Marriage Crisis: Drowning in Debt: Pam, Chris

Ready to Walk Away

Pam reviews her and her husband's financial burden. "Chris and I currently owe approximately $300,000 on our first mortgage, $162,000 to E-loan, Sears: $10,200, GM Mastercard: $9,000, Macy's: $1,200. There's one that has a lighthouse on it. I don't know the name. I think it's $11,000. Bank of America: $17,000, student loans are $48,000. We owe my parents $50,000, American Express: $700, CashCall loan: $4,500, Chris' student loans: $10,000. So, this all totals roughly $600,000. I didn't really want to add it up," she says.

Pam was not in this situation 10 years ago. "When Chris and I first got married, my credit card debt was $3,000, and I only had an $80,000 mortgage," Pam says.

"My credit was pretty much null and void," Chris says. "I was on a cash-only basis. I had filed bankruptcy to get out from underneath the debt from my previous marriage."

"Chris owed $9,000 for back child support," Pam says. "Looking back, I should've seen some of the warning signs. I should've seen where we were heading. I think Chris is responsible for about 75 percent of the debt."

"It's very, very easy to point a finger at somebody else," Chris says. "I consider the debt 50 percent hers, 50 percent mine."

"Most of the debt we have is from Chris' daughter coming to live with us, for all of the gadgets he buys, projects he wants to start, projects he never finishes. I'm being sued because of Chris' carelessness with money. He has no clue about money management at all," Pam says, growing tearful. "I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel."

[AD]Pam says it may be too late for a bail out because their marriage is almost over. "I'm on the brink of divorce because I can't stand being married to a man who doesn't know how to not spend money," she says. "I don't trust him anymore. My trust has gone to the toilet."

"I do not want a divorce," Chris says. "My life has just gone to hell really fast. I consider Pam to be withdrawn, vindictive, very negative. My wife and I fight daily. I feel like a second-class citizen."

"I feel financially trapped," Pam says. "I just can't believe this is happening to me. It's time to make decisions, and move on with my life and walk away."

"We have to acknowledge there are multiple issues here, right? One, there are the financial issues. That's a really big deal, and in fact, that's the number one reason that people give for relationships failing," Dr. Phil tells Pam and Chris. "Then the other issue, maybe it's directly from this or other things, but this marriage is not working, right?"

"No, it's not working," Pam says.

"How much of it do you attribute to the financial pressure and crisis that you're in?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I would say probably 75 percent of it," she says.

"In fact, you said you can't see being married to a man who couldn't manage money?"

"Yes, I did. I said I couldn't stand it anymore," Pam says. She explains that Chris often takes money out of their accounts without telling her. "And it's trivial, it's $80, but it's still money I'm thinking I have for taxes or something."

"But at the same time, I knew I was having $300 coming back that same day when I bought the paint for the job," Chris explains.

"But is that the point, or is the point that you don't tell her what's going on, and you guys aren't communicating about this?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]"It's a combination of both," Pam says. "He does it and then he says he has money coming in, then maybe two months later we get the money coming in from the job he was going to do, because he won't ask the people for money until he's done with it, so there the bills sit. I'm supposed to figure out how to get the money to pay the bills. Meanwhile, they're sitting there, he's not asking for the money, I rob Peter to pay Paul, and it just keeps going."

"You're taking the role here of victim. Honestly. You're saying that he's victimized you in this," Dr. Phil says.

"Probably in some ways I maybe feel that way, but I also know it's my own fault because I probably let a lot of it happen," she admits.

"Before you got married, you knew he had filed bankruptcy, right?" Dr. Phil asks Pam.

Although Pam isn't sure if she was aware of that, Chris says she was.

"You knew he had no credit," Dr. Phil says. 

"Yes, I knew he had no credit, but he didn't have any debt either at that point in time," she says.

"No, because he had taken bankruptcy, which he told you," Dr. Phil points out. 

"He made his bankruptcy sound like it was only for, like, under $10,000, so I don't know," Pam says.

"Are you saying you didn't have any warning signs? Because to me it seems like you had some clear warning signs," Dr. Phil says. 

[AD]"I had warning signs. I think I probably maybe ignored them," she says.

"Let me just tell you up front: I can't wrap my mind around the fact that you two are $624,600 in debt, and you don't really know " you didn't even know that total until we gave it to you, did you?" Dr. Phil asks them.

"I didn't want to face it. I knew it was at least $500,000," Pam says.

"OK, so when you got married, you're total indebtedness was $131,000," Dr. Phil says to Pam. "Your debt has gone up 491 percent. You don't get to say, ‘I don't know how that happened.'"