Life Advice



Ask Amy: Spouse’s spending creates a debt trap

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for a long time. We both grew up in working-class families, were the first in our families to graduate from college, and had respectable careers in different industries.

Now that we're more or less retired. I have a small online business that supplements our Social Security income, and her pension. (My 401k disappeared in the last recession.)

I try to set aside money for special purchases and be prepared for unforeseen emergencies.

On the other hand, she buys all sorts of stuff online and puts it on various credit cards: Clothes, food, books, household items, you name it.

We have literally piles of unopened packages and brand-new stuff, and it never seems to end. I think it is some sort of hoarding complex.

I have tried talking to her about the spending, but she is highly secretive about our finances and when I press her for details, she picks a fight about something I did or said years ago.


She accuses me of not trusting her (and I don't, really) and being paranoid (I probably am).

If something happens to her, in the state where we live, I would be liable for the credit card debt that is in her name.

Given what I do know of our financial situation, beyond my own business's financials, I am afraid I would be bankrupt if she passes away. She refuses to even discuss any kind of counseling. What can I do? I can't afford to divorce her, either.

— Lost in a Blizzard of Packages


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