When Connie got home from work, she was already exhausted from a long day of meetings. She’d left the high-pressure world of event planning sales behind to get into nonprofit work.
She loved the challenge of raising money for her charity, and her job as a development director allowed her to leverage some of her former business relationships into new donors.
On this particular day, though, her executive director was worried about finances and had really called her on the carpet, even though she was already 22% over budget for the current fiscal year.
It didn’t help matters when she got home and opened a letter from the Internal Revenue Service, addressed to her and her husband Bob. When she opened it, she was shocked to see that they owed the IRS more than $7,000 in back taxes.
Bob did some freelance writing work in addition to his job as a teacher, and it looked like he hadn’t been making payments on his freelance income. And he certainly hadn’t told her about this.
She slammed the letter down on the kitchen island, punched his number into her cell phone, and tore into him when he answered the phone.
Why was Connie so mad? $7,000 is a lot of money, but it’s not the end of the world. Bob had also been taking out payday loans and other short-term credit lately, and instead of telling Connie that he was short with his side of their bills, he had just been making poor financial decisions that was costing them a lot in interest.
The worst part for Connie, though, was that Bob hadn’t told her anything.
Bob’s excuse was that he didn’t want Connie to worry. She was a cancer survivor — had been cancer-free for almost seven years by that point — but her cancer had cost her her thyroid, and she had developed epilepsy as a side effect of the radiation treatment that her oncologist had used on a small tumor in her skull.
So Connie was often exhausted at the end of the work week, spending some of her Saturdays and Sundays in bed just to get ready for the next week. Bob felt guilty about this and wanted to let her think he could handle things on his own.
Of course, he couldn’t, and he was digging a bigger and bigger financial hole for himself — and for her, since their taxes were filed jointly. Now there was a huge hole in the middle of their relationship, created by the simple fact that he couldn’t be trusted about money.
What should Bob have done instead? The problem with their finances began about a year and a half ago, when his health insurance (which also covered her) went up by 22 percent.
She also had dropped back from full time to part time work because of some fatigue and stress from her former job. He felt like he needed to do everything himself, but he simply couldn’t.
He should have told her about the problem and perhaps could have gone to family members for some short-term help. The bottom line: Connie was getting the message that he didn’t trust her as a partner, and she felt a complete lack of financial security as a result. She also felt like their relationship was worthless without that trust.
Now, Bob and Connie sit down weekly and talk about the upcoming week in finances as well as longer-term strategies. It’s not always comfortable for either one of them, but they no longer have trust issues with money.
Bob even decided to look for a corporate job at the end of the school year to boost his income, and he wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that without talking to Connie.
So the crisis turned into a win-win for them. If you and your loved one are in a similar mess, trusting each other with the truth is the best way to begin a new path for your relationship.