Horror Story

I heard a bit of a horror story today that made me think how much the world really has changed over the last 50 or so years. (And yes, I realize how old that sentence makes me sound. It starts with a¬†friend of a friend (who I’ve met a few times) recently received a letter from her husband’s mistress. (Click to tweet!)

This mistress apparently didn’t know she was a mistress and was pretty upset when she found out her boyfriend was married. She was so upset, in fact, that she decided to write his wife a letter detailing their affair so the wife, too, would also know what a cheating jerk her husband was. The details were all in the letter – dates, times, locations, along with weird details of the husband’s bedroom habits that acquaintances wouldn’t know.

It would seem that’s a horror story enough, but the bigger horror for me was that the wife, although able to check dates on the calendar, did not have any access to the couple’s joint financial accounts to look for charges that would confirm or deny the mistress’ accusations. My heart broke as I found out that she, even despite being the higher earner of the pair, didn’t know their online banking passwords or have authorizations to call in an inquiry on any of the accounts. (Click to tweet this!)

I’d like to be able to say that this served as a wake-up call and that she talked with her husband, got access to the accounts, and they were able to work things out as a team, but that’s not how the story is going. So far, she’s just accepted all of his excuses and hasn’t made any moves to be included in the finances. The financial issues here are obviously just symptoms of the bigger problem – the husband seems controlling, manipulative, and the wife seems pretty satisfied with just accepting her situation (so much for female empowerment here). And until she decides to address those root causes, she’ll never have control over her financial situation, or apparently whose bed her husband sleeps in at night.

The extent to which this wife is “hands-off” on their finances used to be much more common. Heck, Mr. PoP’s grandma used to leave a 3×5″ card with just “$” written on it attached to the refrigerator if she needed money. The next morning, instead of the card, there would be cash under the magnet. Grandma PoP had no idea how much her husband was socking away until he died and she was told she had ample savings for the rest of her life and then some. Her kids took over the finances that day and she never worried about money for the rest of her life. All in all, not being involved in the finances served her pretty well.

But is that Mayberry ideal really relevant for today’s young couples? Divorce is a heck of a lot more common than it was in the 50’s, and ceding that much control in such an important area of the relationship seems like a really dangerous precedent to set.

Mr. PoP and I have talked about why we combined our finances into one big pile – and more than ever I am so glad that we did. After hearing stories like these, even the popular his/hers/ours accounts that are so popular these days seem like they have an inherent amount of distrust in them. I like knowing that Mr. PoP and I can see all the purchases that the other makes in virtually real time through Mint. I think this kind of openness really makes our union stronger and encourages us to talk about everything – from the little stuff like buying a new pair of jeans when out shopping with friends to the big stuff like what we’re saving for and how we envision our retirement. (How do we envision our retirement? Most importantly – together!)

Anyhow, I sincerely hope that you do not have a horror story like the one I heard today. But what kind of advice can we give to friends who may have ceded too much financial control in their marriage/partnership?


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