Usually, marriage comes with the mixing of finances.
That covers several things: combining total amounts of money, maybe combining bank accounts assets, and probably sharing cards.
But it also means mixing financial habits.
One recent post to the “Am I the A**hole (AITA)” subReddit illustrated the subtle dynamics involved in all that mixing.
The Original Poster (OP), who has since deleted both his username and the post itself, led with a rather provocative title.
“AITA for having my wife cut up her credit cards”
Then OP got right into the context of it all. He began with some background about his family’s finances.
“For reasons not worth getting into, my wife and I don’t share checking or financial accounts. She has a card of mine to use for home/kid stuff.”
“But, I was 100% debt-free when we got married. She was 39 and had lots of credit card debt (plus student loan debt) and we did not agree on spending habits.”
“I offered to help, but she did not like it and said I was trying to control her. So, it’s basically been swept under the rug except for the occasional fight.”
All those factors have led to the way things are currently handled.
“So, we’ve kept our finances separate for the most part.”
“I pay the mortgage, kids school, and 90% of the other expenses. Her employer pays she/kids health insurance and she pays a minimal amount of household expenses.”
“She works from home. She admittedly does more around the house and I do because I don’t work from home and I easily work twice as many hours as her.”
But a new purchase has come onto the horizon.
“She needs a new car. I can afford to get her one.”
“I told her I would basically pay for a new car for her (minus her trade in and a nominal sum she has saved for a down payment).”
“I’d pay the rest, in cash, as long as she agreed to chop up all of her credit cards and not spend any money on credit until it is zero.”
OP, true to his word, began to implement that plan.
“I asked to see her statements. I found out she has 5 or so cards. Obviously if there’s something for the kids, she can use my card. She also has a job making alright money.”
“But, I don’t think it’s fair for me to take my money to purchase her a new car while she continues to rack up credit card debt (and pay lots of interest) and spend money she does not have.”
OP’s wife, however, wasn’t totally sold on it.
“She thinks I’m controlling her. One way or the other, I will eventually be stuck with her debt because she will either not be able to pay it off, or not be able to contribute to stuff like tuition, cars, etc.”
“Or, we won’t be able to retire when we want because of this. Or, hundreds of other reasons she doesn’t need credit card debt.”
“So, I think this is fair for both of us – especially in the long term.”
“Am I the a**hole?”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Most people agreed with OP.
They recognized the gravity of the issue at hand.
“NTA there are problems that she needs to face, honestly she is lucky you married her with that kind of debt. A lot of people would have refused.” — Fine_Prune_743
“NTA but she needs to get some budgeting classes, money management. Maybe therapy if she has a shopping habit” — ComfortableZebra2412
“NTA She is living well above her means. I went 12 year not having a single CC after I turned 18. I have one now I only use to pay my internet because having no credit is apparently worse than having bad credit. (which at 31 i had no credit and started having trouble finding a place to rent with no credit)”
“You are not being controlling you are protecting yourself” — MinsAino
“NTA Lol at the idea that you are controlling her by not letting her spend your money” — Stunning_Grocery8477
Other people did agree with OP overall, but advised for a more nuanced response.
“NTA. But…I don’t think that asking her to cut up cards is going to help her tackle her debt situation. You’re currently paying 90% of expenses and she’s still in a lot of debt.”
“It sounds like she has poor spending habits and until she addresses that it’s likely she’ll find a way to keep spending beyond her means.” — writetobeme
“NTA. It sound like your wife has a problem that affects the family. This is the kind of things that need some tough love. Because you (you and your wife) have trouble talking about the subject, I think couples therapy could be beneficial.” — TLDLive
One Redditor gave a lengthy analysis.
“For me, this isn’t as simple as saying whether or not you’re the asshole. I think on one level you are, and on another level you aren’t. The reason I think you are is that you’ve let it get this far and now have created an ultimatum situation. It is controlling, even if for a good reason.”
“It also puts her in the situation where you control all the finances in the relationship and essentially makes her entirely dependent on you. Losing her sense of independence will be really demoralizing and even scary for her.”
“What makes you not the asshole is that you’re right. She needs to manage her money better (at least given what you’ve said here). She’s already lost her independence, in a way, since she’s given so much over to debtors. I think you’d be better off taking a different approach at this point.”
“Start with saying that you want to help her, but the debt scares you and you see it getting higher and higher and fear the eventual results. Then ask her what she thinks would be a good solution to the situation. She needs a car and you need her to control herself and pay down her debt. How can that be accomplished?”
“Possibilities might include her taking classes on finance. It might include her having a monthly budget of ‘play’ money, while putting X amount down every month on her cards. Basically allow her to participate in the solution.”
“Make this a team effort, rather than you dictating terms. If you think about it, there’s nothing to stop her from getting more cards, even if she cuts them up. Working together will make the situation much better.” — corgihuntress
And so, it looks like this situation won’t necessarily be as simple as who was right and who was wrong.
This may be the beginning of some long term work and effort on the part of both partners.