Financially Irresponsible Spouse

How can I deal with a spouse who is completely immature in the way he handles his money? He has never learned how to save, give, tithe, or plan a budget. As a result, we're deeply in debt and faced with selling our home in order to pay off our creditors. I've lost all respect for him, and I'm thinking seriously about divorce. Is there any way out of this mess?

Your circumstances probably aren’t going to change without some kind of direct intervention. Depending on your husband’s past history of receptivity and cooperation, however, you may want to get the advice of a licensed Christian counselor before proceeding. Once you’re ready to move forward, our recommendation is that you get someone to help you confront your husband about his irresponsible lifestyle – perhaps a friend or the pastor of your church. If he reacts negatively, pull together a group of his male friends who would be willing to commit to holding him accountable for his actions. This meeting should be conducted with a specific purpose in mind. For example, as a first step the group might require that your spouse begin working on a detailed budget plan or making payments on his credit card debt. This approach is often used in dealing with addictions and substance abuse, but it can work equally well in the case of a financial prodigal. A professional therapist could be consulted for assistance and expert advice.

If the intervention is successful, your husband should be paired up with a mentor or enrolled in an accountability group that can help him follow through on his resolutions. He should also be encouraged to join you in seeking the help of a marriage counselor. If he is unwilling to cooperate, you should not hesitate to pursue counseling on your own. Focus on the Family will be happy to provide you with a list of referrals for your area. You can call our Counseling department.

Meanwhile, do what you can to hold his feet to the fire. Your spouse’s irresponsible actions have placed you in a precarious position. To that extent it would be fair to characterize his behavior as dangerous and abusive. Our counselors often suggest that a husband or wife in a situation like yours needs to “precipitate a crisis.” While we don’t believe that divorce is the answer in this instance, we do feel strongly that a temporary separation might have the effect of forcing your husband to take a second look at his financial habits and attitudes.


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