An Update To A Horror Story


If you get scared, hide under the bed with Kitty PoP!

About a year ago (before most of our beloved readers even knew about our little blog), I wrote a scarily true post about a friend of a friend, who we’ll call W. You can go here to read the original post, but here’s the gist.

W is a nice woman and the wife to a guy we’ll call CB. They both have jobs and together are well above the median income for the area, though W’s job is more “career track” than CB’s and she’s the higher income earner FWIW. W and CB have joint accounts, but W doesn’t actually have any access to said joint accounts. They operate under a very old-school arrangement where W has to ask CB for cash anytime that W wants money. (This includes everything from groceries, and toilet paper to haircuts or other luxuries for herself.)

One day, W gets a Facebook email from a well-intentioned woman named M, who says she has been dating CB for about a year now. M just found out that she was a mistress – not a girlfriend – and wanted to inform W what a cheating bastard CB was. (See how clever I am with the abbreviations?)

W’s in a state of shock, but has enough sense about her to call our friend in common for support and together they go through M’s letter which includes:

  • specific dates, times, and locations where M & CB have gone out during their courtship
  • unusual intimate rituals that CB does in the bedroom
  • the revelation that M has broken up with CB, and she recommends that W do the same. “Once a CB, always a CB.”

Does this sound like a soap opera yet? It’s awfully all true.


What Does W Do?

W is able to compare the dates of CB & M’s courtship with the dates when she was working nights over the last year and gets a confirmation that the dates M mentioned were all ones where she worked a night shift. But she has no way to check their joint financial records to confirm restaurant and gift bills. She doesn’t have any passwords and is locked out of their financial lives.

When confronted with the letter from M, what’s CB’s response? “She must be a stalker, following me on nights out with the guys.” And W accepts the response. Nothing changes in terms of W’s access to their combined financial lives.

But W is still dissatisfied. She’s not nuts about all these nights out with the guys since CB often comes home from them drunk and mean, so this only increases her resolve to have a baby with CB. Because, surely, once there’s a baby in the picture CB will calm down the drinking and the partying and man up to be a proper family man (Mr. PoP edit-this is flawless logic. Flawless).


Fast Forward A Year

W delivers a beautiful baby and comes home from the hospital. Where is CB? Out drinking with friends. Eight weeks in, he’s never held his baby for more than a minute. Has never fed the child. Has never changed a diaper. And W needs to go back to work, but is basically struggling like a single mom to do so. Only it’s worse than being a single mom, because if she were single, she would have access to her money and not have to ask for cash to buy diapers or formula.

When my friend gave me the update to W’s story, my heart broke. It broke for W and it broke for my friend, too. W is one of her good friends from many years ago, and though they live a few hours apart now, they have retained their bond of friendship though they schedule their visits when CB isn’t around.

My friend has made it clear that she doesn’t think CB is good enough for W, but what else can she do? W has a support network. She has great parents nearby. She has my friend a couple hours away that she could escape to and start fresh. But she chooses not to, and my friend is at the end of her rope.

“It’s so hard to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves! And now there’s a child involved! W’s an intelligent woman with a good career – she doesn’t need to put up with this kind of treatment – no one does!”

So if you were me, sitting across from my friend and listening to all of this over dinner, what would you tell her? What can she do to help empower W both financially and emotionally? How do you tell a friend that (s)he has hitched a wagon to the wrong horse?

59 comments to An Update To A Horror Story

  • I really don’t think you can. It’s a decision she has to reach for herself, and if she hasn’t made it yet, well, maybe she will later on down the track. Hopefully.
    eemusings recently posted..What a waste: reflections on rubbish and recycling in AsiaMy Profile

  • You can’t do a thing. I was maid of honour in a wedding and the husband now openly takes his girlfriend to the mall and restaurants but wife does not want the stigma of being twice divorced. Instead she has lost all her friends because they think she must be crazy and is regularly humiliated when people who don’t know what is going on ask her who the woman is that was at MacDonald’s, Tim Horton’s or the grocery store with her husband.
    Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle recently posted..Safe Places To Stash Cash That Will Make A Few Dollars But Won’t Jeopordize Your PrincipalMy Profile

  • Yikes! That is terrible. I’ve had friends stick around in awful relationships….there’s nothing you can do but watch! It’s a terrible feeling.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Why I Decided to Make a Career ChangeMy Profile

  • Wow, really terrible stuff. To be honest, I’m not really sure there’s much you can do. W’s going to make her own decisions here, right or wrong. You can’t keep beating a dead horse, so I think the best you can do is support any impulses she has to leave and not empathize with any complaints she has that tie back to being with the wrong guy. She’s put herself in a terrible position and it’s only her own resolve that’s going to get her out.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Help! I Need to Buy a Car.My Profile

    • That’s pretty much what my friend has been doing so far – anytime W gives any indication that she’s going to leave my friend supports it 100%. But then she has to shut her mouth when W goes back to him.

  • Ivy

    Agree that you can’t change somebody, they have to come around on their own steam, and you can only show support. If W doesn’t make any move to get out, the situation may be more tolerable for her than it sounds to us (and it does sound terrible to me as well, but people are very different).

    What I find hard to believe is that W doesn’t have a credit or debit card from their accounts – how can she have a “career track” job and rely on cash only? Maybe I misread that part, but if she has a card, she can use it to buy what is needed, and not worry about the bills since CB is paying those presumably. This doesn’t resolve the big picture issue in any way, just something that I found weird in the situation.

    • She’s apparently made some rumblings about leaving, but I don’t think she’s ever actually packed a bag. CB is apparently quite the talker.

      By “career track” I meant she’s the one with benefits, pension plan, etc. But her paychecks are apparently all direct deposited into an account that she doesn’t have a card to. Which is weird. But as other commenters are pointing out, she probably consented to at some point.

      • Ok, so if the “big” job is hers, she can edit the direct deposit information without notifying her husband. **If she wanted to** she could open her own bank account and have a very small amount of her check direct-deposited into her own bank account (most companies – not all – allow checks to be deposited into more than one account). If she were to get a raise, or a bonus or almost any change to her direct deposit amount, she could hijack a little bit more of it until she had some money too, and without raising suspicions.

        There is a book called “How to Hide Money From Your Husband,” that has excellent suggestions for exactly how to do this type of thing. It’s not just for women who are abused. It’s also an explanation of why **every** woman should have her own money, whether or not her husband knew about it. I read it openly in front of my husband, and tell him it’s just in case he gets any silly ideas :-) (but we don’t have this problem).

        The key to all this, though, is that W **must** decide for herself that this is something she wants to do. People will almost always take “easy,” so, it’s great if she has her friend to support her, but the decision must be W’s.
        Georgene Harkness recently posted..Windows Azure, Amazon in the courtroom (again), Amazon Publishing, and more…My Profile

  • OMG, CB is an asshole of EPIC proportion. On the other hand, W shouldn’t have relied on a baby to change anything. Instead, she should have insisted on change before the baby.

    When I hear stuff like this, I always think about that story of the snake and the little girl. “You knew what I was…
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..Ask the Readers: Garage Sale or Thrift Store?My Profile

  • I have a couple of friends who were in horrible relationships. They eventually all left, but they need to learn themselves. Usually they don’t listen to other’s opinions.
    Michelle recently posted..Life Updates and $3,287 in Extra IncomeMy Profile

  • This is just so sad on so many levels. I hope your friend finds happiness again. Although, I am on the side that you should always know whats in your accounts and to keep an active role in your finances. Stories like this prove it even more.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..My Side Hustle: Teaching People to Make Better DecisionsMy Profile

    • If nothing else, if this is a wake-up call to anyone who hasn’t looked at a joint account balance in a while, I’ll consider it a win.

  • That’s some real talk on a Monday morning. I have no advice…just going to go hug my wife now.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Happiness and Many Small PleasuresMy Profile

  • Sigh this sounds terrible, but it doesn’t surprise me. I have seen this tragic behavior happen around me too many times. You really can’t help a person with that kind of behavior. No matter how much you talk to them, no matter how sad they are; they just don’t understand
    Savvy Financial Latina recently posted..The Happiness AdvantageMy Profile

  • Nate R

    What I’d tell her? That she needs to open her own bank account, then change the direct deposit at work to that account. Sounds like she needs to start getting real answers, and a look into the family finances.

  • There’s nothing Friend can do. W has to figure out on her own that she’s being abused and that she can and must escape. And believe it: this guy is abusive; sooner or later he will harm her in more ways than he is already using.

    Friends who try to intervene in situations like this usually end up as ex-friends.

    If you want to be available to help her when (or if) she finally comes to, it would be good to learn who is the best divorce litigator in the city, who is the best divorce P.I. (because you can sure CB has money hidden in more than one institution, possibly in other states), and where there are shelters that will accept her and her child on short notice (good luck with that!). Have this information available so you can give it to her at the drop of a hat when she asks for it.

    By the way, if they have joint accounts, then W must be a signer on each of those accounts. She doesn’t need a password. All she needs is to bring identification to the nearest branch of the institution, explain who she is and what is going on, and they will give her statements. They may also give her access to the electronic records, although that would probably entail changing the passwords, which of course would elicit some serious meanness from CB. Or she can ask for a debit card or a book of checks, either of which would give her free access to the joint funds.

    If they have retirement investments in Fidelity, chances are the password is either his or her Social Security number.

    Hmh. Given the ease with which she should be able to access their joint accounts, this story doesn’t add up. There’s no way he can keep that money from her. Either their community money is not in joint accounts but instead is being deposited in bank accounts set up in his name only, or W. is one dumb bunny. Or both.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Summer is the most expensive month…My Profile

    • CincyCat

      I was about to say the same thing about the joint account. She should be able to go to a branch & show ID and be able to get access to the money.

      On the other hand, does she even WANT to? We do not know, and I guess that neither does Mr. or Mrs. POP. They are hearing this via a 3rd party.

      In this case, W seems to be of the school of thought that the “man” of the family makes all money-related decisions, regardless of how much money the little wife makes. She may even believe that divorce is morally wrong, regardless if her husband is an alcoholic philanderer. (This could be why she seemed to readily accept CB’s explanation.)

      There is very little that anyone can do to convince her to change her mind, if this is the case. Even if he does become physically abusive, she will probably feel compelled to stay in the relationship “for the sake of the child”. :(

    • Good to know with the joint accounts. I’m not sure on the exact details, but they were described as combined, but that she doesn’t know the passwords. Her paychecks get direct deposited into them.

      Glad that should she decide she really wants to she should have access to them, albeit in person. She’s a very image conscious person, and I think would be reticent to going into the bank and having to admit she is being denied access, but hopefully if she is ready to leave him she can take that step.

      So far, I’ve never heard of CB being physically abusive, which is good. But the emotional and verbal abuse can cut deep as well.

      • It also matters a lot which state they are in. There are several community-property states where by law, she can’t be excluded from money earned by either of them after the date of the wedding. (Of course, she has to assert her ownership, and therein lies the problem.)

        The best that can be done at this point is to hope that she wakes up and decides she wants to actually have a life. Until then, you guys can’t do a thing (except to let her know that she has support if and when she wants to change things.)
        Georgene Harkness recently posted..Windows Azure, Amazon in the courtroom (again), Amazon Publishing, and more…My Profile

  • I have to agree with the rest that there’s really nothing you can do. I was in a similar situation (though minus the joint account snafu and baby, thank God!), and even though everyone around me was telling me the right thing to do because it’s completely logical from the outside looking in, it can be (sadly) tough to figure out when you’re on the inside, you know? It’s tough especially when it sounds like she’s a really good person, but she’s got to learn this lesson on her own. I hope she figures it out sooner than later.
    anna recently posted..Link Love, Ladies’ Night EditionMy Profile

  • Anne

    Um, UGH.

    I agree there isn’t anything your or Friend can do, beyond supporting her if she wants to make a change. Also I agree with Funny about Money that she should be able to access a joint account by going in person regardless of if she has a card or not, and if she brings up the subject to either of you I don’t think it would hurt to mention that you think she could get statements to confirm M’s story. But like others have said, she has to come to the decision herself, all you can do is support it and not defend CB in the meantime if she tries to justify his actions.

    My uncle’s wife’s sister is currently getting out of a similar situation where her husband had full control of everything, she was a SAHM and had to ask for cash for groceries and the like for herself and their two children. She was finally able to get leave this year when they sold their home and the bank gave her the check while he was out of town on business (the house was the only thing they owned jointly since mortgage companies don’t like to put it in just one name if you’re married) and has retained a lawyer. Horrible stuff, I can’t imagine being a prisoner in your own home for years like that.

  • This is such a sad story, it’s even sadder now because there is a baby in the picture. One day, W (and only W can do this for herself) will come to her senses and leave the CB.
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted..Dining Out Temptations in a New CityMy Profile

  • Wow, what a crazy and sad story. I’m not sure what the best way to go about it would be, but W needs to get away from CB before he hurts the child (or gives the child any of his bad habits). Before she does that, I would suggest trying to track down all of their accounts so that she knows how much assets they have. He may try to hide them through divorce if he thinks she doesn’t know about them. What a terrible situation, there is no right answer here unfortunately.
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted..How Much Are Rising Mortgage Interest Rates Costing You?My Profile

  • I think she should tell her to go out to the bar on nights that he works late and find a boyfriend. Maybe then he’ll want to have another baby and everything will go swimmingly.

    Too cynical?
    AverageJoe recently posted..Budgets and Beer – Stacking Benjamins Podcast Episode 7My Profile

  • She had a baby to make him stay, unfortunately I don’t think there is much you can do. The guy obviously is abusive and lying until she will believe him. And she won’t live because of low self esteem and/or financial situation/ being a jones and not wanting to ruin her perfect marriage image. Only she can decide to have a hard time for a while and get better, or keep as is and be miserable forever.
    Pauline recently posted..Little house in Guatemala, week 31-32My Profile

  • Tell them the truth…at least thats what I do and have done with my friends. In her cases I would assume that she puts her checks directly into the account have it changed. I only say this because I let something pass and my friend died and I never told them how I truly felt. The person they killed them was the said person I never said anything about. I guess everyone is different. It would be hard just sitting there hearing what someone is going through and not saying anything.
    Your Daily Finance recently posted..What Does It Mean To Pay Yourself FirstMy Profile

  • trudy

    Nothing you can do until she realizes she has to leave, except I would follow the advice about finding a good lawyer. He or she can discuss what to do financially, like certainly if the accounts are joint, she should when she decides to leave, trot right down to as many as she can find and transfer the funds to accounts in her name first. He probably does have accounts hidden, but having some money in her name is a security blanket while the lawyers/court sorts things out. I would also get a place to stay then that he does not know about, for her safety.

    • Thankfully so far it hasn’t come to violence, but she does have family nearby that she can stay with. She actually has a big support network as she’s not far from where she grew up… but that’s part of why she seems to feel such a need to save face and stay with him, too.

  • As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it.

    This is a terrible situation and I absolutely HATE CBs!! Ultimately, W needs to leave! Her AND her child deserve better.
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted..Step Outside.My Profile

  • How sad! I was always taught that I should be able to support myself and not be dependent on a man.

    I would tell your friend that she should talk to her friend from the view point of “what is best for the child”…..he could blow through all the money, he could get violent. Just a thought.
    Blair@LifeDollarsandSense recently posted..Repeat Meals, A Way to Save At the OfficeMy Profile

  • She sounds exactly like my old employee who eventually got fired for taking my credit card for a shopping trip. She was a good girl until she hooked up with a dirtbag who cheated, took her money, beat her, and basically was a thug. I told her many times to start an account in her name only and even gave her bonuses in cash so he wouldn’t know about them. When she got fired, she was pregnant with kid #2. If one kid doesn’t work, why have another, but I think it happens all to often:(
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Avoiding the Impluse Buy: How to Buy New Stuff After Getting Out of DebtMy Profile

  • slccom

    W can certainly change the direct deposit of her paycheck to another financial institution that he doesn’t have access to.

  • My wife had a friend come around because she found out her husband was cheating. It turned into a nightmare for us and we couldn’t get rid of her. She ended up going nutty and we think she is in jail now after the amount of drugs she consumed, sex partners and decision to lose so much weight because it had to be that’s why he left. What my point is that you can say whatever you think but it will go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes people have to learn from their mistakes. It sounds harsh but listening is probably the best thing you could do.
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Pet Budget: Homemade peanut butter dog treatsMy Profile

  • This makea me sad. Sad for your friend and sad for the baby. She needs to get the eff out of that relationship. Grow a pair, open her own big girk bank account and have her pay deposited in it without telling her douche bag of a boyfriend. Also id they’re joint accts why cant she access the money? Maybe it’s diff in the us but joint accts here give both parties signing power over the accts. She needs ti sever ties with him asap. Even though he fathered a child, sometimes an absent parent is better than one who doesn’t want ti be there.
    Catherine recently posted..How Our Vacation Planning Has Changed With a BabyMy Profile

  • It’s one of those situations that most of us couldn’t imagine allowing to continue. But I think it helps to remember that change is difficult and scary. Many people will stay in a situation that makes them unhappy rather than taking a risk and changing. So many people stay in unhappy marriages, jobs, or living arrangements. How many of us stayed in debt longer than we should have because we were afraid of change?

    It’s a sad situation, and one that will likely only continue to get worse. But you can’t force someone to change. They have to be ready to make a change. As a friend, the best you can do is to be there for her and support her. Build her up and show her that she is a strong, capable woman. The more empowered she feels, the less scary the idea of changing will be. But it still has to be her choice.
    Ms.W @ GrowingHerWorth recently posted..Saving My PenniesMy Profile

  • On the community property issue: Arizona is a community property state. However, that does not mean banks will give you access to a spouse’s account if the account is in that person’s name only. Banks are not allowed to do so.

    My ex- had two checking accounts of his own in the same bank that held our joint checking account. He was having the statements sent to his office. The bank would not let me see statements for those accounts. They would not even tell me how much was in those accounts. My lawyer had to get a subpoena to get access to the information.

    However, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The next time she complains about her marriage, Friend could suggest the following, being careful not to come anywhere close to suggesting she should leave the SOB:

    a) Get herself a credit card in her name only. Have the statements sent to her office. Keep the credit card at her office, not in her purse.

    b) Beg, borrow, or steal about $200 and use it to open a new checking or savings account in a credit union that will not engross it a nibble ate a time with fees. Be sure the institution is different from the one that holds these “combined” accounts (“combined” pretty clearly means that she’s direct-depositing her money into an account in his name only). Get a debit card or a box of checks for this. Likewise, keep the debit card and checkbook at the office. Be sure CB never sees these items.

    c) If he’s giving her cash for groceries, she should be able to save about $50 a month with careful budgeting and meal planning. Put every penny that she can save from the pittance he gives her into the new checking account.

    This will at least provide her with some cash of her own to buy things she needs or wants without having to beg for it. And if she’s not as idiotic with her money as she is with her love life, it will accrue enough over the course of a year or two to give her a little cushion to rent an apartment or provide some travel money should she ever wake up and get herself out of a very bad and potentially dangerous situation.

    If she says, “Oh, but that’s dishonest and sneaking around,” Friend should point out that he’s being dishonest and sneaking around on her…turnabout is fair play.

    This guy is going to harm her. He’s harming her right now, and he’s probably stealing money from their “combined” account to buy things for himself and the girlfriend or hiding it where it can’t be found if and when they divorce. Why else would he keep her from seeing the statements?

    Psychological abuse is as devastating as physical abuse. If she brings it up again — I would not bring it up myself, because she will NOT listen unless she asks you to discuss it — you might point out to her that that a man who abuses a woman will also abuse his children. Even if refrains from this behavior with the kid(s), they will see what he’s doing to her, and as soon as they’re old enough to sense it (which will be a lot sooner than you can imagine!), they will be affected by it. One way or another, it’s going to cause psychological harm to her growing children.

    Give her that advice, and also advise her to go to a marriage counselor. A psychologist or psychiatrist can label it therapy for “depression,” which may allow her to charge the cost to her insurance company so she can hide any such discussions from the creep, at least for awhile. A marriage counselor will tell her the same thing you would tell her, so she’ll get the same advice without endangering your friendship.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Various Cool StuffMy Profile

  • SS62

    WOW! Wow wow wow. Very sad. And the fact that she CHOSE to bring a child into the world with THIS CB as the father – UGH! What can you say. She’s lost part of reality. She’s living in a fantasy it seems. Does any of her family know what’s going on – about the mistress her husband has? Maybe they can get through to her. Now that there’s a child in the picture, she needs to put the well being of that child first. What she should do is open a completely NEW bank account and have her paycheck directly deposited there from now on. She can then take chunks out for shared finances, but be able to keep the extra money for herself and her child. Oh dear – keep us posted. Hoping someone can get through to her. For the sake of the child.

  • Wow, pure craziness. This is so easy to read and yell at the computer screen what to do, but for W to actually muster up the will to leave is a monumental task. Best of luck to her.

    Mrs. Bonner went through a similar situation, but the dude wasn’t a cheater, just uber secretive over all finances because his mom drained his parent’s nest egg with her shopping habbit. Mrs. Bonner was upfront with her friend after they got engaged that she didn’t think he was the best guy for her, but once Mrs. Bonner’s friend made the decision to go through with the wedding she’s never said anything again. It’s been a roller coaster. She wanted kids and thought the first one would bring them closer. Those sleepless nights with a little one only exacerbated their problems. Soon enough she felt trapped since she was getting older and wanted a larger family, so rather than starting over she decided to have another kid. She’s said that she made her bed now she’s got to lay in it, so she knows she’s in a shitty situation, but she’s going to stick it out. All we feel we can do is be supportive.
    Mr. Bonner recently posted..Craigslist: The land of unrealized dreamsMy Profile

  • Wow, I’ve been in a similar situation (abusive relationship, without kids, thankfully), and have watched a friend in a similar situation as W’s, as well as a cousin go through a similar situation. I would encourage your friend and W’s family to continue to plead with her. She’s likely there at this point b/c she’s either suffering from terribly low self esteem and doesn’t think she can make it on her own, or is terribly embarrassed. I would also have no guilt about bringing up that she is setting a terrible example for her kid and that her kid, if she stays there, will likely either be like his dad if he’s a boy, or like her mom if she’s a girl, and for the love of her child she needs to dump that relationship NOW. At the very least she needs to change her paycheck to go into a solo checking account. That she can do. FYI, my friend who had the exact situation (only with two kids) had a very rough time of it for the first couple of years b/c CB made the divorce proceedings a living hell, but she is SO much better, healthier, happier now. She realizes that it was good riddance.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..How and Why You Should Get Out of Debt – Part 1, First Things FirstMy Profile

  • Andrew

    I would just be patient, and affirm with confidence that you are doing *The right thing* in not endosring and entirely opposing the commitment W has made to this guy.

    The easy thing is to just not understand your friend, and think she’s crazy, the hard thing is to just know she is going through shock, having to confront a reality that is entirely insane, and waiting for her patiently to be there for her, without being negative towards her in the interim.

    You are doing the right thing.

    God bless,

  • christie

    I realize that I’m commenting to an old post …. I doubt he is just keeping her away from the money …. I bet there is a lot of debt she doesn’t know about.
    ~ C
    All your friend can do is pay a retainer fee to a good divorce lawyer. Then when she is ready, her friend can go.

  • […] comforting to hear every once in a while. I don’t ever want to be like the husband in this financially abusive relationship we updated readers on this […]