Ask The Get Out of Debt Experts Relationships

I’m Drowning Under the Pressure of Keeping Us Afloat When He Can’t Participate. – Deborah

“Dear Steve,

I’ve been with my husband for over 18 years. The first five years or so we were always able to work together on our finances, and be supportive of our situation as a team. We both worked equally, and contributed equally for the most part.

Around 2000 we decided to take a chance and upgrade to a bigger house for our family. The house we chose, at the time, was a much bigger house, but the mortgage was about a $300 increase per month. However, the maintenance would prove to be more of a challenge, plus we have an HOA.

Anyway, about the time we moved in our incomes were modest, and our credit was much improved. Then 9/11 hit, and for whatever economic reasons, my husband’s contract business (he’s the only employee) was hit hard. His income decreased almost in half. It never really recovered, and in fact it continued to decrease over the years. Meanwhile, my income slowly increased, but not consistently over the years.

As of today I am basically making alone, what we made as a team, while my husband’s income is now less than 10% of what he made back in 2000. We have tried supplementing with business ventures, only to lose more money, and we even tried to invest – which ended up with stock being worth nothing, and also being taken by a fraudulent company for $25,000, plus legal fees.

In the process, we have refinanced the house twice in an effort to gain position, used credit cards, hoping to reduce debt only to end up with more debt, and finding ourselves using up all the savings we worked so hard to build 10 years ago. My husband injured his back, which added to our costs, as well as I had health issues for a while. Although his back is hurt, he has not had the confidence to find another type of profession to work in. Meanwhile the burden has truly been on me.

I have always handled our finances, and was good to disclose information regularly. However, when times continued to get tough and did not improve, it started waring on our relationship. I found myself withdrawing from including him in our financial concerns. I began looking for any options available to keep us above water. In the process I created an more debt than I care to share. I tried handling it all on my own, and using the programs available, only to find myself drowning. Over the past several years I have been afraid to disclose this to my husband, as we were already having a rocky relationship. Several times I thought we were divorcing for good.

We have always made sure our house payment was made – always. This month (June) is the first time in our relationship’s history that we can’t pay. I’m working with the bank on an affordable home loan modification. However, I’m not sure that this is going to solve our medium-term needs. After all, regardless of our debt, we still need income coming in at all times. I can’t handle all our expenses for the family, including the mortgage.

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I spoke with my mother regarding this. We both agreed that I needed to disclose the truth of my accumulated debt and spending – even if it means divorce. My concern is I don’t know how to approach this matter so that we can actually discuss it.

Based on what I can see, we will need to file bankruptcy in order to move forward. Even though he does not realize it, our credit has been impacted already. Just our debt to income ratio, without my added burden, placed us in this situation. We have a joint credit card that we agreed to place in hardship (that impacts it), we are unable to pay our mortgage this month (that impacts it), and we are modifying our loan for hardship (that will impact it). He is under the distinct belief that he can depend on good credit to save us. But credit is only good if you can pay it. It’s not really a bailout – I know that first hand! Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is not paying off debt. Paying more than the minimums is not paying off debt. All it does is show are good payers. But it doesn’t reduce our debt, it only increases it.

If he leaves me he will have no income, no credit, no savings, no one to depend on. Yet if he stays with me he needs to go to counseling with me. Otherwise we will not be able to work through this. I feel absolutely horrible about this, and the fact that I have totally enabled my family. Yet I feel resentful too, since the burden was basically forced on me from early on. I just want to make things right, but I want to have a plan that will help all of us in the end – regardless of whether our relationship can sustain the fall. I love my husband, and my family. My intention was never to hurt or cripple them. I’m not making excuses, but I do want to move forward. I’m ready to face the consequences. I just want to know the best, most reasonable, and constructive way to handle the situation.

Since my husband is not a good listener, and very difficult to discuss things with mad or not, is it a good idea to write him a detailed letter and place it in a card, so he is forced to read it and take in the important message? He will still be angry, but at least I will have disclosed what I need to before we can talk it out. Otherwise I will never get to tell him all, since the initial reaction when I start will change the whole discussion. Also, what would you advise is a good plan for moving forward and relieving us of this financial burden, and start improving the financial picture for the future. Thanks for any advise you can provide.


Dear Deborah,

First off, there is no sense beating yourself up what has passed. And there is no sense wasting a perfectly good mistake so learn what you can from the history of this situation and let what you see improve your life moving forward.

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When I read your situation I actually see two issues. The first is your husband. I’d be willing to bet that the issues of the past decade have weighed heavily on your husband, his self-worth, his mental wellbeing, his temperament, and outlook on life. Events like this either make us stronger or break us.

I think he would benefit from counseling for depression. You may want to consult your family doctor first and see if medication is appropriate based on his symptoms and situation. Medication for depression can be enormously effective and followed with talk therapy he stands a good chance of finding himself again.

The debt situation looks like exactly what you described. In order to avoid dealing with this the problem just kept getting pushed out into the future until the debt was unmanageable to service. It looks like this is finally the future.

Based on the relationship dynamic and the reality of your financial situation, bankruptcy seems like the logical path to pursue. The bankruptcy path will allow you to obtain legal protection from your creditors and either discharge your debt in full in a few months or enter into a repayment plan you can afford. It will also stop collection calls and lawsuits.

Based on your husbands situation I just can’t see how potential collection calls and lawsuits would serve to improve the overall situation and give you both a chance to recover and heal.

My opinion would be for you to click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and meet with them to discuss your situation. If you don’t like the first bankruptcy attorney for some reason, find another one you do like.

Then, armed with facts about your situation and your plan for a solution, you can meet with the counselor and discuss this situation together. Let the counselor help facilitate the communications.

The way these situations normally work out is the depressed spouse is unhappy about the situation but lacks the ability to resolve the problem on their own. They tend to appreciate that a solution is proposed rather than just more bad news dumped on them.

It would be a great outcome if your husband realized he had some issues, was willing to tackle them, accepted the situation for what it is, and was willing to move forward from where you are today.

Bottom line is the situation sucks, but there is hope. As I always say, if could be worse, at least you’re not on fire.

Oh yes, you might find some really help and insight from my free book you can download, The Path to Happiness and Wealth, it speaks about the emotional side of money issues.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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