I promised my husband I would pay for our summer holiday after he paid the small deposit months ago. I don’t have any savings so I’d planned to put it on my credit card – only I’ve realised that I’d already maxed it out on clothes. I wasn’t thinking. The rest is due and I have no way of paying it. He’s always saying I’m terrible with money. If I tell him, he’s proved right. What can I do?
Listen, no one wants a lecture. But, from where we are sitting, it does look as though you are, in fact, terrible with money. We can’t tell from your letter whether this means there will now be no holiday or whether your husband can make up the difference. We can’t tell if there will be other, more serious, ramifications in your life, but we are not sure there is any easy avoidance strategy either available to you or advisable for you. So, let’s get straight to the point.
Clearly you are going to have to look at whether a credit card is really for you, and establish whether your profligacy might be tipping into a problem – there are statistics everywhere that show the link between debt and poor mental health. Are you shopping on your feelings? To avoid them? Is there an addiction problem here?
That’s a conversation you will need to have with yourself after you have got over this holiday hump with your husband.
Money strains in marriages are nothing new. Relate has a lot of research showing that it’s one of the heaviest pressures on relationships. Not only that, but people hate talking about money (around half of UK adults that Relate surveyed admitted that talking about money matters was taboo). A quarter of people have lied to family and friends about their personal finances, and one in seven have hidden debt from their partner.
It’s shame that stops us from talking about it: shame that we’ve messed up; shame that leads us into lies and deceit and perhaps behaving rather badly in order to deflect from what we have got ourselves into.
We are now going to say something radical: sometimes it’s OK for the other person in your relationship to be right about your faults. It might be hard to accept this just now, but you should perhaps be grateful for your husband’s judgment because your news is clearly not going to come as a terrible shock to him. He already sees you.
So stop trying to make it sound like his judgement is the problem – this is classic addict behaviour. We’ve all heard people scoff crossly: “He’s always saying I drink too much”, as if somehow the saying was the wrong-headed thing as opposed to the endless empty bottles of Whispering Angel winking from the recycling bin.
You need to woman up, and step into the light. If you stay bunkered in your emotional shame cave, blaming someone else, you are going to feel very bad indeed.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. Shame often doesn’t survive being spoken. It wants you to stay in the dark; panicking, with little compassion for yourself or others. It doesn’t want you striding out into the truth.
Which is why this anticipation of discovery is the worst bit, Overspent. And if you don’t believe us, we’ve got more Relate stats: 61 per cent of people asked said they felt better when they opened up and talked about their money concerns. Once this icky part is over, you will be able to put together a spending plan, as a couple. Remember you are on the same side.
And it doesn’t feel like you are telling someone about a vicious and astounding betrayal. It sounds as though you are telling him something he already suspects.
Also, not to trivialise your situation but it’s not the house deposit or the life savings. So yes, it’s awkward. Yes, you are going to face up to having disappointed someone, to having let them down. But in this case, honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy.
Once the plaster is ripped off and the wound is healing, we would definitely recommend having a look at Money Savings Expert on debt management, StepChange on Debt Stress and maybe Welldoing.org to find a counsellor. Therapy is expensive; but there are brilliant organisations like Debtors Anonymous that offer group support for free.
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