"Is This Normal?": Mary and Roger"

"Is This Normal?": Mary and Roger"

"When Roger and I got married, I guess I looked at moving forward. Never in a million years did I stop to think that his health would stop everything," says Mary.


Her husband was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, curable only by having a liver transplant. Now he's back on his feet, but the bills are bringing them both down. "There's just too many to be paid. I'm not working my ass of to pay for his problem," Mary declares. "There's been terrible fights over it. It's a big strain on our marriage."

Roger feels that he is being unfairly blamed. "My wife is being selfish and being a bitch," he complains. "I believe in 'for better or for worse,' and this is the worst."

Mary maintains her position. "I'm not the one that had the surgery. It's his problem. It's his health issues." She was also infuriated when Roger suggested selling their home. "The house we live in now is nothing extravagant. Are we supposed to be in a trailer or an apartment? I'm not willing to sacrifice everything just to stay afloat."

Roger is fed up. "I am sick of feeling like a burden to my wife and my family," he says. "What do you want me to do? Sell my liver back?" 

"Am I truly being selfish? Or is some of this normal?" Mary asks Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil is incredulous. "I just call things as I see them. I just have to tell them, I don't think selfish is a big enough word to describe your position. He had a liver transplant, and you said, 'That's not my problem!'? he tells Mary. Turning to Roger, he asks, "Did you choose to have it?"

"No, I didn't choose to. I didn't drink. It's just something that happened. It wasn't my fault," he explains.

"Are you surprised at what I said?" Dr. Phil asks Mary.

Sheepishly, she says, "I needed to hear that."

"Let me say it again. That is the most selfish, uncaring, unloving thing," Dr. Phil admonishes. "You said, 'Are my feelings selfish?' 'I will not give up everything to pay for his medical bills.' 'I am not working my ass of for his problem.' 'He's the one who got sick. He needs to fix it. I didn't sign on for this.' What did you sign on for? Seems like I remember something about sickness and in health, for better or worse."

Mary defends her position. "I get really upset at the fact that Roger makes light of it. When we have all of these bills rolling in ... he does not know about them. They come in. I'm writing out the checks for them. I'm pretty much dealing with those, and I would like him to join in," she says.

"That's a totally different question. If you are passive, uninvolved in the bills — whether they're medical bills, financial responsibility, whatever — you need to be involved in that. No question about it," Dr. Phil tells Roger. Addressing Mary, he says, "You also have cell phone bills. You've got two cars and your son has a car. You're paying $185 a month for insurance for a kid's car, and you don't want to pay for medication to keep the boy alive."

Dr. Phil cites some grave statistics: Nineteen to 30 percent of the people receiving liver transplants die during the surgery, and 25 percent of them die within three years of the surgery. "Does it not seem incredibly insensitive for you to make him feel guilty for having to spend money to stay alive?" he asks Mary. "You say, 'We had to spend $14,000 or $15,000.' The alternative was, [Roger] would be dead. Are you saying he's just not worth $14,000?"

"He's definitely, definitely worth $14,000, $20,000, $25,000. Whatever it takes." Mary insists. "We weren't together all that long, that should have nothing to do with it. When Roger says we're going to have to sell our house, I feel like we're going backwards."

Dr. Phil wants Mary to envision another scenario. "God forbid that this would happen, but what if you had breast cancer and you had to have that surgery and chemo and radiation, and were having to shell out the money for that?"

"I wouldn't want everything to be taken away from him," she says.

"Are you thinking the best thing to do is get rid of him?"

"No, I don't want to get rid of Roger. I love Roger. I get so frustrated. I get so angry with everything on my lap. When the bills do come in, he jokes about it," she reiterates.

"I do want to make the point that finances in a marriage are a partnership," Dr. Phil stresses. "If you're having to figure a way to borrow from Peter to pay Paul ... then that's not fair either."

 

Dr. Phil argues Mary's point to Roger. "You should not feel guilty that you got sick and needed a liver transplant. You should not feel guilty that it is absorbing family resources to pay for the medical procedure, and to pay for the maintenance of that procedure post-op. But you certainly should step up and responsibly help manage and control the finances in this and not have a lackadaisical attitude about that."