'I thought we shared expenses but my husband says I owe him and is threatening divorce'

The Star / Asia News Network
Oct 7, 2018

"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.

Dear Thelma,

I am a young mother with a two-year-old toddler. My husband is extremely calculating. He keeps tabs on everything I owe him and demands that I pay him back. In terms of household finances, I assumed a husband and wife would share expenses. Looks like that is not the way my husband thinks.

We are both working right now and my mum helps to take care of our baby. We stay over at my mother's place on the weekends to take care of the baby. My husband does not need to pay my mum anything as she refuses to take money in exchange for taking care of our child.

Everything seems good as things are well taken care of. However, he knows that I give my parents a monthly allowance and he doesn't like that at all. He says I bring down our family (as in him and I) and because of that, I do not have extra money to buy another property with him.

I feel so disappointed as the allowance I give my parents shows my filial piety. They have done so much for me. I am giving them money I have earned myself.

I do not rely on his income at all to survive. However, I do chip in to provide for some things that the baby needs.

I never thought he would continue to be so calculating after having a baby. Nevertheless, nowadays our quarrels are getting more frequent.

Our baby is mostly in the care of my mum, and has become very attached to her especially during the night when she sleeps.

My big fight with my husband now is because he insists on taking baby back to his parents' house to visit and stay overnight. We have tried staying overnight before but that didn't work out well at all. She cried so much that I was afraid she would fall sick after that. His suggestion is that Baby has to get used to being in a new place and by leaving her to cry several times, she will subsequently learn.

I argued against that and he accused me of not caring for his side of the family. I told him that we need to start slow and to take her back on frequent day trips. Then, once she had adapted, she could stay overnight. He rejected the idea outright and would not budge.

He says that he feels I do not care for him and do not prioritise his family. There are things he does that are very irritating, such as raising his voice at me and showing his temper in public, always asking me to pay for things when his income is higher than mine, being moody from time to time, being nasty on purpose (for example, he delays getting ready when he knows that we have an appointment and this results in us always being late), and criticising and complaining about everything.

He has also started threatening me with divorce. I am trying to save this marriage as I want my baby to grow up in a complete family. It tears my heart apart to think of our daughter growing up without a father.

He accuses me of not caring enough for him and his family. He also takes my close family bond with my mum and dad as a threat to our relationship. My parents have been supporting us and have not interfered at all but to him, my giving them an allowance is a threat to him.

I am so lost, exhausted and clueless. Please advise me on what I should do for my and my baby's future.


Dear Exhausted

It sounds as if you are involved in a war rather than a marriage. I think you need to sit down and have some long conversations. Here are some points to get you started.

#1 Money is the most obvious cause of your power struggles. You give money to your parents, which your husband doesn't like, and you feel that he should pay for you as he earns more, which I suspect irritates him.

Also, while you say he is calculating, you are keeping score as well. You note what babysitting is worth and if I read your letter correctly, you expect your husband to pay for the baby's things from his budget while you only chip in.

#2 Baby and family are related to your comfort zone. You have let your mum become a second mum for the baby. I get it, it's nice to have close family take care of your child.

However, you feel you cannot let your daughter visit her other grandparents overnight as it's too traumatic.

I think you are not being fair here. As your husband points out, your daughter has two sets of grandparents. The two of you have allowed a situation to develop where one set has been cut out.

My advice is to fix it. Get that toddler back on track, so she can take advantage of a nice big loving family; that provides stability for the future.

Should you go slow and steady or just tell her it's time she got to know her family better? Talk it out with your husband - nicely, sensibly and with a focus on what is the best experience for your daughter.

And when you chat, remember, your girl has two parents, and so you negotiate together as equal partners.

#3 Quarrels rather than discussion. Keeping score, power struggles, and passive aggressive moves like making each other late for appointments … that's no way to forge a loving relationship.

I think you need to examine exactly what you expect from this marriage. Write down how you think an ideal relationship works and have your husband do the same thing.

Ask, how do the ideal couple deal with career, money, housework and childcare? Who is responsible for what? Also, how does the ideal couple deal with extended family responsibility? What roles do grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins play? What do you expect to do on your week days, weekends and holidays?

Write it all down for the ideal couple first, and then see how you two have been working. That gives you the basis to start negotiating for a new pact where you both get what you need out of the marriage.

Note: there is no "right" answer to how you should live, it's just finding out what kind of liaison works for the two of you.

Look, you have let things get to the point where you're talking of divorce. That's not good. To help you along, think back to a time when you were happy together. Look at the elements that brought you into this marriage and try to recreate them. Rekindling your love is vital.

And if the first conversation does not go well, get some professional help.