Since our marriage three years ago, my wife has not spent a single penny while earning equal to me or more. She also makes me transfer money to her account for expensive gifts. As this is my second marriage, I am trying hard to keep it.
One year before we bought our house, she made me pay 65% of the down payment and other expenses. Both of our names are on the house and loan. She is refusing to pay 50% of the mortgage and making me pay 60%.
Her financial condition is much better than mine, and she is set for retirement. I am paying for all the household bills, medical expenses, and our baby daughter’s expenses. She never paid anything, and is not ready to do so either.
If I try to discuss this, she shouts and uses abusive words. I have to cook at home too — she rarely cooks, probably 10 times a year. She does some housecleaning occasionally when she’s in the mood, washes vegetables and feeds our daughter.
I don’t have any personal space. Somehow I’m managing to type this. In case of divorce, I am afraid she will take my remaining money too; she has assets twice as much as mine. We live in Texas. Do you have any suggestions?
Husband in Texas
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No one can “make” you do anything.
It’s time to look at the person you believed you were marrying, and the red flags surrounding the requests that you contribute 65% of the down payment — which you did not have to agree to — and pay 60% of the monthly payments. Unfortunately, the bank is not interested in collecting 50% from your wife and 50% from your good self. If it doesn’t get paid, the bank will eventually foreclose on your home.
So the question is, what kind of person have you married and what can you do about it now? Quite a lot, as it turns out: You can decide to live in the hope that she will change — a very unlikely prospect, from what you say in your letter — or cling stubbornly to the idea that this is your second marriage and you have to make it work. But the first is folly and the second is pride. You need to choose what’s behind door number three: action.
In addition to being a romantic commitment between two people, marriage is effectively a business contract — but it should not be an intolerable situation where someone is held hostage financially and emotionally. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline can help you. “Relationship abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to gain or maintain power and control over a partner, which can manifest in a number of ways, and there’s usually more than one form of abusive behavior.”
Men are overwhelming the perpetrators of domestic abuse and, given that fact, there is perhaps a greater taboo surrounding women who are guilty of coercive financial control and/or emotional abuse. One British Medical Journal study found that men sometimes avoid seeking help because they believe it makes them seem less masculine and/or because people won’t believe them. However, taking action and control of one’s life is empowering.
So what now? Texas is a community-property state, and you will take out of the marriage what you brought into it. However, the extra money you paid as a down payment is commingled with the property. Your house will be split 50/50. If you have exited an unhealthy marriage in the past, you can do it again. You already navigated a divorce. See your earlier divorce as a show of strength rather than weakness, and as useful experience rather than as a source of shame.
You have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. Put together a support network of close friends and family, and an attorney who can help you navigate the process. No one should have to endure any kind of abuse. You have tried your best to make things work, but sometimes people or situations are just impossible to fix. The bravest and most admirable thing you can do is choose happiness over conflict and stability over chaos, and move on.
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