Q: Dear Meredith,
I am in my late 20s and a newlywed. My new husband started working the late shift three months ago and things haven't been the same since. Now that we are married and have joint finances, I was shocked to discover how many bills have gone unpaid. Starting about six months ago I began receiving calls from creditors looking for payment. Most of these bills are in my name. I have confronted my husband about the situation and he admitted to hiding the mail so I would not see late notices. He seems to have no sympathy for paying bills devastatingly late. My credit has been ruined by these late payments. Most recently I received a call from our mortgage company explaining that our mortgage hadn't been paid in three months. I cannot just "let it go" and accept yet another excuse from my husband. I quickly became the only one putting money into our joint bank account, and also the only one to take action to remedy these embarrassing phone calls. His check now goes into a separate account that I have no access to. I don't know how much money he's making, or where he is spending it.
Here is where it gets messy -- we have a young daughter together. Beyond money problems, one night in particular I found out he slept at another women's house who my husband has always claimed to be "just a friend." This is the third time he has been MIA for the night. I have found myself to be a single mother married to a totally unpredictable spouse. I have made multiple exhaustive attempts to communicate my concerns to my husband who barely seems to be listening and laughs at my thoughts of another woman. He has refused couples or individual counseling and has asked me to move out half a dozen times. My emotions have gone from acting like the situation doesn't bother me to feeling completely alone and helpless.
I never would have predicted this situation and I just don't know how to move forward. I could use your advice!
– Incomplete in Boston
A: There's not a lot you can do about a bad marriage when your partner refuses counseling -- and honesty in general, IIB. Your only choice right now is to focus on yourself and your kid. Start by finding a financial adviser who can help you get out of this credit mess. You need to know about every bill that's out there and how this has affected your record. You also need to know what will happen and how you can budget your life if this marriage ends. Do some Googling and look for an expert who deals with couples. I recommend bringing a friend or family member to these appointments. It can be overwhelming to deal with on your own.
You should also be seeing a therapist during all of this. Yes, it'd be better if he came with you, but regardless, you need help figuring out how you can go back to feeling safe in the world. If he's this unpredictable, is it best for you to move out? If so, where can you go that will give you some stability?
My hope is that when he sees you making these moves, he'll realize that this is serious and join you for these appointments. But it's very possible that he won't. His reaction to your planning will also give you some big answers. At the end of the day, is he working to stay together ... or is he relieved that you're making plans to move on?
Take deep breaths. And again, bring friends to appointments even if it means calling someone you haven't seen in a long time. You don't have to be alone.
Readers? Does his night shift have anything to do with this? Advice from people who have dealt with partners not paying bills? Is this relationship fixable? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.