I’ve uncovered my husband’s hidden debt – what next?

Together for 7 years, married for 4. I have two little girls with my husband so obviously we share the majority of our finances. However, I’ve run into issues with him in the past in regards to his spending habits. We worked really hard at the start of our relationship to pay off our college debt, but since then, he’s amassed what I thought to be only a few thousand in credit card debt. He’s an impulsive spender, which when we first met was I guess something I almost encouraged and enabled (since the holidays and dinners and presents seemed so great!) He also gambles, although I didn’t think he did so in a harmful way. That being said, he’s been a lot more shifty about his spending habits lately, including taking our mail before I have a chance to go through anything myself. After opening some of the letters (some even addressed to the both of us) recently, I discovered that he has well over $15k in debt spread across several cards. I brought this to him straight away and was very angry as my name is also included on several of these accounts, and we’re definitely not wealthy enough to be amassing this sort of debt, and have been planning long term to save for both of our daughters’ tuition fees. So far, he’s been cold, defensive, and tried to avoid the conversation at all costs by telling me he “has it covered”. What do I do next? I’m terrified of ending up so deep in debt that we can’t get out.


Thank you for sending this in.

I read your message with a heavy heart, understanding the weight of the situation you find yourself in. My own parents split owing to my father’s gambling habits, and whilst I by no means think this is a relationship death sentence, it certainly is a tough spot to be in – especially having worked so hard on your financial stability and having dependents to think of.

Firstly, take a moment to try and recenter yourself. Your emotions are no doubt running high, but it’s important to approach this situation with a clear mind and as much calmness as you can muster!

Confronting your husband about his spending habits was the right move, although his defensive response is disappointing. It’s evident that this issue runs deeper than just a few impulsive purchases. Your family’s financial security is at stake, and it’s essential to address it head-on.

I encourage you to continue the conversation with your husband, emphasizing the importance of finding solutions together. Reiterate that this isn’t about assigning blame (which he is no doubt feeling and reacting upon), but about safeguarding your family’s future.

I would definitely recommend seeking professional help if this is possible. This might include financial counseling or relationship therapy, as third party mediation provide valuable insights into the root causes of your husband’s behavior and offer practical strategies for managing your finances as a team. It’s important to address the underlying issues – including what is likely now a breakdown in trust between the two of you – rather than just the symptoms. Without hitting the issue at its core, it’s likely that you’ll just repeat this cycle in the future, even after paying off this current debt.

Given the gravity of the situation, it’s also essential to understand your legal rights and obligations, especially since your name is associated with some of the debt. Consulting with a lawyer specializing in financial matters can provide clarity on how to protect your interests and mitigate potential liabilities.

Finally, and not to create any alarm bells in your head, but if after trying to work together through this issue as a family, your husband remains defensive and cold, I would suggest thinking about the long-term of your relationship. Tying yourself to someone who is unwilling to change, and who is driving your shared finances into the ground will wreak havoc both on your mental health and financial stability. Consider whether you would be prepared to separate should he continue to neglect the severity of the situation.

I do hope that by approaching this challenge with empathy, assertiveness, and a willingness to work together, you can overcome this obstacle and emerge stronger as a couple.

Take care of yourself and each other.

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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