridiculously long
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 10:47 AM on December 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

We need to know what the $44k in debt is. If it's a mortgage, your feelings are unreasonable; you need to read about financial planning and real estate. A $44k mortgage at $65k income is very, very financially responsible.

If the $44k debt is from something else, we need to know what it is.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:01 PM on December 22, 2007

There's a passive-aggressive quality to the question that makes me wonder what else we don't know. The obvious thing the poster should do is *talk to his wife,* ideally with a counselor they each respect to mediate. This is trivial stuff on the marriage-testing scale, really. Usually -- and obviously here -- financial issues are a mere screen for other emotional issues, none of which we know anything about from this question.

But how about you take in a boarder in the meantime? Then the house becomes a source of income and the dots are re-connected.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:19 PM on December 22, 2007

First, a perspective thing: I would give anything to have a house and only owe $44k on it.
That's the kind of debt that allows you to quit the second job and still have it repaid in less than ten years, and then YOU GUYS OWN YOUR OWN HOUSE AND YOU'RE STILL YOUNG!
Hardly anyone manages that!

You also seem to want to lose money, rather than accumulate it. Paying rent isn't debt, but in a sense it's worse, because its money lost. Paying off a mortgage isn't much more than paying rent, but it's money saved for your retirement.

There is a huge difference between credit card debt for a huge bar-tab from partying last year, and payment instalments on the acquisition of a serious asset with intrinsic long-term value.

All debt is not equal.

It's not $44,000 debt, it's $44,000 of savings that you are going to accumulate over the next few years, instead of flushing a similar amount of money down the toilet on rent, never to be seen again.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:57 PM on December 22, 2007

It is just that I want to be the one who will take care of me.

I have (had) this attitude. My new take on it is that it's not quite optimal, and it's related to self-confidence. I now insist on being able to take care of me. No-matter what happens, I can always rely on me, and I ensure I can always deliver. But if someone else wants to give me hand, that's called opportunity, and I take it or I'm a fool. And I can take it knowing that I can still take care of me, no-matter how the cards might fall, no-matter if the opportunity doesn't pan out.

You've already demonstrated (by resolving your initial debt) that you can take care of you. Now keep that edge, and turn it into self-confidence. Be secure in the knowledge that you can take care of yourself, such that you eventually feel confident knowing you can take and use whatever opportunities people decide to hand you.
If you're like me, you need security, but though it seems otherwise, your balance book is not the form of security you need.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:16 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is, once again, one of those anonymous questions where we don't have enough information to properly answer. The answer hinges on what, exactly, the $44,000 in debt represents. As others have pointed out, if that figure has to do with mortgage debt then the asker is being downright pathological about his debt-avoidance. If it is $44,000 that his wife ran up at Bloomingdales then his wife has a serious problem with avoiding debt and the OP is correct to be upset.

Which is it? Who knows. It seems most likely it has to do with a mortgage because the OP spends so much of the question talking about this house, but $44,000 is such a tiny amount that I don't see how that could be. Did they buy a toolshed? Who knows.
posted by Justinian at 2:27 PM on December 22, 2007

It seems most likely it has to do with a mortgage because the OP spends so much of the question talking about this house, but $44,000 is such a tiny amount that I don't see how that could be. Did they buy a toolshed? Who knows.

Since there's such a "my money/her money" dichotomy in the OP, my guess is that the mortgage is $88,000 - $44K being "her half" and $44k being the OP's half.

But, like has been said many times up above, if the "debt" is a mortgage, then it's not nearly as panic-worthy as, say, $44K of credit card debt.

I would consider myself "debt-free except for the car loan," but we also have a mortgage. It's such a long term thing that it doesn't really figure into the daily routine of things.

(And I would also say that an $88K mortgage on $65K a year is also doable.)
posted by Lucinda at 3:17 PM on December 22, 2007

Follow-up from the OP
First of all, thank you to all of you who took the time to read my story and provide me with your insight!

I wanted to provide some answers to your questions, just to clarify a few things:

1) My wife does work full time and pays me her portion of the mortgage

2) The $44 K is not mortgage related (I wish!). It is credit card debt - my debt only - the majority of it is my half of the wedding costs; some of it is related to the house (furniture, appliances, etc). None of it is related to frivolous purchases (no new clothes, stereo, Nintendo, etc).

3) My FIL give us the money - which I applied to her "half" of the house - in other words, the house cost $300K; my half was 150 K; hers was $150 K minus his gift

3.5) My FIL is a very nice man. But he knows that money=power. And that by giving us money, he is entitled to his say on what we do with the house. My wife is fine with this. I am not. If it is our house, it is our say - no one else's. By outright refusing the money, it would be disrespecting the wishes of my wife and my FIL. By accepting the money, I would be setting myself up for a lot of arguments in the future regarding what to do with the house, how to renovate it. So by applying the FIL's money to my wife's half, I felt that it was the best possible compromise to respect their wishes and mine.

4) Yes I signed the deed to the house. So yes, I am aware I am responsible. But let me tell you, when you complain and whine and beg and jump up and down for months and months and months, you get tired of it - you get sick of it. You get tired of being the "bad guy", the squeaky wheel, the fly in the ointment, and you just give up after a while. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" So I grudgingly joined.

Not only that, but had I let them sign for the entire house, I would have felt that I would be living at someone else's house, as a guest. And I really would have no say in any of the decisions that would be made.

5) I don't want an apology from my wife. I don't want to control her life. I just want to have control of my life - I want to feel like a man and not a boy. And for me, rightly or wrongly, a man pays his way.

5.5) I think a lot of my debt-paranoia has to do with the fact that I spent many years being in debt and paying it off. I think that experience made me ultra-sensitive to having debt.

6) I don't want my wife's money either. I don't want her to pay my bills.

7) When I think about it, I am not mad about the money. Like one of you said, I paid it off before. I can pay it off again.
I am mad that she didn't listen to my pleas, my begging, my explanations. I am mad that she did not compromise. I didn't ouright refuse a house - I just wanted to wait until I could afford it. Like I wrote in my post, 2 years.
I am mad that my dreams I had about travelling, cooking, volunteering, trying new things - living! - are put on hold again, because I have to work. I mean, we were together when I was in debt the first time. She saw how hard I worked. We talked about how life would be once I paid off my debts. Having time to cook together, play tennis together. Trust me, when you have debt all you talk about is paying it off!

8) For what it is worth, I showed her my calculations. I showed her what we could afford. There were no houses in that price range.

9) I know this won't happen again. My wife is a tremendously wonderful person. And by having her own share of bills to pay is starting to understand financial responsibility.
But the issue is not about what is happening now, its about cleaning up the mess that was made.

Again, thanks for all your advice.. I will read it all again many times and really ponder over the suggestions that you provide. Best wishes to your all!
posted by jessamyn at 3:29 PM on December 22, 2007

I am not sure it matters what the 44k represents. The OP is angry and resentful toward his wife and he needs to deal with that or it is going to destroy his marriage. Whether the 44k represents the mortgage, or irresponsible gambling debts incurred from purchasing 44,000 scratcher tickets with payday loans, the result is the same.

It has been helpful to me to learn that life is shitty sometimes, and that blaming other people for the shittiness, no matter how much they may have caused it, doesn't make life any less shitty. Actually, spending time being angry and resentful seems to make shitty situations even shittier. I wasted a lot of time doing that when I was younger, and though I still do it sometimes, it seems to be much less often. Has blaming your wife for the current mess done anything to change or ameliorate the mess? Has it made you feel any better, or just sort of justified? Do you want to be miserable and feel justified, or do you want to move on with your life? You need to realize that those are your only real options. Live and stop blaming your wife, or continue to blame your wife and be miserable and justified and probably divorced.

Also, you should talk about this to somebody you trust who actually knows you and knows the situation. Doesn't need to be a therapist, just somebody you trust to keep confidences and give you good advice.
posted by pablocham at 3:47 PM on December 22, 2007

Who cares what the $44k in debt is for? The question is about how to forgive and heal, NOT about how to resolve the debt.

My situation isn't exactly similar in the details, but in the frequent seething about imbalance in financial responsibility. When I began dating my now-husband, I was working full time in finance and going to law school at night, paying my own way on everything; he was unemployed, or worked short-term jobs. Now, I am a fancy financial lawyer in NYC, and we live 2.5 hours away in a gorgeous 175-year old home with 2 annoying, but beloved, dogs and a baby on the way. Yes, I am PREGNANT, and I spend OVER FOUR (4) hours per day commuting. That means I rise at 5:15am, get on a bus at 6:25am, arrive at work at 8:45am, and do not arrive at home again until approximately 7:30pm. I maintain this routine through morning sickness, through pregnancy fatigue, through everything. My husband works 20 hours a week, walking distance from our home, at a job he LOVES that feeds his life-long self-fulfillment dreams. My salary accounts for 90% or more of our household income; my husband's the remaining 10%. Did I mention I'm pregnant, and cannot afford to be able to take family leave for the pregnancy or after my daughter is born in May. I cannot afford to get a local job and stop commuting to NYC; I cannot afford a career change to something I would find self-fulfilling and enjoyable; I cannot afford to follow MY deams. Because I have to pay (90% of) ALL of our monthly expenses - car payments, rent/mortgage, my commuting expenses of $600/m, all utility and phone bills, credit card bills, and so forth. Furthermore, I do not have time to get the exercise that is healthy for my pregnancy, I do not have time to attend a childbirth class, I do not have time to pursue hobbies and maintain friendships, I do not have time to spend with my family, I do not have time to take a vacation - all because I must maintain a GRUELING work schedule. In order to obtain merely 6 hours of sleep per night, I must be in bed by 11pm, which means beginning to prepare for bed around 10pm - 2 HOURS AFTER I COME HOME FROM WORK.

Talk about SEETHING, when you take that scenario and add pregnancy hormones into the mix.

The resentment used to be unbearable, he'd bring home a magazine he bought and there would be recriminating "Why should I buy you a magazine...." mutterings. I'm going to try to enunciate what took me from CONSTANT blame and comparison about our financial contributions, to a mostly perfectly content arrangement. Unfortunately, much has to do with our respective personalities. I have always been like OP - the financial control freak; I used to expect my husband to ask my permission every time he used my credit card account; he had to obtain an allowance from me; and so forth. We fought constantly - if I gave him $20 to do the laundry, knowing it costs about $16, I'd be FURIOUS when he didn't return $4 in change to me. Seriously. FURIOUS. For DAYS. I would bring up that missing $4 in later fights. I would compare it to THEFT from me. FOUR DOLLARS.

Sound familiar, OP?

I don't live in anger at my husband though - anymore. A big, BIG help ocurred when prior to moving from NYC, he worked at a very high end florist and made much more money than he has prior and since. He dutifully handed each paycheck over to me, to contribute toward the bills or toward savings, as I saw fit. This compromise on his part, natural though the contribution to expenses was, helped me to begin to see us as financial equals. While I still paid the gross majority of bills, we were both contributing 100% of our income to the family. When we got engaged and married, I knew he was a florist and I was a financial lawyer. I KNEW this. So love and financial equality and respect could never be built on bringing home the same salary; rather (and, OP, I suspect this is the problem you are seeing in your spouse) ON EACH SHOWING THE SAME LEVEL OF DEDICATION TO MAINTENANCE OF OUR FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES. That meant we recognized we EACH had committments, that we EACH had to treat those committments first. So, we worked TOGETHER to make a budget, to allocate to bills and savings (we have no debt, by the skin of our teeth), and to allocate to individual spending what we felt was fair.

More fairness in the financial relationship lightened the load on seething resentment, and allowed me to see the immeasurable other ways in which my husband contributes to the family, and particularly to my happiness. I have to say, I love the man to death - his dedication to my happiness is unending. He reads every cell of my body like a book, knows my thoughts before I think them, and anticipates all my needs. He understands the sacrifce I am making, and reacts accordingly, taking care of all other responsibilities so that my very limited free time is either free from them, or that we share them together and make it enjoyable.

OP, here is my suggestion. Wipe the slate for a little while with your wife, and identify what needs to happen in a perfect world for the two of you to be on more even footing. Now, figure out what is most important to you in that perfect world, and make it realistic. Let go of some things, but hold your guns on what's really important. (For example, at first my husband didn't see why he had to put in to the budget, only to take back out - couldn't he just take his weekly cash from his check and give me the remainder? While that might make mathematical sense, it did not give me a feeling of EQUALITY, because my check goes to bills first, and then to him and to me equally. Since the money will never be equivalent, I dug in my heels on the fairness of deposit to the budget, and we agreed on that.) Can your wife take on more household responsibilities, whether it's financial with a part time job, or handling the bills and other responsibilities, in any way - what if she earned $150 per week (for example) and did more work to give you 5 free hours per week. With 5 hours you could, on a Saturday: Sleep in one (1) hour; go to the gym or on a long walk for one (1) hour, and watch a game with a friend over beers or what have you for 3 (3) hours. There HAS to be 5 hours per weekend your wife can free up for you. If she does that, if you get 5 guiltless free hours while she handles some of your responsibilities, could you agree to be thankful, to be appreciative of that sacrifice, and to kiss her and show her that when you get home?

That is the first baby step to letting go of resentment. Share control, share responsibility (even if it's not equally allocated in all things), and be mutually appreciative.

It makes me cringe to see people abuse you so heavily for having brought this on yourself. It sounds to me like you repeatedly clearly and respectfully articulated your needs to your wife, and she did not listen. Over, and over and over again; knowing how important to you the situation was. People here are blaming you, essentially the argument seems to be that by not divorcing her you made your bed. Sheesh. I for one am proud of you for staying married, and proud that you've approached this question as such - a search to find ways to FORGIVE HER. You've been clear that you respect and care for her, understand her feelings about the situation, and are prepared to ACCEPT and HEAL. I think that's pretty good. You are allowed to vent in the process, and if you need to do that on a sympathetic ear feel free to MefiMail me.

By the way, MY father often wants to give my husband and me money, and help us financially in various ways. And for a long time (and during my seething period) we accepted that help. We have recently agreed together to no longer accept help, and to take our own responsibility and - as you say - POWER, and it's been very healing. My Dad truly wanted to help, but the help meant my husband and I couldn't commucate fairly together about finances.
posted by bunnycup at 3:58 PM on December 22, 2007 [6 favorites]

It sounds like the whole problem boils down to that you made various demands, your wife made various demands, and she won and you're pissed at that. That's a marriage issue, not a financial one.
posted by wackybrit at 4:02 PM on December 22, 2007

So there are issues here that were not apparent in the original question. The amount of time that you did hold out on signing for the house and your father-in-law's control issues with money go a long way towards your favor in my view (though to be honest I assumed these were the case in the original question).

I sympathize, I understand why you wouldn't want the cash gift, and I understand why, if your wife is so freakin' fiscally irresponsible, you would have separate finances with her. My only criticism is that you should have put your foot down and not given into her whining, as it is quite possible you just repeated a pattern she's used to all her life--she whines, she gets money to do what she wants. And that the majority of $44K in credit card debt would be chalked up to a wedding indicates your wedding was too fucking expensive, and let me guess, that was at your wife's pleading and her daddy paid for her half, right?

So here is the real problem: You married a spoiled princess. Someone who is used to spending what she wants to get what she wants, having Daddy take care of it, and it doesn't really matter if Daddy uses the money to control her decisions because Daddy ensures she gets her Big Wedding And Nice House and whatnot.

I don't know what to do from here. If you are as anti-debt as you are, I think you are crazy for marrying this woman as you must have seen the signs before the wedding. If you do not plan on divorcing her, you guys need to get to couples therapy, stat. You don't want therapy, I know. But you are not going to work out these issues on your own. The issue is not just you, it's your wife's and her dad's approach to money and how that directly conflicts with your own. You need an objective third party to act as a mediator. And after that you guys need to go to a financial counselor to work out serious, detailed budgeting plans.

I think you will probably continue to be angry for a while, because if your wife is as bad as she appears it's going to be like dealing with a child. And you are clearly steeping in a lot of bitterness. But if you love her and you do want to make this work, this is something you have to do. You need to try to separate the money issues from other aspects of your relationship with her, too. Plan cheap, lovely dates so you guys can reconnect. Get a new puppy, one from the pound if you're feeling it. Make sure you guys are doing positive things together (within your budget) so while all this financial turmoil is happening you don't get completely derailed from one another.

However, if you're not feeling like taking these steps, if they're too hard for you, you need to cut and run. Get the divorce. Maybe you're against it because you feel like all this debt will be for nothing? If that's the case, that's total bullcrap. Being in complete control of your finances and being free to date a lady who knows about money is a lot better than staying in a miserable marriage waiting for the next expenses to attack you.
posted by schroedinger at 4:11 PM on December 22, 2007

P.S., after thinking a bit more I want to add one more thing. Learn to ask for and accept help from your wife, please, PLEASE. Trust her enough to communicate your need for help as a way of learning to handle these issues better. A flip of my earlier suggestion might be to ask her to help you with your share of debt, even a little a bit, and for YOU to pick up some responsiblity that "discharges" that debt by labor. In baby steps, learn to trust, and learn that power in a marriage is usually a two way street. Even if she covers some of your expenses (*), you are a TEAM that can function at peak only by joint cooperation from both. It's not always dollar for dollar, like I was explaining with my husband; but sometimes it's just both partners working as hard as they can.

(*) I think it would be okay, and fair, to ask her that any help she gives you not be in the form of a donation from her father. I think you can explain that you are trying to learn more trust and teamwork, financially, to help both of you be happier, but you remain committed to having the two of you be independent. Setting aside polygamy, marriage is NOT a three-person team.
posted by bunnycup at 4:13 PM on December 22, 2007

I think there is a practical side to the question, and an emotional side.

The practical side is not really a big deal. You have a mortgage payment, and you need to pay off your credit card debt, both of which you can do on your salary, given some time and work and tough choices.

But the emotional side is really tough, and is making the practical side much tougher than it needs to be. To break it into pieces:

-- By keeping things so firmly "yours/hers," and applying your FIL's money only to her half of the mortgage, you are only punishing yourself. You aren't teaching him a lesson, you aren't teaching her a lesson, you are only making it that much harder for you to get yourself out of debt. A marriage, for many people, is first and foremost a partnership -- if that is your vision of marriage, then being a big drama queen about punishing yourself by keeping these financial obligations so scrupulously separate is not moving you towards that kind of partnership.

-- I think almost everyone has to grapple with the obligations that come with a gift at some point. My feeling is that unless it comes out of an unusually corrosive situation (such as a FIL who yells at you daily or something awful like that), it is best to take these gifts as expressions of love and care, rather than as attacks on one's masculinity and autonomy. If you want to live fully autonomously, don't marry their daughter. They want to support her and care for her and give her things (like a house downpayment) -- you're refusal to take part makes your wife's life more difficult, and is a wedge between her and them.

-- You say, please no "go see a therapist" responses, but I think that that is the only good response to give. Your posts are just brimming with anger and resentment and outrage, way out of proportion to the supposed slights. You need to see a therapist ASAP to deal with this before it tears you apart, and your marriage with it. See someone alone, for you, and maybe down the road you can also see a couple's therapist together. But get help, now, please, for your sake and for your wife's.
posted by Forktine at 4:40 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

It seems to me that the problem is that you are living beyond your means if you have $44K in credit card debt and $65K in income. Your question doesn't address your wife's financial situation directly, but it seems like she is living within her means (including her father's gift as part of her means). It seems like the conflict is that your wife wants to spend money on communal things at a level that is higher than you can afford to pay for half of (again, accounting for the gift from her father). Either you have to a) reduce your personal spending in order to be able to afford to pay for half of your communal expenses (or somehow increase your income), b) you and her have to agree that she will pay for more than half of the communal expenses, or c) you both have to agree to reduce the communal expenses to the point were you can afford to pay half.

It seems like your wife tried to use option b) (you share her father's gift) and you are stuck on option c) (you didn't want to buy a house together, because you personally couldn't afford it).

You need to sit down with your wife and work out a plan that will work going forward. Obviously, you'll need to do something (therapy, or whatever works for you) do be able to diffuse your anger about what has happened in the past, but the most important thing is to plan for the future. You and your wife live your lives together and so you are financially intertwined. You need to work out a way to co-exist financially.
posted by ssg at 4:41 PM on December 22, 2007

If you have been in a similar situation, what have you done to forgive and forget?

I have remembered the only piece of advice my father ever gave me: "Accept responsibility for the consequences of your own actions." It is good advice, and when I am strong enough to follow it, it keeps me out of situations like the one you're in.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:59 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your financial situation is pretty much like mine. A year ago, I bought a condo and I have a sizeable mortgage payment each month. I also have a full-time job, a part-time job, and take contract work on the side to pay for it. I am happier than a pig in shit. It's all a matter of perception.

If you have a mortgage that is fixed at a reasonable rate, is going to be payed off by retirement by making normal payments, and the amount you are paying each month isn't too much more than you would be paying in rent, then you shouldn't be calling it debt.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:36 PM on December 22, 2007

Jessamyn: "acknowledging your own choices"


You actually don't have the power to prevent your father in law from giving money to your wife.

You do, however have the power not to cosign a mortgage. But you did it. "It would have happened anyway..." you say, but at least you, yourself, would not have been connected. You tried hard to effect a "you're you and I'm me" arrangement with your wife prior to the purchase. Why didn't you let her buy it in her own name and carry that through to the end?

I say all this not just to point and cry "it's your fault."

I say all this because I genuinely believe it is easier to realize you are partly to blame than it would be to continue holding her completely responsible and yet forgive her. You begin with the assumption that she's wrong, but you want to forgive her. That's a problem. If you recognize your own part in this, you can have a quick conversation with yourself and forgive yourself.

In fact, I doubt you are even really angry with her. She's just the recipient of your own internal anger with yourself. You are going to great lengths to avoid admitting that you screwed up, because you went through so much over this issue in the past and understandably don't want to admit that you failed to learn your lesson forever.

To review:

So I caved - well other than divorce, I had no choice, really.

Could have withheld your name, personal or joint funds.

So today, I am back in debt - $44,000 to be exact - making $65,000 annually - one full-time job, one part-time job, and a couple of contracts on the side.

Is this a $44K mortgage? If so, it doesn't sound so crushing. Is this household debt outside the mortgage? Yeah I can see that would be trouble. But look at the bright side. You got yourself out once and you know how to do it.

The financial bleeding has stopped, I hope. I am paying off my debts slowly but surely.


But the emotional toll continues to weigh down. All I do is work and sleep. All I think about is money and how much this is going to cost me. My zest for life is gone.

Your wife, if she's contributing to this, needs to see it and recognize that her actions have consequences. If she's ruined your life so willfully, it doesn't really matter a damn how sweet and nice she is. Financial ruin is plenty good cause for divorce. If you continue being pulled down this pit, you should sue for one.

If she realizes her error and has changed her ways, I'm sure forgiveness will come in time. You can be angry. Just don't turn that anger into dramatic action.
posted by scarabic at 7:31 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Your" portion of the mortgage -- $150K -- currently works out to about a $800/mo net cost-of-ownership at 6% interest (the money you pay towards principal is pure savings). The more principal you pay off, the LOWER this monthly net will be. Over the long run, buying a place you enjoy living in WILL be your wisest decision.

Sounds like a GREAT deal to me & my $1500/mo rent. What are you complaining about? Your loss of freedom as a renter? Consider the $150K share of the mortgage as pre-paid rent!

Yes, the bigger problem is the $45K in CC debt you have. And it sucks that you were forced into this decision to buy. Welcome to matrimonial bliss.

From my vantage, where you failed was this:

" "Just wait a few years, that's all I want. This way we both get what we want." "

"few years" is too unspecific. You should have had a written PLAN -- spreadsheet really, detailing EXACTLY when your side of the finances were healthy enough to enter the market.
posted by panamax at 8:33 PM on December 22, 2007

i think your wife is probably smarter than you are. since you said you were only 44k in debt and you identified it as credit card debt, it reasonably follows that you're in a 100% equity position on the house. perhaps you can refi the house to pay off the cc debt, leaving you with much lower monthly payments (albeit secured by your home). i got a sense from your question that you were letting your natural machismo, wanting to pay 100% of the load, get in the way of financial good sense. you're both adults who went into this together with open eyes, if you value your marriage, don't blame your wife for actions you consented to!
posted by bruce at 9:06 PM on December 22, 2007


I got married to a wonderful and kind person. 5 years later, she continues to be wonderful and kind. But 3 years ago she completely destroyed me [because of buying the house...]

Every time something goes bad, I blame her:
- "I wouldn't have slept in if she didn't make me sign for the house - I wouldn't be working so hard";
- "I can't go to the gym because I have to work - all her fault"
- "My dog died because the move was hard on him. Her fault"


The $44 K is not mortgage related (I wish!). It is credit card debt - my debt only - the majority of it is my half of the wedding costs; some of it is related to the house (furniture, appliances, etc). None of it is related to frivolous purchases (no new clothes, stereo, Nintendo, etc).

Hold on a minute here. You got married 5 years ago. You bought the house 3 years ago. Most of your debt is wedding debt. So unless I'm not following things, you had $20K-$30K of wedding debt on your credit card before you bought the house? (Which doesn't exactly mesh with your "I was debt-free for years and then she plunged me back into debt" story, but I get that maybe you were just simplifying. I can see that it would bother you if your issue is that you were aggressively paying down the debt those first couple years and the house stretched out that timeline further. Is that the situation here?)

Regardless, at the very least, this sounds like the problem is not really just about the house, and more about the overall patterns. Did you want to have such an expensive wedding (tens of thousands of dollars, for your half alone)? Do you think of that decision as one you were forced into, too? If this is an ongoing dynamic in your relationship, then you might want to think about your role in enabling it. (It doesn't mean you can't be upset and hurt, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't expect her to respect your feelings, but it does mean that you're less likely to make progress if you think of yourself only as the passive wronged martyr rather than a partner in an unhealthy dynamic that needs to be fixed.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:17 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

And FWIW, while I'm sure it's really lousy and painful that she didn't respect your feelings and charged ahead on something that you made clear you opposed, I can imagine her thinking, "Well, geez, I really want this house, and if my husband wasn't so stubborn we could easily afford it now. But instead we have to wait two years for no real reason. If he's going to have this strange insistence on 'paying his way,' then why don't we go ahead with the house, and our combined mortgage payments will be totally manageable for our combined income. My payment will be low and his will be too high, so he'll struggle with it, and sooner or later he'll give up this stubborn idea of 'my money' and 'his money' and we'll even things out and it'll all be fine."

I am mad that my dreams I had about travelling, cooking, volunteering, trying new things - living! - are put on hold again, because I have to work.

I think if it were me, it would drive me nuts to know that theoretically we could afford a house, but instead we have to put my dream (owning a house) on hold because my husband has some odd notions about not taking gifts of money from others. If he couldn't accept a concept as perfectly natural (to many people) as "family helping family." If he was willing to have my dad's money spent on the house, enough so we could afford it, but then said he wouldn't be wiling to actually do it for several years because of some strange division between my money/his money, which doesn't make sense (to many people) for a married couple anyway. And then if he said that buying the house would mean putting off his dreams for a few more years-- well, I might just feel like, if he is the one being stubborn and rejecting a way for us both to have what we want, then it's better for his dreams to be put off than mine.

I don't mean to suggest it was cool for her to drag you kicking and screaming into it. But I kind of get where she might be coming from.

(By the way, I am sure it's really tough to be that deeply in debt, but you need to find a way to enjoy life regardless. There are plenty of people who are deep in debt who find ways to be happy and achieve some of their dreams-- I read the blogs of many of them, some of which you can find via the Carnival of Debt Reduction. Anyway I'm sure you can carve out a little bit of time to cook, volunteer, travel, even if it's not to the scale you'd like. It seems like you have this idea in your head that "being in debt" means "working as many hours as possible and sacrificing all happiness" which I don't think is necessarily true, and makes me sad to read about. If you're miserable because of the choices you make about handling your debt, it is going to make it way harder to repair things with your wife, but it's also going to eat away at you as a person. Do the right thing for your marriage-- but more importantly for yourself-- and find some way to make your life work better for you.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:54 PM on December 22, 2007

Hold on a minute here. You got married 5 years ago. You bought the house 3 years ago. Most of your debt is wedding debt. So unless I'm not following things, you had $20K-$30K of wedding debt on your credit card before you bought the house? (Which doesn't exactly mesh with your "I was debt-free for years and then she plunged me back into debt" story, but I get that maybe you were just simplifying. I can see that it would bother you if your issue is that you were aggressively paying down the debt those first couple years and the house stretched out that timeline further. Is that the situation here?)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:17 PM on December 22

I think you've probably hit the nail on the head here. Quite possibly, the OP wanted to wait until the bills from the wedding were paid off before taking the plunge and getting a mortgage; this seems reasonable. From the limited information we have here, it seems that there are a few issues here: communication, respect for the partner's wishes (on both sides), and the lingering resentment over the two problems.

OP, though you told your wife you wanted to wait until you could afford the home, perhaps you didn't effectively communicate why; i.e., that the wedding debt needed to be paid down first. She, of course, didn't respect your wishes to wait for the home purchase. Though she may have thought you could afford it with her father's help, she still should have attempted to actively listen and respect your wishes, and perhaps come up with a compromise. And since you are married, you really do have to compromise on a lot of things - you can't really get away with that "I want to be the person who takes care of me" thing, because there are two of you in the relationship, and you should really be making decisions and compromises together.

The issue you asked about, though, is the lingering resentment. I know you don't want to hear another echo of the advice to go to counseling, but I think that is your best bet to learn how to deal with the issues that are occurring in your marriage. Learning to communicate, negotiate, and compromise effectively are absolutely essential if you want your marriage to continue. You should also see a financial adviser; see if your employer or financial institution offers a free session with one. This might help you to get a good idea of how to proceed. And several people have mentioned that you probably have equity in the house; you may want to consider refinancing so that you can convert that credit card debt (and, of course, cut up the credit cards afterwards).
posted by bedhead at 10:11 PM on December 22, 2007

Wow. You had a really expensive wedding.

Money is a big problem here. That's probably why you had a really expensive wedding.

Anonymous: My FIL is a very nice man. But he knows that money=power. And that by giving us money, he is entitled to his say on what we do with the house.

Your father-in-law is a very nice man. But your father-in-law is full of shit when it comes to money. Your marriage is your marriage, your house is your house, and a gift is a gift. And if he ever happens to try to assume some kind of power over your house or your marriage, kindly remind him of his place. You two are within your rights to burn the place down without his say-so if you so choose.

posted by koeselitz at 12:05 AM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

The debts are unimportant. The fact that this is about money is unimportant. The fact that you cosigned for the house is unimportant.

Here's what's important: you made your personal feelings clear on a particular issue, and she went ahead with what she wanted to do anyway. No matter what the issue might have been, this kind of action can be very hurtful in a relationship, because what it's saying is "I don't care about how you feel, and I'm not going to take your views into consideration when making decisions that affect both of us."

I think you felt pressured to go along, maybe because you have a difficulty in reframing situations as emotional, rather than "here are the facts, ma'am" issues. Sure, you're in debt now. 44k is a lot, even if it wasn't for frivolous stuff. It sounds like you might have a problem with having debt, so in your life it's important to have as few opportunities as possible to encounter further financial burdens. You're now having to work your ass off and it's a pain. I have a friend who got a job that pays poorly, but he needs it in order to keep living in Cairo. Thing is, it pays so poorly that basically he has to work all the time, and now he doesn't even get to enjoy being in Cairo. That sort of situation might be happening with you -- you don't even get to enjoy having the house, since you're working so hard.

The first thing you need to do to deal with your anger is to acknowledge it, so you're already on the right track. Now, you need to "divorce" that anger from everything unrelated that happens in your life. You slept in because you were tired, not because you cosigned for the house. Allow the anger to be about what happened, and feel that anger. Yell a bit in a private area, hit a pillow, go do some active sports -- however you can get that anger out. I think while meditation may be good in the long run, I find if something is in my head, if I sit quietly all that happens is I stew in my anger. So, once that anger is identified, it can be part of you, but also something you can observe. Then you can share these observations with your wife. "Look, this is very late in, but you need to know that I'm still feeling anger about buying the house 3 years ago. I'm angry because I told you I wasn't ready, and when you disregarded this it made me feel like you don't care about how I feel about things." Don't tell her about how you have this debt, or how you're now working these jobs. Focus on how this anger is filtering into other areas of your relationship with her. Tell her you need to feel that she cares about your feelings.

I honestly don't know how/if she can help to resolve your anger. But maybe making the anger about your feelings -- instead about a bunch of numbers that actually don't really matter in the long run -- will make it easier for people to sympathize about.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:55 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. You had a really expensive wedding.

Yeah, that's what stands out to me too. You claim to hate debt, and yet you put tens of thousands of dollars on your credit card to pay for your wedding? WTF? My wife and I went down to City Hall and took a half dozen people out to dinner afterwards; total cost, under $200. We would have gone on living in sin the rest of our lives rather than run up that kind of debt. I think this whole house thing is a red herring (as many have said, owning your own home with a reasonable mortgage is an excellent thing, and you're under no obligation to let your father-in-law have any say in how you run it)—you need to think about how you got in so much debt in the first place, and your responsibility for that.
posted by languagehat at 6:06 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, there are a few other things that stand out to me:

You said 'wait two years' before you could afford the house. If you can pay off $44,000 in two years then I am impressed. But how much money would you have thrown away in rent during that two year period? I pay (for a tiny one bedroom flat) $725 a month. That's gone. History. Dead money. I may as well burn it. I'll have nothing to show for it in two years. I'll be out of pocket by $17,400 after that time. If I had a house (where I was paying into 'a long term savings/equity element like a mortgage) then I"d be better off by SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. A third of your total credit card debt, and on top of anything I'd paid off against it. Ok, it wouldn'tbe in my pocket, but it means that a chunk of the house would now be MINE and not owned by the mortgage company.

A simple thing to remember - If you can, in any way, afford the mortgage payments? Buying a house instead of renting is ALWAYS the right answer. Always the better option, and will save you money in the long term. The fact that you were throwing money away now on rent IS more important than getting rid of that loan first.

You seem to be looking solely at the medium term - total debt, and how much you can shift of it in the medium term (a year or two). Try the short term and the long term thinking:

Short term - does enough money come in, reliably, every month to pay the minimum payments on everything. Yes/No? If yes, then you're not struggling in debt. You can afford to breath. You can afford to plan. The situation isn't going to get worse.

Long term - How do I reduce the total cost of this debt? If interest is being charged, then you either pay it off as quickly as you can or reduce the interest if you can. On that front, a Credit Card is easily the worst possible place for your debt to be. Try and focus on the total cost of the debt, not the fact it is still there bugging you. It may be worth getting a 2 or 3 year bank loan out to cover that debt and shifting it off the credit card - you'd save possibly 10% on interest straight away (approximate - I don't know your banking rates).

If you go for the loan, it may be that you can put it over 3 or 4 years, and give you more breathing room month by month - allowing you to have some more of a life. The drive to pay the debt off NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW is what is causing you to go into a tailspin. You have got yourself into significant debt (Holy shit, what a wedding it had to have been!) but you cannot undo that mistake now, just minimise the cost to you. A stable, manageable debt is better than a shorter term, crazy expensive debt. You can't go back in time and erase this by paying it off as fast as humanly possible. YOU have to suck it up and accept it may take you three years to get rid of it. Better to get rid of it in three (or even four) years than have no wife, no house, no life by trying to do it in two...

I think you need to stop obsessing about it and get sensible. Plan over a longer period. I still maintain that the issues with your wife relate purely to your crazy anxiety over the debt. You can't see past a massive hammer hovering over you, whereas now you have a house that you are (every month) owning a little bit more of. Not throwing money away on rent while you obsess over a single number on a statement.

Try thinking about a loan. Then once you make the best financial decision for the total debt, then just look at the monthly payments. Don't look at the total, theres no point. Just know that the debt will be gone when the monthly payments stop going out of your account. Try to find some peace with the concept. Just looking at OMG$44,000!!! is not healthy. Just look at (say) $971 a month for four years and accept that you've done all you can and it'll go eventually. If you want, work enough to pay off an extra amount for one year, but set a deadline and stick to it. Manage in the longer term. Your blood pressure will thank you for it.
posted by Brockles at 7:23 AM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Before languagehat and koeselitz said it, I was thinking the same thing. You spent, at a minimum, 60 THOUSAND DOLLARS on your wedding? On a one day event? You thought it was ok to go into such debt for that, but not for a house? That's fine for people for whom those kinds of funds are at hand, but not for someone who seems (IMO) unrealistic about not only debt, but about what a marriage is. What you have, or what you seem to want, is a business partnership. But you're in a marriage. It's not "my portion" and "her portion". It's our portion. One. Seems odd to be so defiant that everything be split in a marriage.

Also, did your FIL ever suggest that the monetary gift would come with his ability to dictate what you do with it, or with your lives, or did you assume that? My sister and BIL got money from his parents for their first house and nothing came from my parents. It was never an issue. Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as giving a monetary gift with no strings attached. Some adults know how to do that.

I have to Nth the suggestion of both couples counseling and financial counseling. There are much bigger issues here.
posted by FlyByDay at 7:31 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your father-in-law controls you with money if you allow it. Instead of feeling beholden and behaving like serf, you could thank him for the gift and then do as you please with it. It was a gift. It's yours now. Stop giving your father-in-law control via gifts. He'll either stop giving gifts or stop meddling. Either way, you win.

I haven't been in your situation, but to some extent I've been in your wife's. Being the brunt of someone's endless, anger and scorn is a soul crushing experience. She deserves better. We all deserve better.

Stop comforting yourself by saying how "wonderful" your wife is. You clearly don't believe that she's wonderful. You believe that she's stupid and everything is her fault. You blame her for your choices. You don't give her any credit at all unless you're poked to do it - oh, yeah she works full time, pays her share.

Last, and I realize this is hard to hear, stop whining. Don't mistake complaining about a problem as taking action to solve it. On the one hand you say that it's essential to be responsible for yourself. On the other hand you say that your wife and her father pwn you. Which is it?
posted by 26.2 at 8:44 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I pay (for a tiny one bedroom flat) $725 a month. That's gone. History. Dead money. I may as well burn it. I'll have nothing to show for it in two years. I'll be out of pocket by $17,400 after that time. If I had a house (where I was paying into 'a long term savings/equity element like a mortgage) then I"d be better off by SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.

It's not quite so simple: Using a mortgage calculator I found on, a mortgage of $110,000 (30 year fixed at 7%) would have a monthly payment of $731.83, almost what you are paying now. But the amount going to principal at the beginning is much less, about $90 in the first month. (And then there are all the extra costs, like home insurance, property taxes, and the new lawnmower you will need, but that is a different question and really varies by location; there is also the question of whether you might benefit from potential federal tax savings.) So you would be better off than renting, perhaps, but not by $17,000, unless you benefited from really nice appreciation.

But this just gets back to the point that the issue at hand is not really about the money -- it is about communication, expectations, and feelings towards each other in the relationship. Solving those will make it possible to solve the money issues, not the reverse.
posted by Forktine at 8:53 AM on December 23, 2007

Forktine: Well, I was assuming that after the two years renting, he'd still be buying the house, so the $17,000 would be the cost of choosing not to invest - just 2 years of throwing money away.

You don't get a dollar for dollar buying a house, no. But you'd have to factor in appreciation of assets and home improvements to dismiss the savings outright, but that wasn't quite what I was saying. House purchase procrastination still means $17,000 down the poop chute.
posted by Brockles at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2007

Brockles: Historically though, housing has only appreciated at approximately the rate of inflation, so after costs, it's often a wash. Also, if he's paying $725 for a tiny one-bedroom, he won't be able to get a house for $110k. Anything in his area is likely to cost *more* than that in interest alone.

However, as for the OP, you have a serious communication problem, one that probably needs professional help. Even though you did eventually agree to it, she should know and respect the fact that she and her father hurt you pretty bad through this house thing. Also, you need to work out the role that her father plays in your life. You married her, not her father, and it's just not appropriate for him to have that role in your family.

Finally, did he file gift taxes on that gift of the money for the house? If he gave you more than limit (approx 44-48k, depending on the year) in a single year, he owes gift tax of ~45% on the money above the limit.
posted by fengshui at 3:47 PM on December 23, 2007

There are some really jacked misrepresentations about the idea of a mortgage and how debt works in this thread. Please use caution while reading.
posted by 517 at 5:33 PM on December 23, 2007

Dude, you need to just take the money. I understand all your reasons. But you just need to take it, and go back to life. You've proved you can go it on your own, but you don't have to, and the only reason your wife got the house is because there's no reason for you to be in this position. She has money, and she wants to give it to you. Take the money.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 1:56 PM on December 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

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