Monday, January 25, 2010

Is He Your Husband or Your Roommate?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: My husband and I are both 33 and we've been married a little over a year. Even though we're married, he insists on having separate bank accounts and separate credit cards---the way we did when we were living together. If he wants to buy something for himself, he pays for it out of his funds, and he wants me to do the same with my purchases. He pays the rent each month, but then I have to reimburse him for fifty percent of it from my chacking account. The same goes for groceries and other common expenses. I see this as unfair, because he makes nearly twice what I do. Do you agree? ("Jen" in San Antonio)

DEAR JEN: Yes, I do agree with you. Your husband's system may have made sense when you were living together, but it is not appropriate for a marriage, even if the two spouses are both earning the same amount. Separate checkbooks imply that there's no common financial bond betwen the spouses. If he wants to buy a new Corvette, he can just do it without consulting you, even if you're trying to save for a down payment on a house. The only question becomes whether "he" can afford it. To me, that's a sign of a lack of commitment to the marriage.

Beyond that, he needs to understand that half of the money he earns is yours (and half of the money you earn is his). Texas is what is called a community property state, which means that any money earned by either spouse during the marriage becomes the property of both spouses, 50-50. The only exceptions are funds received by one spouse or the other as an inheritance or as a gift.

You have to explain to your husband that the two of you are no longer just roomates or "friends with benefits." You're a married couple with (I would hope) common financial and life goals. That doesn't mean that he can't treat himself to a new set of golf clubs, or you can't enjoy some pampering at the day spa once in a while. But it does mean that your various purchases and indulgences should fit into a joint budget, and shouldn't be based solely on who earns what.

If your husband continues to be stubborn on this issue, I think you should explore marriage counseling; as I say, his attitude may reflect deeper issues that you should both address now, before they seriously threaten your marriage.

Good luck, Jen, and let me know what happens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

He Won't Tell Her Why He Broke Up With Her

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I was dating a guy I met on a dating site for about three months, and I thought things were going great. But then all of a sudden he stopped calling and wouldn't return my calls or e-mails. He finally sent me a one-line e-mail that basically said he needed to take a break and think things over. That was it: no explanation whatsoever. We never had an argument, and I can't imagine what caused this. I saw yesterday that he's back on the site, and he says he's looking for something "long term." Well, he could have had something long term with me! At this point, I'm not trying to get him back, I just want to understand what went wrong. Maybe it will help me the next time. Am I stupid to keep contacting him? ("Marci" in Scottsdale, AZ)

DEAR MARCI: It's understandable that you want an explanation, but you're not going to get one from this guy no matter how hard you try. At best, he'd give you one of those "It's not you, it's me" lines just to get you off his back.

Sad to say, his behavior is pretty typical. Most guys hate having uncomfortable conversations with women, hate having to explain their actions and motivations, hate the feeling of being attacked. Most guys, after a breakup, just want it all to go away quickly and quietly. To put it bluntly, most guys are cowards in dealing with women.

So, Marci, you have to stop contacting him, and accept the reality that you're never going to get a full and satisfactory account of what caused him to bail out of the relationship. It might comfort you to know, though, that it almost certainly was him and not you. My educated guess is that, despite what he says about wanting a long-term relationship, he's uncomfortable with commitment. He likes the early stages of a relationship, but gets nervous when a woman seems to want more than casual dating. The closer a woman gets to him, the more he pulls back. Sooner or later, it was inevitable that your relationship with him would have ended.

But even though most men are cowards with respect to explaining why they broke off a relationship, not every man is afraid of commitment. There are definitely good men out there, but you'll never meet them until you stop obsessing about the last guy. Good luck, Marci, and let me know what happens.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pulling the Plug Prematurely?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I disagree with the advice you gave the woman in Las Vegas whose husband was lying to her about all the money he was losing at the casinos [see December 23, 2009 blog Q&A]. In my opinion, lying is just as bad as having affairs. They're both a violation of trust. I wouldn't give him a second chance. By the time she does everything you tell her to do, he'll probably blow what little money they have left, and she'll wish she had divorced him while there was still some money left to divide. ("Deb" in North Carolina)

DEAR DEB: I appreciate your thoughts, and I agree with you that both lying and sexual infidelity involve serious breaches of trust. I also agree that there's no guarantee that the suggestions I offered will solve the problem quickly enough to avoid even more money being wasted.

But I think it's important to recognize that the husband's gambling and lying were recent developments. Until he was laid off, the husband was an excellent provider for his wife and kids, and there's no indication from his wife that there are other issues threatening the marriage. I think he's earned a chance to overcome his gambling addiction and any related psychological problems. But I definitely think he should be kept on a short leash; any future relapses and cover-ups should not be tolerated.

Divorce is not a step to be taken impulsively or in the heat of anger, especially when kids are involved. And divorces are expensive, no matter how much---or how little---money you may have. I think it's worth the risk of further financial losses to see how the situation evolves over the next two to three months. If the husband refuses to co-operate in overcoming his addiction, his wife will know it very quickly, and at that point I would encourage her to at least seek the advice of a divorce lawyer.