Dear Penny: Should I divorce my husband over a growing mountain of debt?

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dear penny,

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Several years ago, my husband fell in love with the strategy of using credit for everything. He is getting a lot of debt and debt. But I didn’t know it had turned into an outrageous amount because of building a retirement home for us in his home country.

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I want to repay the loan, but he wants to continue taking the loan. His idea is to sell what we have to pay for it. We are preparing to sell a house that is very large and have to do so next year. The debt is so high, I probably won’t get much for myself. Enough to cover the remainder of the mortgage and a good portion of the loan.

I believe his friends are telling him that I am trying to control him, but that is what he is doing to me. He gets belligerent when I don’t go along. He’s telling me now that he’ll do what he wants and I can’t control him. I just want to stop the debt.

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He is 68, and I am 60. I want to retire next year. It means no income. We have to stay away from rents from our properties. All that money now goes toward paying creditors every month.

I think he is hiding more and more of what he is doing and with whom. All his transactions are in cash, so they cannot really be documented. I have threatened to take the rent money and put it in an account under my control to pay off these debts. I want to make sure that he can’t use the money for anything else and it goes towards debt and something else.

Again, I’m trying to control him in his mind. I think it’s true, but mostly, I want to stop borrowing this chinstrap. If he has no way to pay off the new debt, he won’t be able to take it any more.

I know he’ll end up getting into more debt for a retirement home. I have extreme panic and anxiety attacks over this. He sees this as more control issues on my part.

I don’t want to get divorced. We’ve been married for 42 years, but it’s bringing me despair and I feel like it might be my only choice.


Dear R.,

I think you are very clear about this situation. You know that your spouse will continue to accumulate more debt as long as he can.

You can try putting rental income into an account you control, as you suggest. But it will at most be a band-aid solution. If he’s really determined he’ll find a way to borrow. Since your husband gets angry when you don’t do what he wants, I fear putting the rent money in a separate account will add tension to an already overly stressful dynamic.

So the question for you is: do you want to stay married if the cost is your financial security and mental health? Or will you start a new one where you’re in control, even if the thought of divorce is terrifying after 42 years of marriage?

I would vote for the latter option. Or at least, I would meet with a divorce lawyer, just to understand what would be the end of this marriage. You want to find out how much you will be responsible for this loan, as well as how much you may be entitled to this property.

But it’s not how your debts and assets will be divided in a divorce that worries me. I’m worried about how much you don’t know. You say that you think your husband is hiding things from you. Trust your courage. If you suspect that he is hiding assets or debts from you or you think he is doing something illegal, it is important to talk to an attorney about your rights.

Should you decide to divorce, you need to expect that life may look a lot different than you anticipated, especially in the short term. The prospect of retiring next year probably won’t be on the table. You may need to curtail your lifestyle that is very different from what you are used to. But if your husband is dismissive of your frequent panic attacks, it seems like the trade-off is worth it. It’s almost impossible to take control of your life when you don’t have control over your finances.

Your husband has been clear: He values ​​getting more stuff done over your well-being. If you can’t stomach the thought of divorce, you’ll need to make peace with the fact that this situation isn’t changing.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Submit your tricky questions about money here [email protected]

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