x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Left deep in the hole by financial distress

In order to make amends, there needs to be truth and honesty at the fore and core of everything. And the first step towards redemption is admitting what has happened and taking ownership of it.

Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
It seemed like such a great idea: a young family moving to the UAE, the husband wanting his wife to be happy and "not worry about anything". But it all went terribly wrong, and this well-meaning husband has ended up losing everything that's truly important to him.

This is from a heart-rending blog on cashy.me - the financial empowerment site that I set up - that was posted by someone who appears to truly regret what he has done. But it seems too late. The title says it all: "Losing everything I have".

This person wanted to "man up" as he put it and have the woman he loves depend on him, for her not to worry about earning, and to enjoy their young child and new life in Dubai - she used to bring in a second income back home.

But in taking on the financial burdens of making ends meet, as well as having to deal with what life throws our way - in his case his second child had medical problems when he was born in Dubai and the insurance stretched only so far - the husband is now deep in financial trouble.

He racked up hundreds of thousands of dirhams in debt, having taken out, and maxed out, half a dozen credit cards, loans and more debt to pay off existing debt. The hole is now very deep, and it seems he can't find a workable way out of it.

The blog is full of remorse. Everything was done with the best of intentions, but he ended up deceiving his wife, jeopardising his family's well-being and eroding the trust she had in him.

He betrayed his wife and his children. And betrayal is a big deal.

One question is, if you have the best of intentions, but the impact of what you do is bad, then are you a "good person" who has been misguided? And should you be forgiven and given another chance? Or are you ultimately a bad person because the end result is not good?

And then what if you're given fresh chances and you do the same thing again, not because you are a bad person but because "this time it'll be different", "this will fix everything" ?

But it isn't different - not this time, or the fourth or fifth or seventh time.

In fact, all that happens is that the hole gets deeper, and the betrayal ever bigger.

The person who wrote this seems to genuinely want to make amends and work things out with his wife. In order for there to be any chance of this happening, there needs to be truth and honesty at the fore and core of everything. And the first step towards redemption is admitting what has happened and taking ownership of it.

There is no moving forward and "fixing" things with the people that have been let down without this. But it doesn't end there. It has to be accompanied by a change in behaviour.

The thing is, going by the blog and by a multitude of stories I know first-hand and through others, people who put themselves in this sort of situation repeat the same behaviour that got them into trouble in the first place, and the second, third and seventh chance seems to consistently translate to digging a deeper hole, and ultimately more elaborate deceit and debt.

And there comes a breaking point where the spouse who has been let down and betrayed just says "enough" and seeks a life away from the very person they once trusted more than anyone else in the world.

When it comes to marriage, and specifically when there are young children involved, the mantra I have come across is: don't let money split you up, it shouldn't be about money. And other "advice" in that vein.

Sure, money is important; it gives us opportunity and enables us to have dignity, especially as we age - but that's really not the reason that these relationships end. The bigger issue is trust and having been betrayed.

I met a woman recently who was talking about the financial planning that she and her husband do on a regular basis: they sit and go over goals, investments, expenses, savings, rewards and so on.

She said she cannot imagine ever not being 100 per cent informed and on top of their financial situation.

Theirs is a true partnership - and it all stems from, and is founded on, trust and honesty.

Without it, money or no money, there is no relationship. And so if you have any money worries, share them with the person you love, now, and work it out together. And remember, promising but not following through is worthless. It's not about what you say, it's all about what you do.

Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website www.cashy.me. You can contact her at nima@cashy.me