Expert Answers Your Questions on Financial Infidelity

Find out what our expert had to say.

Oct. 28, 2008 — -- Therapist and author Bonnie Eaker Weil, the author of "Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker," a book about how money can influence relationships, answered "Good Morning America's" viewer questions on the subject. Check out her tips and responses below.

Tips for All Couples in This Current Economy

1. Gaze into each other's eyes (for at least 20 seconds).

2. Kiss for 30 seconds minimum to stimulate the immune system and increase oxytocin (the cuddle hormone for bonding).

3. Cuddle in bed for 20 seconds when you wake up and go to sleep for a dopamine rush to feel better.

4. Use tender words, compliments (verbal aphrodisiacs) daily.

5. Hold hands.

6. Embrace.

7. Remember you can get through this if you don't shame or blame.

8. Give the men plenty of "time outs."

9. Safety through the money love language will foster love, bonding and financial fidelity! It will increase passion through conflict if you "fight fair" instead of shaming and blaming.

10. Men cannot ignore you, and must get back to you with 24 hours with answers.

Viewer Question

He can't pay it, he is taking money from his cards and paying his bills, but now he doesn't have money anymore, all his credit card limits decreased, some banks even closed his accounts. And I know that this situation is damaging my marriage, even my kids. I can't do anything, we don't have money, and I don't know what to do. Even for my kids I can't buy whatever they want, every time when we go to store, I have to tell them that I don't have money. Please, I am asking you your help, help me, give us some advice, I would say my husband needs more advice, he never listens to me.

Expert Answer

Your husband may have a gambling problem or he may be living above his means. Since he never listens to you, he is "taking you out" because he thinks it will "all work out somehow." He has been hedging his bets until the credit cards dried up.

You need to sit down in a calm, safe way. I advocate "Fighting Fair" with my money love language dialogue since language can be wounding and then men tune out and ignore you and if you yell they shut down and close up more so.

Make an appointment

1. Ask him to sit down, look him in the eye, put on that emotional bullet-proof vest so you don't judge him.

2. Tell him you love him, you're here to help, not shame him or blame him; and to come up with solutions.

3. Talk about creative ways to pay off credit cards (find jobs for either or both of you).

4. A debt agency that can help you lower the interest rates and maybe bargain with the creditors as well as helping you create a budget. A different voice usually works, not yours.

5. Have a talk with your husband about whether he feels hopeless that his income was not enough so he overspent.

6. Pull together out of love, not anger. There is help to solve this.

Please ask your husband to hang this on the refrigerator so he can avoid "bad money behaviors." This will prevent you "nagging him" and he being accountable and taking responsibility for his actions and stopping these "bad money behaviors" before they occur.

Viewer Question

I was intently listening to the couple you just had on discussing finances. My husband and I were having a "budget" conversation just yesterday. Like your couple, I fall into the majority of women who worry more than my husband as I am the saver and he is the spender. (Although he would disagree with you!)

My question is how do you budget when your income is primarily commission? My husband is a tennis instructor, and I work part time at the local hospital for benefits. His income varies from month to month.

Thank you for any help you can give. We will be celebrating our 25th anniversary next month and want to make it the distance. Finances seem to like to throw a "knockout punch" to that goal.

Expert Answer

Congratulations on your 25th Anniversary! You definitely are doing something right. See my tips for all couples to go another 25 years.

No need for a "knockout punch."

A sure way is to use the amount he makes -- meaning the low ball, not the high ball amount. If his high is $2,000, then use the low amount $1,000 as an example for your budget.

See Fighting Fair techniques and use the Mirror Mirror Exercise for your husband so he can get a handle on his spending. Remember we pick a person who gives us the most trouble. Switch roles, ask him to start using the attached exercises.

Best of luck to you!

Viewer Question

What about the kids' finances? Today, now more than ever, we want to make the right choices when it comes to our children's savings and planning for their future. Our eldest is a senior in high school and our youngest is a freshman. We encourage the senior to put some money in a savings account when he gets paid from his part time job. But is that enough?

Should he be investing already for the future and how/where? Our freshman receives an allowance (he's in ninth grade, so he gets $9/week) but how can we get him to save? We also like them to give about $1 of their own money when we attend church. What's the best way to teach our children to save now for their future, when college is looming, the stock market is treacherous and bank interest rates are practically non-existent?

It's important to us to teach them healthy saving, inventing patterns now, but we're not sure how to do that, when we ourselves are undecided about our own saving plans. Help! Thank you.

Expert Answer

Great idea. They have done studies on how children when older can be billionaires or millionaires by starting early (this is the key). Talk to a financial planner and whether you put the money in safe, low-risk funds or a riskier, but diversified savings plan depends upon your risk tolerance and what you want to accomplish. This is important to do early enough to teach your children to save and give to charity (church) as well. You are on the right track — I wish more people would do what you are doing.

Use a savings account that gives more in interest (check around) and discuss whether this is better rather than another place to invest with a financial planner. For long term – which is what you want for them down the road – mutual funds, if that's what the planner recommends, could be a good bet. Since you need money for college in three years, you need a safe place and you could lose all or most of it now and it might not recover by then, so check with a planner where is best to save for the college tuition. Let us know...

Viewer Question

How do you reason with a husband (54) who is totally consumed by how much or how little money he has saved or needs for bills? We are paying all of our bills on time or early and we are fairly comfortable, however, he has total control of all of the money that he makes and doesn't feel that he needs to share that or any of the expenses that we have other than our monthly bills. He likes to be in control, but I guess that is evident by the fact that HIS money is such an issue.

Expert Answer

Your husband has money fears, which means it is "never enough" no matter how much money, no matter that you pay bills on time.

Sit down with him and you and then his family and you and your partner (if they are amenable and will not be defensive or angry at you afterwards) and do a money gram (pages 140 and 141 from "Financial Infidelity"). This will help your husband see where his money beliefs and dialogues (which are fears that are not real) come from and he will be able to use humor instead of fear.

Also if you do the fair fighting together (money love language) he can see his fears are unfounded. You can incorporate the money gram verbally during your talks to ensure he is "conscious of his obsession" with money. Teach him to spend a little more so he can see nothing bad will happen.

And he must sit down with you weekly to see the bills and have you help pay the bills with him so he gives up some control. To be in control means to give up some control. Share in the budget, do one together and encourage him to have a "guilt free" small amount for himself and "splurge" so he can see "balance" and free himself of his obsession with money. Relationships first, money second!

Viewer Question

Can this marriage be saved? My husband of 37 years secretly borrowed more than $50,000 to start a business over the Internet! He is on Social Security and works as a produce clerk with no pension, etc.Now the debt is over $92,000 and I am overwhelmed, sad and despondent. He refuses to talk about this with me.

Expert Answer

Thank you for your letter: It is a common question I am asked. Most marriages can be saved if the couple uses skills and dialogue, as I said in the "Good Morning America" piece, most men would also be quiet and shut down like your husband. Your husband is fearful of conflict. Conflict (talks) if not fought "fair" give men like your husband physiological discomfort, so they avoid them, which is the worst thing a man can do, because although he is allergic to your "emotionality" you will get more emotional if he "stonewalls" (shuts down and is quiet).

Fighting Fair

1. Make an appointment, time limited (give him as many timeouts as he needs). Be understanding, tell him you love him and want to help.

2. Do not under any circumstances get reactive or angry so he feels safe.

3. Remember words are wounding if not used carefully.

4. Use my attachment "Money Love Language" which will make him feel safe and loved.

5. Put on an "emotional bullet proof vest" so you do not spook him.

6. Walk in his shoes even if you disagree while he speaks.

7. Give him some ideas of how both of you can recover, taking extra jobs, consulting, etc. and listen to his ideas.

8. After the talk bond by hugging, tickling to reverse the brain chemicals and evoke endorphin high.

Viewer Question

My fiancé and I have yet to combine finances despite living together for some years. It's a sore subject in our house. A monthly disagreement when I can't afford to pay the bills all by myself and he simply says, "I've got my own bills to pay for."

I fear we are doomed as a couple before we've even made it to the altar. He's afraid of not having any financial freedom and thinks I will just spend all his money. Meanwhile I handle all the bills myself and have to beg for help. I'm being accused of spending his money before I've even had the opportunity, meanwhile I really need a new pair of pants but can't afford it because of the bills and he's off to a Patriots [football] game on Sunday. Suggestions would be WELCOMED as we're both so frustrated with this situation.

Expert Answer

You are not doomed if you start by acting like a couple. Typically you, like many couples, fearful of losing their "I" do not become a "we" around money. Money is a smoke screen for intimacy issues as well.

He has to learn to be more giving and not withholding. You need to find out if he can learn to change and be more generous. He needs to work more as a team and not ignore your pleas for help! Tell him you'd like to put your incomes together (except for two guilt-free spending amounts for "extras" like the Patriots.) and whoever makes more pays a little more percentage to the bills. That's only fair.

Whoever makes more helps more, money wise. Get pre-marital counseling to evaluate whether you are ready to embark on marriage, which requires working as a team and compromising or you will always say, "Mother may I" to him.

Viewer Question

My spouse, Ed, and I have a unique situation in that as a committed Gay couple, it is harder to co-mingle our finances. Because we do not have Marriage Equality or at the very least, Civil Union rights, we are not able to share our finances and debt equally, because we are forced to keep our money separate as well as our debt. No joint checking accounts for us. This makes it, frankly, more difficult when it comes to discussing all of our debt. We started looking for a new home this summer and that brought to light just how dysfunctional our finances and debt had become, as well as our inability to have even the most simple financial options afforded to any married couple in the United States. Not to mention the mass of legal problems for us as a committed couple to buy a home together.

I would be curious to know any advice for the thousands of committed gay couples who are dealing with the same frustrations we are. What can we do to make this work more like couples who are afforded the ability to marry and have civil unions.

Expert Answer

I understand your frustration and I'm sorry to hear about the discrimination.

Anyone can open up a joint checking account, whether friends, gay, etc. You can and should by just going to the bank and opening it. As for the house, two people can be co-owners, whether they are friends, colleagues or business partners, as long as they have collateral; don't emphasize you live together, just be "partners."

Each have a guilt-free spending amount separate and pool the rest in one account, with the one making more money, paying more. The one who is more responsible with money pays the bills, the other is there to "see" what is going on at that time so they don't "spend."

Ask a financial counselor to assist you and an accountant to make sure you are on the right track in the beginning.

Viewer Question

Thank you.

Expert Answer

Yes, you would benefit from professional help. Your husband needs to help separate the business from personal because now your credit rating is affected. With the economy plummeting, he probably doesn't have the cash flow and looks to you for surplus. This will affect your trust towards your husband. He does not realize that he is committing financial infidelity out of desperation.

Contact a financial planner and an agency, and also a therapist to help you separate the marriage relationship from the business so you can resume your marriage and establish respect, trust and intimacy with your husband. By the way, I also do phone therapy. To contact me directly, phone 212-606-3787.

Viewer Question

My husband and I have never agreed on money matters and decided long ago to maintain separate financial history. Our only joint accounts were automobiles and our home (which is now paid for). After 41 years of marriage I thought it was working OK until last month when the bill collectors came calling and I learned his credit card debt is $116,000. I was shocked, depressed and plenty angry. (I was ready for a bankruptcy lawyer first and then a divorce lawyer).

Neither of us want the humiliation of having to file bankruptcy and my thoughts are to use some savings to pay off secured loans (i.e. automobiles) and a few of the lower balance accounts and then use a credit counseling agency to negotiate lower interest rates and payments to an amount we can pay each month. Do you have any other suggestions or other options. We do not want to experience the embarrassment of bankruptcy proceedings.

Expert Answer

Your idea is good to use a credit counseling agency to negotiate lower interest rates and payments. Do not use bankruptcy as a way out. There is help available as you have noted. Seek out the help of the agency and a financial planner/accountant to advise you before you use some of your savings, because you might need the savings, especially in this economy.

Make sure you seek counseling for the reasons your husband has been committing financial infidelity. He may be depressed and spending for a "high." Also find out what he is hiding from you? Does he have a gambling problem? He definitely has magical thinking.

Viewer Question

I do believe we have always had a strong relationship after 23 years (next month) ups and downs along the way but very strong for each other. Now finances are beginning to take a toll on us. We are getting caught up in the credit hold I so much did not want. We were only about $4,000 in credit card debt and over the past 11 months we are now at about $24,000.

We newly relocated to Texas, just my husband and I, thinking we were on a new path of life. A promotion with my husband, which is what brought us to Texas, both of us excited about a change all around considering I have been born and raised in Missouri. We had a couple of challenges come our way and with our love for each other we got through them and now things are really, really tough. I cannot find a job, thanks to our economic situation in this country along with our unemployment rate. It is so frustrating. I do not know what way to go. Please help lead me in the right direction to possible consolidation of the credit mess without hurting our credit, we have worked so long and so hard to establish the great credit we have. My husband won't admit it but I know he is feeling the stress especially through me. We need your help and advice.

Expert Answer

Often times with a promotion the office where your husband works may pay for expenses, moving, bigger rent sometimes and other expenses. Ask the question, because sometimes if you don't request it, they don't offer it, especially with this economy.

Also look for any job for extra money like cleaning offices, homes, etc. Go to colleges or high schools, and ask if they have any jobs, ideas. Don't panic. Talk to your husband and see if he will talk to his boss about the strain on the budget due to the move for expenses or stipend. Ask if any odd jobs for you at his office. Let us know the outcome.

There are agencies that can help reduce the interest rate. Contact Debtors Anonymous ( for contact names and more information.