How To Keep Debt From Causing A Marriage Crisis




A marriage crisis is about to turn your world upside down, so what do you do? You write me an email looking for a twinkle of hope. Marriage is knowing you’re in love with someone but not sure if you can continue to love them based on events that occur in future dealings with-in your relationship. This is where YOU needs to become WE.

What does this all mean?

This means that anything can happen even to couples who are in love. One minute you’re all mushy about each other and the next you’re ringing up the lawyer because you no longer can stand each other. The annual amount of divorces in Canada tops 70,000 according to the feldstein-family-law-divorce-fact-sheet-2016. Not only that but 33% of first marriages end in divorce.

Some of the reasons for divorce documented from Stats Canada in the fact sheet states the following;

  • Communication breakdown
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Infidelity
  • Midlife crisis
  • Financial issues
  • Physical, psychological or emotional abuse
  • Relationship “runs out of steam”/fall out of love

Where did you both go wrong?

Most often lack of communication leads the way to a bigger marriage crisis whether it be a hidden agenda, debt and even having an affair. When two people are unhappy it’s easy to get depressed and find alternate ways to bring back that spark in your life. The problem is that spark should be with the both of you and not one-sided.

Related: 7 Ways To Keep A Relationship Strong

I received this email from a blog reader named Derek who is seemingly stuck in a marriage where his wife is calling the shots and they’ve both used money as a coping mechanism which is only driving them further apart. Let’s read their story and see if we can offer them any tips to find their love, reconnect and solve their now debt problems that has caused a marriage crisis.

Getting married is the easy part, staying married is the hard part but with any relationship you must continue to work at it because in the blink of an eye it can crumble and most often rebuilding it is not an option.

Dear Mr.CBB,

I honestly never thought I’d be writing a Dear Mr. CBB email but here I am at my computer at 2 am lost for ideas on how to break down the wall with my wife and our debt. I’ve just read a few of your blog posts about budgeting and saved your budget on my computer because I’m hoping to get us started using it. I just wanted to give you a bit of background to our situation and see if I’m missing something that’s not obvious with our marriage.

Everyone thought we were the perfect married couple and we were for the first couple of year but then things started happening. We have two kids that are close in age and we both work full-time. I’m a massage therapist and my wife works as an analyst for the city.

My wife hates her job because all people do is bitch and complain to her and she never gets any praise from her manager. She began taking it out me as if I was her punching bag and she’s succeeding at deflating me. We’d get in an argument in front of the kids which I hated and then she’d storm off and go shopping. There were so many days that she’d call in sick to work because she didn’t feel like going. The good thing is that she has paid sick days but instead of recuperating she’s out spending money we don’t have.

The bills didn’t get paid on time because we weren’t saving enough money like we used to in our first year of marriage. Many times I’ve encouraged her to look for a new job or apply for any internal job positions only to have her tell me that I didn’t earn enough for her to stay home with the kids.

Related: Stay at home mom causing financial strain and marriage upset

I’m sure she didn’t mean that as she just wants out of where she works and staying home as a mom was her idea of making that happen. The only problem is we can’t afford for her to do this. Our kids are 2 and 4 years old and go to daycare which also costs us just as much a month as our mortgage does. When my wife goes out with her friends she spends money on herself, the kids and buys stuff we don’t need around the house.

I feel as if she blames me for everything as if I was supposed to be the bread-winner of the family and that I’ve failed her and the kids. My wife makes more money than I do but there’s not much I can do about it because of the industry I’m in.

I’m not saying that I’m perfect either because I’ve donated my fair share to our debt over the past 4 years. We don’t budget nor do we worry about how much money we spend because we use our credit cards and line of credit. I know that’s a mindless way to view at our finances but we haven’t had much guidance about how to manage our money.

Her parents have practically told us to get a life because we have so much debt and that we need to grow up and figure things out. I’m sure they are at their wit’s end having to listen to my wife whine about our money issues to them over the phone. We’ve had to ask them for about $2000 over the years which we’ve paid back just to keep up paying our monthly expenses.

Last week I mentioned to my wife that our debt is way out of control with $14,000 of consumer debt and I was met with a, “figure it out” attitude. I know this isn’t the woman I married and deep down she loves me but I don’t know how to move forward. I want to do this for my kids and our marriage because I love my wife and I feel miserable about the way things are turning out.

Do you have anything to help me start the process of getting my finances in order and my marriage back on track?

Thanks, Derek.

Hi Derek,

Well first off stop with the “my finances” because you’re married which means it becomes both of your problem, not just yours. I’m certainly not a marriage counsellor but by the sounds of it your wife needs to quit her job and move into a new career that makes her happy.

Right now becoming a stay at home mom is not in the cards for her because you both have too much debt to pay back. The last thing you want is to lose everything including your house if you stop paying the bills or if your marriage breaks down any further.

Parenting is tough stuff. I’m a new dad and my wife and I have good days and bad days but at the end of the day we still high-five each other for a job well done. We fight just like the next couple but we talk about it instead of backing off and hoping the situation will go away.

It sounds to me that your marriage crisis started well before your debt and since then spending money has been the way you both make yourselves happy. You’re not alone because it’s a typical reaction to unhappiness especially when credit is available. The problem with this way of coping is that once you realize how much debt you’ve occurred it may be too late to sort it out. This is where couples might get involved with debt consolidation, bankruptcy or even divorce.

Over the years I’ve said that financial literacy must be a part of the education curriculum throughout the school years. So many kids are graduating without the financial know-how to use a budget, balance a budget and think with a frugal mind-set.

Just because you earn a decent income doesn’t mean you are entitled to spend like no one is watching. It always catches up to you especially if you believe your money source will never run out. So many people have been bitten with job loss or restructuring which can cause mayhem with-in a marriage especially when there is no emergency savings and debt is at the maximum.

Related: Husband is hoarding money and jeopardizing relationship

There are so many articles on marriage but what most couples tend to forget is if you’re not talking to each other about family issues then there will be a marriage crisis. You can’t make decisions that are one-sided nor can you tell your spouse what they can and can’t do. If you both can’t be civil about sensitive topics like debt that come up then maybe it’s time to consider taking a break or meeting with a marriage counsellor.

I don’t take debt lightly when it comes to marriage because debt can take a happy marriage and create a marriage crisis that can eat up those precious marriage vows in an instant. How many of your friends got married and you thought they’d last forever? That’s right, everyone’s getting divorced these days and we have to ask ourselves, why? Why are so many couples who at one point signed a marriage licence and said they were in love break away in a bitter divorce?

You might argue that debt is only an underlying issue when a marriage crisis is at the serious stage and this happens for one reason only, lack of communication.

Some of the explanations about why debt can cause a marriage crisis;

Any or all the considerations below may lead couples to earn less money, spend more money, hide-away and potentially give up when a marriage crisis occurs. For some reason money seems to be the relationship doctor when something goes wrong in a marriage. Hug the buck for love but if it’s not yours to begin with you must pay it back.

If couples have a credit card or even line of credit you can bet that one spouse or even both will be spending money to feel better about themselves only to find out that they are adding to the debt problem that caused the marriage crisis in the first place. Spending money is like a drug and gives people a happy high they crave to feel good.

  • Career Issues
  • Health Concerns
  • Parenting is tough stuff
  • Nosy Relatives
  • Parents
  • Personal Reasons
  • General Stress
  • Little to No Me Time
  • Little to No Together Time
  • Lack of Communication
  • Different Paths
  • Misguided Dreams
  • Mid-life Crisis
  • Upcoming Retirement
  • Lack of Financial knowledge and Guidance


Love and Marriage


It’s hard when you fall head over heals for someone, marry them and suddenly you’re living in a world that feels like marriage divorce. This is a time where you are together but unhappy and want out because you feel like you’ve exhausted all of your options to bring the relationship back to that happy state you were once in.

Everyone has marriage issues and I mean everyone. Any married couple that says that their day-to-day living is all roses and buttercups is full of crap. Arguments happen but that doesn’t mean you don’t love your spouse it simply means that you aren’t sure how to come to terms with an issue or apologize if you’re wrong. This is why it’s nice to have cooling off periods instead of verbal diarrhea that can get you into more trouble.


Marriage is work in progress


What should you do?

Love yourself and Love each first. Remember why you got married in the first place and your marriage vows. You must stay calm, think rationally and work together on coming up with ideas that will help you both iron out the wrinkles in your marriage and put a dent in your debt.

What my wife and I like to do is take some time every day even if it’s 15 minutes to talk about us and life. We brew a cup of tea and sit around the kitchen table without the music, tv or her cell phone on. We discuss how our day went and anything that seems to be bothering us. Trying to solve a problem together is better than working on it alone. This way we can set up goals, pass ideas back and forth and motivate each other to find a better way or positive outlook on something that might be causing us stress.

We also have alone time and during this time we both incorporate at least 15 minutes of meditation which seems to help both of us cleanse ourselves of stress. This may be sitting at the computer listening to a meditation on You Tube or listening to a meditation CD that we picked up at Value Village.

Once a month we also sit down to discuss our budget. In this time we discuss how much money we earned, where the money went and if there are any concerns with our financial health. It really helps to discuss money together and understand what paying interest can do to your budget when you have maxed out credit cards and other loans to buy  stuff.

I remember when we had a mortgage the both of us would look at the cost of owning our house with a mortgage and it was overwhelming. You don’t often see those numbers until after the fact and that’s only if you choose to look at your mortgage schedule. This was why we worked together to pay off our mortgage as quick as possible.

Related: How we became mortgage free in 5 years

Not only did our frugal mindset bring us closer together it has removed all debt from our life so we don’t have any money issues to argue about. I’m not saying this is what everyone has to do to be happy in a marriage but my point is if you don’t communicate about your daily struggles and work together then they may lead to other issues like overspending.

If there are no other issues and spending is just a problem or you’re not earning enough money for the lifestyle you lead then you need to take a serious look at your numbers.

  • Should you downsize?
  • Should you lower your expenses?
  • Should you cut up your credit cards?
  • Should you move to a cheaper city?
  • Should you find a second job?
  • Should you ask for a raise?
  • Should you find a new employer?
  • Should you upgrade your skills?
  • Should you budget? Um, yes!
  • Should you communicate with each other? Um, double yes!


Fight the marriage crisis together


You know Derek, this may be just another one of those marriage articles that end up online but what I have done is shared our personal journey with you. I hope I’ve passed on a bit of financial wisdom couple with some relationship goals to get you both back on board with love and money.

Don’t give up if you know there is still hope in your heart. Sometimes all your spouse needs is a hug and to hear how much you love them, how beautiful or handsome they are and that you support them. Remember you both need together time and personal time to reflect on the day and work on keeping positive words a part of your daily meditation.

Give it a try.


Do you have a story you’d like to share on CBB? Email me at

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  1. Seems like all of the advice I’ve collected on various finance blogs and this one come down to one thing: communicate with your family members about finances. Refusing to talk about the problem won’t make it go away and there are so many more important things to talk about that will get papered over because this issue will create a general communicative rift between you and your partner. Best thing to do is buck up and talk.

  2. Every couple tries to not be in this bad situation. I and my wife promised that we need to be more open and try to work things out. We promised to make this relationship works for us and for our kids. We try to be understanding and get know where one is coming from to maintain mutual understanding.

    • Hi Jamie,
      It’s smart to work with each other when in a relationship when it comes to everything including finances. So many times couples find out they are in debt because one or the other is hiding spending habits or the debt to make the other one happy. It’s never a good thing.

  3. Anne Russell says:

    I’m going to say that I feel that Derek’s wife doesn’t have much knowledge of the actual cost of her “financial infidelity” when she goes out with her friends. In many relationships, there is a CFO or “Minister of Finance”, the person who is responsible for the nitty gritty details of the bank account.
    If she is intentionally hiding her head in the sand and not participating, she is always going to feel that Derek is the problem with the finances; and all she does is contribute, not take. She is going to keep sabotaging their financial relationship until she sees, in black and white, the total costs of their lifestyle. In saying that, he needs to be very prepared to tell her the truth even if it costs them dearly. Have the bills, the numbers, the amount of interest they pay, every little detail down to the penny available and invite her to the table. He may have to give up some of the control of the debt and expenses but sharing that will set him free and perhaps illuminate her thinking to be motivated to be part of the solution!
    A visit to credit counselling might be helpful, might help her to see that there is enough income to cover their expenses if they learn to allocate their spending appropriately.
    One partner who hates their job and brings that poisonous feeling home every day is noxious to a relationship. Having the numbers all figured out will tell them if it is remotely possible to manage until she finds another position. If not, then change the environment at work. My advice to her is to change her attitude or change her job. Be brave and tell the manager above what she needs. She may suffer a breakdown physically and mentally if she is under undue employment stress for a long time.
    Also, don’t clamp down right away and deny her spending. Institute a reasonable “mad money”, allowance, splurge fund to give you both some reprieve from the pressure and stick to it.
    Keep bringing it to the table, Derek. Patience and getting to the details will alleviate the stress in your relationship.

  4. Heartbreaking situation. Marriage is a lot of work in itself, and we also have to do the necessary work on ourselves to become more stable & emotionally healthy people. If you’re not a team pulling in the same direction, it is hard to make any progress. Do your part to budget as wisely as possible, and keep finding new ways to ask her to be your teammate. Find new ways to ask your partner’s input about the finances, and be patient; you’ll have to prove yourself even though that seems unfair. Show her – in ways that are meaningful to HER – that you love her. Be hopeful. Getting a handle on your finances won’t be as difficult as becoming a team again – once you’re a team, you two can do anything!

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