I have been married for nine years. We have four small children. About a month ago, my husband’s debts began to come to light: rent payments, payments on a small loan that he has, and a mortgage payment. I was notified of these debts in my home. In spite of this, when I talked to him and said that we should find a way to pay (without confronting or judging him), he denied everything…. and now avoids me. I haven’t had anyone to consult with except his parents, who advised him not to hide anything. But he continues to deny it all…. What should I do about him?

Dear Friend,

We can understand why you feel desperate to do something. In most countries, married couples are equally responsible for all their debt. So you are probably personally and legally indebted to the creditors, equally with your husband, even though you may have had little or no choice about him borrowing the money.

If the mortgage that you mention is for the house that you live in, then you know that failing to pay will eventually cause you to lose the house and be forced to move out. To make matters worse, so much unpaid debt gives both of you a low credit rating. Credit ratings are being used more and more by landlords, banks, and businesses to investigate future tenants or clients. A low rating could even keep you from qualifying for an apartment rental. The six of you might be forced to move in with family or friends.

It sounds like your husband must have been paying the bills normally for a number of years because you were able to buy a house and make the payments. Therefore, something must have changed to cause him to be unable to pay them at this time. Has he secretly lost his job and is too ashamed to tell you? Has he gotten involved with people who are extorting money from him? Does he have a second family that he is also supporting? None of these options are good ones, but all of them would be good reasons for you to continue insisting that he tell you the truth.

It was very wise of you to have gotten his parents involved instead of anyone else. Appeal to them again to help you. Try to get information on all the debt, and call the creditors to get the exact details. Then stage an intervention, together with his parents. This matter is not likely to just go away.

There are no easy answers in your situation. Couples that are about to be married should know all the details of the other person’s financial life, and they should be comfortable with the way their partner spends and saves money. Once they are married, they should both pay the bills together and agree on all financial decisions. That is the only way to avoid a difficult dilemma like the one you are facing.

We wish you the best,