Marriage Crisis: Drowning in Debt: Projects, Daughter

All His Fault?

"Our current financial situation is dire," Chris says.

"I manage the money in the household," Pam says. "About two years ago, while I was in the hospital, Chris made our financial situation much worse. Chris spent $60- to $100,000 on God knows what, and he had the nerve to blame me for our debt getting out of control."

"When I went into the hospital to ask her about the bills, she threw them back and me and said, ‘You'll have to deal with it,'" Chris remembers.

"This is when our finances really started to unravel," Pam says.

"If I have a project or a goal, I can spend money very easily," Chris admits with a smile.

[AD]Pam tours the house to show all of Chris' unfinished projects, which include a BBQ, a closet, the heating and air conditioning unit, Pam's parents' motor home and a car that he was supposed to fix. "The way Chris is about finishing projects just frustrates the living hell out of me," she says.

Pam says Chris also made poor choices for financial assistance. "He went online to Cash Call and decided to take a $5,000 loan out to pay the bills," she says. Although he thought the interest was 5.9 percent, Pam says, "Lo and behold, it's at 60 percent. The guy has a Physics degree. He understands what interest rates are. He has no clue."

"You have a lot of projects you start?" Dr. Phil asks Chris. "And you don't finish them."

"I've finished the ones the funds are there for," Chris says.

"And if you don't get bored with it. He gets bored really fast," Pam tells Dr. Phil.

"The ones that haven't gotten done have always run out of money, or I have already determined it to be long term, like the barbeque. I knew that was going to be a four or five year project because it's going to take a lot of money to put it together," Chris says.

"It takes you four or five years to put up a barbeque?" Dr. Phil asks. "You can build a house in a year."

"I know that," Chris says.

"Let me tell you something. You're hugely in denial here, and you're playing semantics and justification games about things that are just not credible. It doesn't take four or five years to build a barbeque," Dr. Phil tells him. "She says 75 percent of the credit card debt is your expenditures on these projects, and tools and things that don't ever get finished. Is that true or false?"

"That is inaccurate," Chris says.

[AD]"Chris, let me be very clear," Dr. Phil says. "In my opinion, this is certainly not all your fault, but if you don't acknowledge some of these things, you're getting ready to get a divorce."

"I know that."

"I don't think you do, because if you do, you wouldn't be a right-fighter. You wouldn't be here trying to justify things that aren't justifiable," Dr. Phil says. "Look, we are in tough economical times right now, and you two have collectively created some problems. One of you is either delusional or one of you is just simply not owning up to the situation, and the reason that is important is you can't fix what you don't acknowledge."

Dr. Phil looks to Pam. "You say 75 percent of the credit card debt in your name is Chris' fault " not responsibility, fault " for spending too much on projects and tools." Dr. Phil reads from their list of debt. "$17,000 on Visa card, $11,000 on a second credit card, $10,200 on a Sears card, $10,000 on your student loans, $9,000 on General Motors credit card, $1,200 on Macy's, and you two have refinanced your home to the tune of $121,000. You got an E-Loan home equity line for $168,000."

"No, we refinanced to get rid of the equity line of credit once to a $300,000 mortgage," Pam says.

[AD]"Oh, I'm getting to that. That's my next line," Dr. Phil says. "So we got $121-, $168-, $300,000, and then you can't remember all of the unfinished projects because there are too many. $8,000: barbecue, $5,000: garage, $3,000: wood-burning stove, $2,000: bedroom closet, cabinets at your mother's house, guest room closet. You've got so much debt here, why do you care what's in the guest room closet? You can't afford to have any guests!"

Chris laughs.

The couple argues about the closet projects.

"Look, this is math, not magic," Dr. Phil tells them. "You can't afford that! If you're keeping your stuff in a box in the garage, you can't afford to redo a closet. You don't own your home anymore; the bank owns your home."

Pam also points the finger at Chris' 24-year-old daughter. "Chris' daughter is a big financial burden on us. Five years ago, Chris' daughter moved in with us, and we spent about $75,000 on medical expenses," she says.

"My wife believes all our financial problems are due to my daughter living in this house," Chris says. "My daughter had become an excuse for the problem. It really ticks me off. I'm not going to just kick her out."

"The crux of the problem is his daughter living with us for free. Chris refuses to charge her rent. She doesn't pay anything to do with this house. We bought her furniture, bought her clothes, painted her bedroom, got her nails done, got her hair done …" Pam says. "I'm tired of paying her way. She's going on 24. She needs to grow up and get the heck out."


"OK, why isn't she paying rent?" Dr. Phil asks the couple.

"Because I haven't asked her to. She only has a part-time ""

Pam interrupts. "You told me that you didn't have to pay rent when you lived at home with your parents at that age, and she didn't have to pay rent. That's what you told me."

"That's true. I did say that," he says.

[AD]"Y'all could make money as a ventriloquist because I thought I asked you a question, and you threw your voice, and it sounded like Pam was answering," Dr. Phil jokes. "Listen, you can't afford for your daughter " you can't afford to be living there yourself! This is about reality. We did a simple calculation. If you got an average interest rate " which you can't get because your credit is so bad " do you have any idea how long it would take to pay this debt off? Eighty-three year minimum. How old are you?"

"Too old: 55," Pam says.

"So, do the math. You'll pay this off at about 135. So, you can't get there from here, so you've got to start making some realistic decisions," he says.