Thursday, August 28, 2008

"How was your summer?"

So I am heading back to school and facing that question. I'm having a difficult time answering it.

I need to remind myself that when people ask they don't really want details. They're just being polite. It is not really more than a greeting. So I am reminding myself that I should just say, "Fine, how was yours?"

Of course, "fine" is a big fat lie. We sold the property in Maine. I learned that my husband ran up debt behind my back which is producing continual ripples of tension in our relationship. My mother was diagnosed with early Parkinsons. We are waiting for her to a couple of biopsies, although the doctors don't seem worried, and I wasn't able to visit her like I said I would (see debt issues above).

The thing is that I can't really tell people the whole truth without getting upset, and these are my colleagues. There are couple of them with whom I can be truly miserable, but mostly we keep our relationship on another level.

I did tell a couple of people that it was not great and then just followed up with the information that we sold the property in Maine and went for the last time. Most people know how attached we are to it and accept that as sufficient reason for my report of a "not great" summer.

I do a medium job of healthy compartmentalization, by which I mean leaving home issues at home and work issues at work. Sometimes it is an effort for me. It is more difficult though when someone in one world asks about the other world. I'll manage.

The thing with Roland continues to be complicated. He is helping by drastically changing his spending habits (he really has), and letting me take over the finances. A continuing issue is my need for him to do particular things or find particular pieces of information. There is a monthly subscription he needs to cancel. I need for him to find out how much we pay every year on taxes for the cars. Stuff like that. He is genuinely and truly busy with the start of his new job. I've politely asked every day. My plan now is to give him a list of things I need from him and ask him to commit to a time in the very near future when he will do them. Like Saturday.

But there is this quiet irritation between us. We got our "allowances" which we are calling "discretionary" or "petty" cash. Now there is some tension about what we are supposed to be spending it one. Roland asked me the other day what category to put something he was going to buy for his classroom and I said, "Didn't we agree that work expenses like that were part of discretionary cash?" Just a minute ago he called and said, "Well, it turns out I was wrong about what time Brian's school's open house is. We have an hour, do you mind if I buy us some dinner?"

And I responded, "Of course not. You can spend your discretionary cash any way you want to."

I said that without even thinking about it, given his emphatic nodding when I gave buying Brian and Gary lunch in The City when one had an appointment at 11:00am and the other at 2:30pm as a time when I might have used discretionary cash. I mean, there weren't a lot of options then, and it wasn't because I didn't read a notice right and end up in somewhere an hour early.

See what I mean? Tension. Little things. Fairly constant.

I keep thinking that things will get better after we have our next visit with the financial planner, of course we can't schedule that until after I finish filling out the paperwork, which I can't do until he finds the frickin information I asked for!

So how was my summer? Kinda crappy, yours?


  1. Oh man...I must have missed some key entries while I was stuck in house-cleaning-renovating hell...didn't realize how the debt came about...

    I don't usually talk about this but my husband and I had a similar situation (reversed though) but much earlier in our marriage...I gave up control, contritely adhered to the new rules to get us from under the red line, did everything but I was also slightly resentful and things were tense (he felt like he couldn't trust my financial decisions which he couldn't but I resented that he couldn't although I put us there plus I hated all the restrictions despite knowing they were necessary...does that make sense?Ugh) - anyway...I've sinced recovered...we got from under the yolk of the debt...and the purpose of all this is just to say hang in there...this transition period is hard.

  2. Our summer was crummy, too.

    Here's my list:

    1) Our nasty social worker continued to terrorize us.
    2) We got married, and my sister and stepmother went on a queer-phobia binge.
    3) Our summer vacation was canceled as a result.
    4) Our closest friends moved across country.
    5) We've had to appear several times in court and are no closer to finalizing our adoption.

    It definitely has been the summer of suckitude.

  3. Wow I can so relate to the hubby and debt. I can't get mine to agree to either the allowance or the financial advisor. Or any other type of counseling which I think would help us as there are so many underlying issues and crap. UGH. Money is the root of all evil.

  4. Money issues in marriage are just hard. Sorry you are having to deal with them.

  5. Just trying to throw out an idea. Would he respond better if you turned the question back to him? In this case, what if you said, instead of no, "Would it be okay if I spent $10 on lunch for boys tomorrow?" or whatever would be equivalent of his question but on your shoulders.

    Of course, if he agrees that's okay, then you have to go farther. But it might be easier for him to see that it's not appropriate for you to do something than to see it's wrong for him to do it. Then, I hope, he'd recognize that he's asking the same question so should get the same answer. Or relatedly, rather than saying no, or even "It's discretionary" which sounds like YOU are making the decision, either say or ask, "Recall that on Sunday, we decided together that's discretionary." Then it's not your decision to be mad at, it was a joint decision you guys made in the past.

    I've also been willing with my DH to revisit what we decided and change things up.

    Another idea--would he be receptive to the idea that EVERYTHING is discretionary unless discussed in advance? This would cover meals like this, impulse purchases at the grocery store, etc. If he comes home, discusses it with you and you BOTH agree it's household spending, then he returns to purchase it, it's okay. But if he buys it, or calls you, or emails you, or any other way of "discussing it" it's not allowed?

    DH & I essentially did this. Regular groceries and filling up the car weren't included, but everything else pretty much was. Now we're up to "If it's under $50 and you are sure it's a household expense you don't need approval." However, we almost always talk about every purchase that's non-everyday/week.

    Also, you should be able to find out what the car tags cost. Your DOT website should be able to tell you want all the fees are for your class of car, and the extras for special plates and such.

    GOOD LUCK! We're all pulling for you.

  6. Chiming in with the others. Also, had hubby debt issues. HUGE ones (how does a man who makes several hundered K a year get his car repoe'd?). It was an issue before we were married and I foolishly thought it did not matter, that I could protect myself from it. Hahaha, go ahead laugh, I do, NOW. After my personal checking account got levied for taxes he told me he took care of and my mortgage bounced, I was done, done, done.

    We fought for years about it. He would never let me take control and it only got worse. I could not trust him to give him control - I always needed a safe landing account without his access to it. This ended up saving us many times. I sold stock, cut into my 401k, etc. (bailed out his car).

    I hear you. I failed. We are divorced (for that and many other reasons). Best wishes to you and Roland.


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