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Marriage: When “Your” Problems Become “Our” Problems

June 9, 2014

Something I’ve learned about marriage in the last two years is that two becoming one isn’t always the blissful, intimate, romantic idea that the pastor talks about on your wedding day. Actually, life was a little simpler when I was…one. Solo. The challenge of combining lives is totally worth it, but occasionally, I’ve found it means dealing with problems that were never yours before. If there’s a bounty hunter after your husband’s head, yours is in danger too. The other person’s hopes, dreams, shortcomings, student loan debt, bad habits…everything is now not just “theirs,” but, inescapably, yours.

Here’s a recent example from my marriage. Five years ago my husband found himself with an excess of scholarship funds (I know, who are you??) and wanted to invest. He ended up loaning about $10,000 to a family friend. The terms were favorable—a nice fat interest rate that would ensure he made money off the loan, and the guy promised to repay it within two years, just as soon as the property he was working on sold.

Well, you can imagine what has happened since: jack squat. My husband hasn’t seen a dime of the money, the property in question never sold and is now completely overrun with other liens against it, so it wouldn’t be of any value even if he could sell it. The deed of trust my husband was given was never recorded with the county, which is a fact I don’t fully understand, but I guess it’s bad. And until recently, the few attempts my husband did make to contact the debtor went unanswered. Not. Cool.

not my problemAbout a year ago we (notice I say, “we”) decided to get more serious about pursuing the money. More emails to the guy and to his brother, who is somehow involved in all this, though I don’t know exactly how. We contacted a lawyer, who told us we’d have a tough time reclaiming the debt because, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” but she’d work on it for us…at the rate of $375 an hour. Needless to say, with no guarantee that the guy will ever pay up, we weren’t going to start racking up legal fees, so that’s where it ended, for a while.

Throughout the process, my husband hasn’t been too eager to get down and dirty. He’s always pretty busy with work, and doesn’t like to deal with this kind of stuff in his leisure time. So I had to be a bit of a nag to even get him to reach out to the debtors and the lawyer in the first place. Then we got busy again and months passed, until, in January, I started to feel like we should take more action. One day, just fed up with nothing happening, I called one of the guys in question at his office and explained the situation. He seemed to know nothing about it (or was playing dumb—who forgets that they’re in debt?) and referred me to his brother, who I think does most of his dirty work for him. Several emails passed between my husband and the two guys again, and they said they were working on selling a couple of properties, and we’d get paid when that happened. It wasn’t the response we wanted, but at least we’d managed to get them to respond to us at all.

Well, now it’s June, and this issue has been resurrected again because we started receiving paperwork in the mail notifying us that one of the brothers’ company is going through bankruptcy, and we were named as creditors. This just confused us more, because the original loan was to the two brothers, not to this business. We weren’t sure whether to agree to take part in these bankruptcy hearings…would it affect our right to sue the brothers separately for the full amount?

So, once again, I found myself finding and emailing lawyers to try and get some advice. My husband spoke on the phone with one who told us what we already knew: we could sue, but it would be costly, and there would be no guarantee of seeing any money. So we’re essentially still back at square one—confused and probably screwed out of a debt that is now worth close to $20,000.

In some ways, I just want to run the other direction and put my head under a pillow when the topic of this debt comes up, because it stresses me out, and I am pretty sure it is a lost cause. Also, I don’t want to deal with it because I had nothing to do with the loan in the first place. This is a classic case of one partner’s choices pre-marriage coming back to impinge on both of us. To be honest, since it wasn’t “my money” to begin with, I honestly don’t care too much whether we ever see any of it again. But in marriage, I don’t get to just check out of this by playing the “it’s not my problem” card. In marriage, all of his problems are my problems too, and vice-versa.

It’s been a battle. I don’t want to be dismissive and say, “Figure it out yourself.” Well, actually, I often want to, but I know it’s wrong. I know my husband needs me to support him in this, help in whatever ways I can, and not hold any of this against him. It’s super hard, but I’ve relied on him so many times for help with “my problems,” and he’s never failed me. So I’m doing my best to overcome my annoyance, fear, apathy, and selfishness and help us handle this challenge together, as one. We might never see that money again, but maybe we’ll learn something about working together and supporting each other.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. thelittlemerskank permalink*
    June 11, 2014 2:23 am

    My sympathies, Cinderslut! Money issues are the worst! The situation you are describing reminds me too much of that little piece of land I used to own that was such a bad situation. It was such a relief when I got it sold– even if not for very much– just because I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. Hopefully something happens so your guys’ issue will be similarly taken care of.

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