“I’ve been financially infidel”: I racked up $50,000 in debt to assist my troubled son — and did not inform my husband. How do I get out of this mess?
By Quentin Fottrell
“I probably destroyed my life and his because I gave in to the molestation and abuse of my son.”
I have committed financial infidelity. This is a second marriage and one of my sons is unstable and a drug user. He has stolen from us in the past and two of his children now live with him.
He doesn’t work, is on welfare, and demands money from me. He becomes very abusive if I don’t give it to him. This is the second time I’ve gotten into debt behind my husband’s back.
I worry about my grandchildren, where they will live if my son cannot pay the rent, how they will study without internet access and much more. I was subjected to an enormous amount of emotional abuse by this son.
I feel like a worthless person. My husband has zero respect for my son and refuses to help unless it is directly related to the children (clothing, sports fees, school supplies, etc.).
I owe $50,000 and he has no idea. I stopped the bleeding but it’s way too late. My husband is retired. I work part time but am considering going back to full time to pay off the debt. Can I file for bankruptcy separately?
We live a humble life. I have to tell him. I am ashamed of my actions and fear he will leave me. We are in our 70s. I probably ruined my life and his because I gave in to my son’s molestation and abuse.
Desperate mother and wife
The first thing you have to do is stop catastrophizing. You didn’t destroy your life. You made some bad decisions that came from a good place, but you understand that you were manipulated and bullied. However, they take responsibility for these actions, are willing to stay clean and are willing to do whatever it takes to fix it.
It may not feel like it, but self-pity and ego are two sides of the same coin. Punishing yourself over and over again is not an act of sacrifice and humility, but a way to escalate and prolong the drama. If you feel sorry for yourself, you’re still in the spotlight. Instead, you need to put the spotlight on the solutions.
Feelings of unworthiness may have led you down that rabbit hole and allowed your son to emotionally blackmail you into giving him thousands of dollars, but languishing in this place will only lead to more self-pity and inaction. It’s time to tell your man the truth and what you’re willing to do to fix the situation. Get a full-time job. Start searching now.
It’s possible to file for bankruptcy as an individual, but it gets more complicated when you have joint debts and you own an asset like a family home. But for $50,000 I don’t advise you to go that route. It will destroy your credit and possibly cause more stress and financial problems for you and your husband. Work off the debt.
If your son has leaned against you in the past, he will do so again. You need the support of both your husband and a therapist (or a financial therapist) to get through this. No means no. There will be no more money. He will use his children as leverage. You could – with your husband’s cooperation – take in his children, but you cannot afford to continue to allow him to do so.
Block your credit reports from the big three agencies to make it harder for you to take on more credit card debt. tell your husband The more decisions you make unilaterally and in secret, the more damage you do to your marriage and your financial future. Your husband’s retirement and financial future are tied to you.
Calculate how long it will take you to pay off that debt and commit to it. Reduce your expenses and stick to a budget. It will make you feel good about paying it off. Doing something for yourself will be good practice and when you reach your final payment it will help your confidence. Fight for your marriage and your financial and emotional independence.
There are support groups for parents of struggling children and 12-step programs like Al-Anon that help people like you who are affected by family members with substance abuse problems. To paraphrase one of their mottos: “You didn’t create your son’s problems, you are not responsible for them and you cannot cure them.” He is an adult and must take responsibility for his own life.
And never let anyone have that kind of power over you ever again.
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