I remember sitting in my Al-anon group trying to get my head around my spouse hiding money. I just could not think through this on my own. Thank you to everyone who showed up that night and every Thursday night to help me process my hurts, habits and hang-ups.
The Pay Check That Never Made It Home
As a family we had just moved into a large home my husband had built on nights and weekends. This man I am married to was and is a hard worker.
I worked a part-time job and took care of our toddler.
We lived mainly on his paycheck, but this week it did not come home. When I asked him about it, he did not see why I should be so concerned.
When it came time to buy groceries and there was still no paycheck in the bank. I asked again. He said I am sure you will figure something out for now. He said he would get to the store.
I knew right then that something had changed.
What Not to Do When Your Spouse is Hiding Money
I learned this the hard way in a trial by fire. I screamed, cried, threatened, and even hit. None of it to any avail.
Then I begged.
None of this brought about any change except that my husband came home later at night and slept later in the morning.
At this point, I was too prideful to ask for help. I also was too stubborn to see that our lives and marriage were spinning out of control.
I Can Control This
I could figure this out. I could make him stop hiding money and support our growing family. I could control this/him.
Then he asked me to take my name off the joint checking account. ‘Fine!” I shouted.
If that was what he wanted, that is the way it would be! I went down to the bank and removed my name from the account that day.
Did I say I am stubborn–I meant rash and hot-headed. I did not need his blankety-blank money. Many years ago I promised myself I would never be the woman who could not support herself and her children.
Hiding Money Only Uncovered the Power Struggle in Our Marriage
Money is neutral. Neither good or bad, it only has the value and power we as the users give it.
Money in my marriage and in the world is a symbol of power. With a new baby and a new house, we were struggling to find our footing in the relationship. Plus pay for all the items we now possessed.
I screamed that this was our money not just his. He screamed back that I was making poor choices on spending and all he did was work to turn his paycheck over. Non-trust and power struggles were eating our marriage.
The pinnacle of the disagreement was coffee. I felt that we could not afford $14 for coffee that week. He felt that at least some of his money should be able to buy coffee.
The next week the paycheck went missing. Again.
Positive Ways to Handle Your Spouse Hiding Money
Don’t feel bad, if you have already employed many of the hurtful strategies. You always have a choice to change.
It took me years to learn these more positive ways to handle power struggles.
Some days I still get controlling and hotheaded failing to employ kindness and grace that in the long run will encourage the marriage rather than tear it down.
1) Stop Making Unilateral Decisions
Why did I decide to stop buying coffee? To me, it made sense. At the time it was super expensive and my husband worked at a restaurant where he could drink coffee all day.
Did I talk with him about where to shave the food budget? What would he choose to do without?
No, I just made the decision that turned a battle into a war.
2) Seek Clarification
I never stopped to ask why the paycheck did not come home; I just demanded it–again part of the power struggle. I remember thinking “How dare he do this to me, to us (baby and me)!”
Instead of picking a calm time to find out his reasons and to talk through what might be going on in his head.
I just went after him verbally for not being man enough to support his family. I even used scripture to try to cut him down.
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8
How is that for throwing scripture around out of context for my convince. I did not even seek to understand I just started accusing.
Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. Proverbs 20:9
My husband did not say this to me, but he could have just to lock down our struggle.
Calmly Make Your Feelings Know
There was nothing calm about how I handled this situation from the start.
What I know now is my husband is a introvert. He needs a few hours or a few days to think things over.
If after the first two steps ( stop unilateral decisions, seek clarification) he still decided to withhold his paycheck, I could have calmly explained how this made me feel.
By kicking, screaming, name calling and accusations of wrong doing, I alienated him even further.
Maybe he was in the wrong, but my behavior only made him hold tighter to the conviction that I was not interested in his needs or desires.
Let me be clear, I am in no way condoning hiding money from your spouse. I am however strongly suggesting taking an hour or a few days to figure out what this really means before addressing the situation.
Money is neutral. Relationships are bricks on bricks of love, hurt, grace, misunderstanding, joy, and pain. Each time you add another brick the walls go up or come down.
Talk to a Trusted Friend
When something of this magnitude happens, the first step is talk it out with a trusted friend. For me, a trusted friend is also a godly friend.
Trash talking my husband, the father of my child was only going to dig a deeper whole. I needed someone to talk to that would listen, pray with me and help me think through my options.
You always have options. Talk with a friend about your resources. Look at what really needs to be done that day, week, month.
Do the next right thing that day. Do you need milk for the baby ask for help from friends, church or food banks?
Be Realistic on How Desperate the Situation Is
That night, as I sat in an Al-anon meeting my head still spinning, I realized how out of control I was. How miserable I was making myself and my family over money.
My group asked me now that my name was no longer on the joint checking account what was I going to do with the money I made?
“Huh,” I did make some money. Where was that going to go now?
My group made a suggestion that I start my own checking account. With this, I could set aside money to fund necessary items.
In my hurt, rage, and disappointment I had missed the practical. I wanted to “play victim” more than I wanted to solve the problem.
Feeling powerless, out of control and victimized is an awful place to be. My Al-anon group helped me think through my long-term goals for this marriage. I had to begin asking tough questions.
Was this breach of trust repairable? What was my part in the situation and it’s escalation, and was I willing to work on my part?
Was I willing to work on my part?
How had I given away my power to make changes and decisions?
Pray for Clarity
By this time in our marriage, I was prayer walking every morning. Asking for a deep change in both him and me.
We had this beautiful child and a brand new house, yet we were so angry, so unhappy.
I began to pray the”whatever it takes prayer”. I was trying unsuccessfully to lay down my life at the foot of the cross —to give everything to Jesus.
Yet, I was still not willing to see him as my provider, my husband. I was still bent on fixing up my earthly husband to be the man I needed him to be, not the person God made him.
And I found out later, I was often getting in the way of God’s plans with my own anger and I can handle it attitude.
9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:1-10
God was disciplining me through adversity. I could not “handle this alone”. I needed Him more than ever to show me how His provision worked.
Truthfully, the more I kicked, screamed and manipulated the situation the worse it got. Surrendering to God my inability to make everything work out perfectly in our family put me on the road to recovery.
If You Are In This Situation Right Now
Start with a simple prayer of Help!
Talk with a Godly friend.
Check out the Resource Page.
Take five minutes and make a list of what you do have.
Sit quietly and let God nurture you.
Seek Prayer. We have been there and it would be our joy to pray for you and your marriage.