Addiction, privacy, lies, and trust

If you suspected your SO was in some way significantly breaching the trust in your relationship, would you feel justified in using whatever means are at your disposal to monitor their activities?

I ask this because my wife has a spending addiction. I’m carrying every last cent of the household expenses, until I inevitably get tapped out at the end of a pay period and have to ask her for a few bucks to buy us food. She’s blown through literally half of our income for the past year on clothes, makeup, and useless knicknacks from QVC. While she admits to me that she has a problem, she doesn’t appear to be taking any concrete steps to deal with it. When I ask her about money directly, she tends to get very squirrely, and prevaricates about exactly how much she’s spent. In fact, in those conversations, I tend to get creamed for exacerbating her problems by not “supporting” her enough as she tries to get over the addiction. The truth is, she’s lying to me about it, but I’ve never really had any evidence.

There are other problems in our relationship, and you’re welcome to search for the thread in the Pit I started about it if you’re at all curious.

I recently realized that for every order she places, an order confirmation gets sent to her email account. Since I set her up with it, I know the password. You can probably guess where this is going.

I did something that I’ve never expected to do - I checked her email, and found out that she’s still blowing all of her money every month. Since she doesn’t have as much of pot of cash any more, she’s maxxing out her credit cards. She’s signing up for new credit cards, and maxxing those out. All the while, she’s been blaming me for not giving her the required number of “positive affirmations” she apparently needs to stop it, or pretending that she hasn’t bought any of this stuff.

I’m incredibly pissed off, but I feel like a complete asshole for invading her privacy this way. I know I’m eventually going to have to come out with it, and take my lumps for not trusting her, but I guess I’m not entirely convinced that the ends justified my means.

So what do you do when a SO is lying to you, and you know it?

I have not been in your situation, and so I am going to sound like Anne Landers: see a counselor together. Or go by yourself, but get some outside perspective and support in dealing with this, since it’s not working to try to deal with it by yourself.

Yes, you’ve violated her privacy, but she has violated your trust and her own word over and over again, and is in the process of doing further damage to your financial well-being. Of the two sins, hers is much the greater. You have the absolute right to know the truth about your financial status, especially because, as her spouse, you will be held liable for her debts if she defaults or (God forbid) dies while you are married.

The only slight parallel I have to your situation was one where I snooped. Yup, I snooped in my old boyfriend’s desk and found a love letter from some other woman that was dated just a couple of weeks before we began dating, and it threw me for a loop. So I talked to him about it. I said, “I did something shitty today. I looked in your desk. I am ashamed of myself for snooping and I won’t do it again. But, I did find this letter and it freaked me out a little bit.”

He was angry with me for snooping, but was able to sit down and tell me about the letter and its writer, and I felt much better after that.

I think your best course is to admit what you’ve done and explain your reasons, and have the appointment with a counselor set up. She can go with you, or not, but say that you need her to attend the session with you so you can begin to rebuild the trust you have each lost in one another.

She’s a liar, and she is seriously compromising your financial security. Her credit card debt can affect you too.

I think you are justified in doing some research to find the truth behind her lies.

However, I am curious as to why you are paying for all the household expenses… you should tell her that from now on, she is responsible for paying 50% of all shared household expenses. You NEED to put your foot down.

I knew a woman who was a compulsive spender and she indeed had other problems in her relationship that manifested themselves in this behavior. I agree that if she won’t communicate with you and work toward a solution, a professional counselor or a legal separation would be the next step.

This type of spending has always struck me as a passive/aggressive response to a wrong she perceives being done to her. Just my armchair shrink assessment, mind you. This is how she pushes your buttons. Regardless of who did what, you need to protect yourself financially. Talk to a lawyer if you need to, but get it straight before she ruins both/all your lives. Good luck.

I remember an old thread of yours about your wife, black455. Assuming she’s with the same therapist, is the spending an issue she’s working on with the therapist? It might be worthwhile for you to have a conversation with her therapist to point out that this issue is affecting your life together and needs addressing. My hunch is that your wife either is not addressing this with her therapist or is lying to her therapist about the extent of the problem.

You win the fabulous prize!

Really, a lot of things have been getting a lot better since that thread - some of them much better. I’ve been working on it with my own shrink - which how I got the nuts to even bring up her spending in the first place.

I suppose I know I’m going to have to bring it up, and I’m just bracing for the inevitable borderline and/or PTSD thermonuclear clusterfuck.

Still, I honestly do feel bad about violating her privacy - it’s being aware of my history of feeling bad for stuff that’s not my fault that’s throwing me for a loop.

That’s the bottom line. If your partner will not communicate with you and has a destructive problem they refuse to address, you have two choices: you can either live with it, or leave them.

The spending is not the problem. The problem is that she’s hiding things from you and blaming you for her issues while simultaneously refusing to talk about them. This is a Bad Sign, a big, flashing neon warning sign with bells and sirens. Communication and trust are most crucial parts of any relationship and if you don’t have that, you’re always going to have problems.

I don’t have any problem with you reading her e-mail, but then again, my husband and I have no secrets from one another, so there’s no “violation” if I read his e-mails or look in his pockets. How much of an expectation of privacy should there be in a marriage? I would be concerned if my husband was being secretive about anything, let alone something that could damage our financial standing for years to come.

I can’t advise you what to do because I don’t know your relationship, but I will say that your wife isn’t willing to work on fundamental flaws in your relationship, you’re always going to have problems.

I’d say your marriage needs a “no financial secrets” policy. See what your therapists have to say about that.

Some couples maintain only one family email address. For some couples this would be an abomination, but in your case it might be a good idea. Something like TheBlack455s at email dot com

I would have absolutely no patience with her behavior and would have kicked her to the curb long ago. Lucky for her, you seem to have a lot more patience.

From a practical viewpoint, you need to take steps to isolate yourself financially, including doing whatever it takes to let lenders know you will not be liable for her debts. IANAL, so consult with one.

I’m not sure that it’s liable for him to separate himself from her debt so long as they’re married.

Eek. So sorry. Post lunch TIA’s. Please insert the word “possible” in place of viable.

I’m extremely embarrassed to say that for years, I could have been the guilty spouse in this situation. I ran up two high-limit credit cards all the way up, and then couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. I was the one paying all the bills, and usually managed to keep things afloat, even if we were never getting ahead.

Last summer my husband and I separated for a few months, due to several problems. During that time, he finally saw the extent of the financial quagmire I’d gotten us into. So when I moved back home, he decreed (and I humbly assented) that he would be responsible for paying the bills. I have been working a temp job since last October; initially I was then paying the cell phone bill, the car payment, and some other things from my check. About a month ago, we talked about it some more, and we agreed that I’d give him my check and he’ll give me a weekly allowance. That’s worked out very well.

He’s made a plan that will get us entirely out of debt (except for our house and car) within 8 months. I’m wholly supportive of it, and he’s being far kinder to me than I deserve.

I know that there are a lot of people who would disagree with the way we’ve chosen to deal with it. For years I kept insisting that I needed to learn how to handle money, and that was my argument for keeping the finances in my hands. I don’t know what my problem is, but I’m doing much better at handling my money now with a generous but specific allowance than I was before, so it works for us.

You have my utmost sympathy. My reactions to my husband were largely out of fear–I’m not used to people being firm yet kind with me. As I said, he’s been far kinder to me than I feel I deserve.

What’s not to approve of? It works for you guys and keeps you out of debt; that’s all that matters. Your husband isn’t doing this to keep you under his thumb, he’s doing it to save your house and everything you two have worked for! Good for him. And good for you for recognizing that’s what you need.


And would feel the same. Both pissed and feeling like an asshole…

A situtation like yours never happened to me. I can’t tell for sure what I would do. But anyway, now, you know, and you can’t pretend not to. Nor would it be a good idea, given the situation.

I assume you’re only left with one option. Admit to your spying and confront her about her spending. After all, it’s not like you’re the only one at fault, here.
I wouldn’t want to be in your situation…

And what if she doesn’t, has no money left, etc…? The OP doesn’t buy food, doesn’t pay the rent, etc?
Though apparently, she’s only going to sign up for a new credit card to cover her share of the expenses.