Q. My wife and I are both retirees. We have been together for a total of 32 years. All of our retirement income goes into a shared bank account.
About six months ago, out of the blue, my wife told me that she wanted a divorce. She explained that due to reasons having to do with money, she felt she had lost her autonomy. It seems she wants to have her own bank account and withdraw $400 a month to go into her personal slush fund to do with as she wishes.
We have discussed this for months with no resolution. I have said that since the money comes out of our retirement funds that it makes no sense for her to have her own personal account.
Am I wrong in feeling jilted that she will stay with me for $400 a month? Is love worth $400 a month, or is there a deeper issue here?
I’m curious about what your take is on this.
A. This is not about the cost — or value — of “love.” This is about control.
You don’t provide any details regarding your finances, although your wording suggests that all of your joint income (presumably from pension earnings and Social Security) goes into a shared account, which you seem to control. And if you have the final word and control access to these funds, then yes, that would be the very definition of “losing autonomy.”
Why do I think you control these funds? Because your wife has gone to the mat trying to get some money that she alone would have to use as she wishes.
It isn’t at all clear whether you two can afford to grant each of you money of your own to spend as you wish. But if you can afford it then yes, you should each have funds of your own that you can choose to save or spend. And if you can’t afford for you each to receive $400 a month, then you should negotiate a smaller amount that you can afford.
Money is important. And choices regarding money are often placeholders for other issues in the relationship. So yes, I suspect that there is a deeper issue here.
If your wife chooses to leave the marriage and file for divorce, then she presumably would receive roughly half of your shared assets. You two could work on this with the valuable help of a mediator. Mediators frequently work with relationship counselors to help couples come to terms with vital issues affecting their future, including the choice to part company, if it comes to that.
Q. With the holidays approaching, I need your advice.
I have been with my wife for 22 years. We have two wonderful children together. I love her family; however, I dread spending time at her family’s home.
For one thing, I am completely bored at her mother’s house. I work hard and rarely take a vacation. Secondly, my nieces and nephews that I have watched grow up have grown mostly into insufferable know-it-all bores. I dread their presence. Lastly, my brother-in-law turns every conversation into a conversation about money. My family doesn’t live nearby, and we rarely get together.
This year, I want to be alone, go away alone, and play golf. How do I propose this to my wife without causing hurt feelings?
BORED IN DC
A. May I point out that the most “bored” people can sometimes also be boring people?
That having been said, if you don’t want to spend this holiday with your in-laws (whom you say you “love,” but don’t seem to like), you should bring this up without framing it as a criticism of your wife’s family.
Simply say to your wife that you would like to do something different this year, that you are desperate for some time on your own to regroup, and share your plan with her. She might be quite happy to commune with her family without you sighing your way through it.
The holiday break during the pandemic has caused many people to rethink how they want to spend their time.
Q. Regarding the question from “Anonymous,” about bragging grandparents who claim their grandchildren are geniuses: Why not talk about the content of their character? Start bragging about how they are thoughtful toward others. How they help their neighbors. How they are kind and considerate.
In other words, if you’re going to brag, brag about things that really matter.
A. Great advice.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.