Watch Your Finances: Not All Spouses Are Trustworthy

A couple decides to go into business together. The husband Sam* has all the training–he offers practice management seminars for dentists. The word around town is that he’s an excellent dentist–and a strong teacher. The wife Sally,* who previously worked at the front desk of his office, has money of her own and is ready to invest it.  She decides to help grow his company, and they franchise the business.  They agree, amenably, that because it’s her money, she’ll own 80%; he, with his skill and  work, will own 20%.

The husband makes a mistake I hope no reader of this blog ever makes: He never sees any documents. At the time of  the divorce, five years later, the wife claims entire business as hers–and has the paperwork to back her up.

Joe* has been in therapy for several months, and during that entire time he obsesses that his wife is having an affair. She is out late 2-3 nights a week, and has no reasonable explanation of where she’s been. Despite the nagging inner voice suggesting that Joe confront his wife, he is fearful of the consequences, and the situation continues to play out–until, faced with a financial mess, Joe realizes what Jane has been doing, night after night.

Jane’s* affair has been with the gambling boats, not with another man, as Joe had feared. But the financial consequences of this are much more dire. Jane has been using cash advances on the credit card to fund her entertainment. Since cash advances have a much higher interest rate than normal expenditures, and Jane’s luck hasn’t been quite so good, Joe has been, well, taken to the cleaner’s.

Lance* is a trader who has supported his family for several decades. Supported them nicely, in fact, until, on a fateful day, he makes a very large and disastrous trade that he can’t cover–and his trading career has come to a catastrophic conclusion. But here’s the truly devastating part–Lance doesn’t tell his wife. Instead he gets up early every morning,  leaves by 6:45, and doesn’t return until 3:30, disguising the fact that he has nothing to do and plenty of time to do it in. Lance is increasingly irritable whenever his wife spends money and starts nagging her about returning to work.

Are you getting some clues that might indicate something’s gone awry in family finances?


*There are no Sam, Sally, Joe, Jane, or Lance, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy. Rather these are teaching examples, composed of bits from real life combined with illustrative details added to make the stories more interesting and instructive.


I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

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