Friday, February 4, 2011

"Stealing" Money from My Husband's Paycheck

When Jon and I were newlyweds, we both worked. In our joint checkbook register, we titled the two regular deposits each month as "Jon's paycheck" and "Abby's paycheck." After I became a stay-at-home Mom, it was very hard to break down the label of "Jon's paycheck" in my mind.

For example, here is a stupid example of how sin begets sin. Whenever Jon had to "sacrifice" something fun for the benefit of our new babies, I used to do the child support calculation that I still had memorized in my head from my old work of advising divorcing clients. "How sad," I'd think. "The kids and I take 100% of Jon's paycheck. If he'd divorce me he'd only have to pay X amount to his family each month and he'd get to pocket the rest." (Because that's the unformed spiritual mess I was in my late twenties. Beer, travel, and ski pass money were still more exciting expenses than our new fixed expenses of laundry soap and teething crackers.)

By the time I officially checked "retired" on all three of my State Attorney license agreements, I no longer felt guilty about having "our" single paycheck pay for my contact lenses, or my dentist bills, or my winter coat.

However, I still felt really, really guilty about "stealing" money from my husband's paycheck to pay for my private student loans. For our ten year marriage, that cost has floated between $250 to $300. I've constantly been tempted to get quick fixes to take care of "my" debt.

Over time, God has really healed my heart on this issue. Our God is an awesome God. He can do anything. He could have sent a long-lost uncle to pay off my entire student loan debt the moment I decided to follow his call into the land of stay-at-home motherhood. But he chose something more beautiful!

Month by month, my husband has been the one who has happily paid the price the stupid financial mistakes I made before our marriage. (And believe me, those pricey, not-really-needed, private loans WERE a mistake). I went from feeling defensive and embarrassed, to feeling honored.

Every day, my husband tells me that he's so happy that I'm a stay-at-home wife. Then each month, he underlines those words with action. He cheerfully mails a hefty portion of "our" paycheck to "our" student loans.

I affectionately call Jon, "my starter husband for Jesus." Jon is preparing my heart on earth for a spiritual marriage to Jesus in heaven.

What I've learned from coming into my sacramental marriage deeply in debt-
emotional debt,
spiritual debt, &
financial debt-

is that a loving spouse, just like Jesus, will happily pay the price for all the mistakes that I made before we met.

Our old student loans are small potatoes next to the current reality of a beautiful marriage and a happy family life.

I've got the financial balance sheet to prove it.


  1. Abigail, where were you when I was young and stupid?? Anyway, we all did those things.
    I was a stay at home mom too, and was totally dependent on my husband for everything. Now in my retiring age, I still depend on my husband to pay major bills. We have no money saved anymore, but God is in control. I gave Him my life and all that is included. I guess He honored that because we have been married 42 yrs, have two great children and 4 grands to love and cherish. It has not been an easy life, but I am wealthy in what I have been given.
    Hang in there. You are such an inspiration to so many people, you will never know.
    Please keep us in your Carmelite prayers...

  2. Beautiful Abigail! Yes, we are all indebted spiritually and need "bailing out" from our Lord. I guess that realization is the birth of the virtue of humility!

  3. Oh my, what a WONDERFUL post!!! I love it and can't wait to show my husband! :) Thank you!

  4. It is really beautiful how Lord has healed you of such culturally thwarted ideas of marriage!

    (Though you can still see the after-shocks at the end of the post when you refer to Jon paying for "your" loans out of "his" paycheck. I think that kind of language needs to go!!! You are husband and wife - you are ONE - it is "our" paycheck and it is "our" loan.)

  5. Thanks Maria! I took your suggestions.

  6. I think it's vitally important that both spouses be on the same page, and that there is a contingency plan in plac (in case something happens to the main breadwinner/source of income). Beyond that, there are and lots of lots of ways to organize the finances in a marriage.

    I live in a country where the concept of a joint bank account doesn't exist -- it has to be in one name or another (though other names can be added to access it). Employers will only deposit pay into a bank account in the name of the employee -- therefore, my husband and I have always had separate bank accounts. But even so, it's never been "my" money and "his" money. It's always been "our" money.

  7. I so long for a companion to share my life and student loans with. My student loans were the biggest mistakes in my life, and I can't see the end of the tunnel. It's a heavy burden to carry alone.

    I just try not to think of them.