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Just completed Imperfect Harmony
February 4, 2010
1:10 am

Dr. Coleman, Just completed Imperfect Harmony. Have a 40-year marriage in extreme trouble. The story is very long, lots of strands, so I won’t give all the details here. In the early 1990s, after a crisis that cost him his profession, he decided to go back to school, earning multiple graduate degrees up to a Ph.D. He was in college for a number of years – I actually lost track of how many, but 10-15 is a fair estimate. His widowed mother came to live with us w/ my permission for what I considered short-term mutual assistance, and she stayed the better part of 7 years. He big-time lost that ‘differentiation’ you describe. After he got the Ph.D. (thank goodness they call it a terminal degree!), I expected him to be out on the street the next day starting to look for work, but Mom was still in the house, so while I was at work they would do their own thing with errands, field trips, visits to grandkids, etc., etc. This impasse went on until everything came to a head about 18 months ago. He had to tell me he had been using old credit cards I didn’t even know were still active to run up mountains of debt to finance his lifestyle. He’d had to go to an attorney and a credit counselor, again without my knowledge. When we sat down to figure up how much the debt was, it was between $250K-$300K, not counting the toxic mortgage he’d put on our house. I told him to get his mother out & we sold the house, getting out from under the mortgage. There were other unfortunate ‘mixed blessings’ during this time, again too much to explain in a blog. Since his graduation, which is 4-5 years ago, he has held down a couple low-paying outside sales jobs and done some adjunct teaching. We are both 61, have raised 2 children who have what I believe are good fiscal values and strong families w/ 5 grandchildren total. I am trying to stay faithful to this marriage for the sake of the children & grandchildren, because we are a close family. They were told about his indebtedness when it happened, and they are so shell-shocked that after some very spirited discussions with them about it, I won’t bring it up any more. It makes them have to choose sides and they can’t bear that. I have no money except what I earn to keep basic expenses going. This mountain of debt is always on my mind, collection calls are now routine, even leaving the marriage wouldn’t absolve me of my part because I think about $63K he put on joint accounts with my name on it. There is such a sense of betrayal but we continue to ‘play’ normal older married couple. I appreciate very much all you said, but I don’t know if we are past the point where it will help.

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