“Should I Leave My Husband for a Man Who Has More Money?”

I’m a 52-year-old woman who grew up in poverty, and I think it’s left me with a stronger-than-normal fear that, when I get older and am no longer able to work, I won’t have enough money to be “ok.” I rent an apartment, have no savings, and, of course, am not getting any younger. I am taking steps to lower my expenses, but my concern is about my marital status going forward.

My husband and I separated nearly two years ago due to my having to move several hours away for a job. He is a good man who has always been a great husband; he has never, ever done anything wrong to me. I still love him, but I am concerned because he has no savings and he makes very little money.

Meanwhile, I met and began dating another man about fifteen months ago. He is very insecure and somewhat jealous and clingy, and the relationship is volatile and intense. He has depression, and his moods are variable, but he is also very loving, caring, and romantic. When things are going well, we are very happy; however, we seem to quarrel every week – and usually over the most ridiculous things. He wants to marry me, and I am so tempted to marry him for the financial stability. He isn’t rich by any means, but he has three pensions, substantial savings in the bank, and he owns a home. He has given me $2,000 to pay off my credit card debt, and he bought me a $1,000 ring.

If I marry him, I won’t have to worry about being poor when I am too old or sick to work anymore. He has even said that, if he passes away before I do, he’ll leave his house and everything else he has to me. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t own a house. But my husband is loving and kind, he has a calm temperament, and he will bend over backwards to make me happy – we have never quarreled. Fear is what drives me. Fear of being old and poor. Please help me see things logically and not through the eyes of fear. Thank you so much for your advice. — Financial security or peace of mind?

I think you already know what the right answer is here, but, again, you are afraid. You’re afraid that if you make the decision that you know in your heart is the right one, you’ll have regret later if your life ends up being harder than you think it might be if you had made a different decision. You let fear of regret paralyze you from moving forward, and so now you find yourself 52 years old, with no savings and no retirement plan, caught between a good man you seem to have fallen out of love with and a man with whom you might have some financial security but a volatile relationship.

There’s good news and bad news here and it’s exactly the same news: You can’t make a decision anyway. You aren’t in a position to decide whether or not to marry someone else because you are already married. You can’t marry the more financially secure man until you’re legally divorced from your husband, and since getting divorced would cost money you don’t have/don’t need to spend, for that reason alone — and, of course there are plenty of other reasons — I would focus on fixing what you have with the man you are already legally married to.

Since it seems to be easier to think about the practical side of your relationships — financial security, etc., rather than the emotional side — start there. Meet with a debt or retirement counselor along with your husband and discuss steps you can take now to secure yourselves financially for the rest of your lives. I would imagine that maintaining two different households is pretty expensive. What would need to happen to get you back into the same home? Once you have that mapped out, what support do you need (from each other and possibly from a marriage counselor or even a clergy person if you’re religious and can’t afford a marriage counselor) to get the emotional side of your marriage back on track?

If, and only if, you decide that the marriage isn’t worth saving and that even financially it doesn’t make sense living together and planning a future together, you can explore the idea of legally divorcing. And then, and only when you are legally divorced, should you be discussing the idea of marriage with anyone else. But I would hope that someone else isn’t someone who’s jealous and clingy and moody and depressed and treats you like garbage, no matter how many pensions he might have…


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Bittergaymark says:

    Go for the money. People like you always do. And I so look forward to the bleak update where we all learn just how much you got EXACTLY what You so truly deserve…

    1. Wow. I know your screen name contains the word bitter, but that’s like orange pith steeped in British Breakfast Tea and left to stew cold in its pot with a sprinkling of belladonna type bitter right there.

      1. zombeyonce says:

        Agreed. I’m not sure if BGM is just trying to live up to his name, but I don’t see anything in this letter that makes it seem like the LW “deserves what she gets”. She seems to actually have feelings for this new guy, so it’s not like she’s only with him because of the potential stability (though I agree with Wendy that problems with that relationship mean she needs to get out of it).
        The response seems way over the top and detrimental to someone looking for real help, and I wish we didn’t have such mean-spirited responses here. The end of her letter (“Please help me see things logically and not through the eyes of fear.”) shows that she already knows the decision she needs to make, she just needs someone to tell her that her happiness is more important than a built-in retirement fund.

      2. And also, congrats to Mark for apparently never having made decisions out of desperation. Some of us have not had that particular privilege…

    2. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      BGM, way to stay true to form. 😉
      I really dont have anything helpful to add to Wendy’s (very kind) advice.
      This letter makes me think of the scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett get all gussied up in her dress made from the curtains of Tara to charm Rhett Butler while he is in jail… LW, take note- she finds that he cant get his hands on his money to help her pay the taxes on Tara that she needs to save the plantation.

      1. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Hey hey hey! Gotta give an 80-year-old spoiler alert! 🙂

  2. dinoceros says:

    Being with someone who is financially stable only benefits you if your relationship is stable. Based on his personality and the fact that you fight a lot, who knows if you’d even stay together long enough to get married or more than a few years into your marriage?

  3. Make yourself financially stable for fuck’s sake. If you have an intense fear of poverty, why have you put zero effort into a plan beyond marrying someone who may share hi pension? Don’t play a passive role in your own life – meet with a financial planner and see what steps you can take now to course correct.

    1. artsygirl says:

      Exactly! An adult woman that is capable of working should not be worrying if her partner will be able to comfortably support her for the rest of her life. LW, the fact that you have no savings, no assets, and apparently no long term plan regarding your future is sad. I am 31 and work in the not-for-profit sector so I make less than most public school teachers, but I still diligently put money away every month for my retirement. Even today, I am brown bagging my lunch despite my co-workers hitting up a restaurant because that $10 is not something I want to spend after grabbing a drink with friends last weekend. Luckily you are still young enough to build up a nest egg. Since your BF kindly paid off your credit card debt, cut up the cards! Meet with a planner and get professional advice. Look into a Roth-IRA (which you pay tax upfront but then are not taxed when you pull from it for retirement). If all goes well, you will still have more than a decade to accumulate savings to support you especially since the average lifespan for a woman in good health is mid-80s.

      1. RedRoverRedRover says:

        To be fair, we don’t know how the LW got into this situation. I assume you’re single and have no kids, which makes it a lot easier to save. You may also be living somewhere that the cost of living is lower. Kids and cost of living can make you or break you. My husband and I are struggling right now because of high cost of living and daycare costs. It’s only temporary for us, it’ll be better in a year, but some people are in this kind of situation their whole life. She could also have gotten caught up in the housing market crash and lost everything she had. Or just made an investment she thought would work out and it didn’t. Or had a lot of school debt that didn’t lead to a decent-paying job and took her a long time to pay off.

        Plus, some people have an upbringing where everyone’s so poor that no one even thinks of saving. Everyone just spends what they have. My dad grew up in a community like this, and it screwed him over later in life. Others grow up somewhere where doing anything to improve yourself, like education, is considered “uppity” and you’re discouraged from doing it. My MIL grew up like this.

        Maybe it was the LW’s fault that she’s in this financial situation. There were probably things she could have done differently, but she may not have had the background to know that. I just don’t think we should jump to conclusions about the LW’s finances when we don’t have any details about them at all. And regardless, she’s in the situation now and berating her about it isn’t going to change anything.

      2. artsygirl says:

        Hi Red – I am married and don’t have kids but my monthly student loan bill is about the same as daycare in my city – luckily like you said, that is temporary (only 5 more years **sigh**). It is possible that the LW raised kids, had a serious of unfortunate financial events, etc, but I still am struggling to see how a 52 year old woman who is nervous about her financial stability would have zero savings – my husband’s grandparents were ‘Grapes of Wrath’ poor but extremely frugal and were able to purchase a house and even have a modest estate when they died. She mentions that her BF has three pensions which makes me think she has none. Basically I think she needs to confront her situation proactively rather than looking for a man to save her.

  4. RedRoverRedRover says:

    My aunt got married at 40. She had similar fears, that she wouldn’t be able to be financially secure alone, and also that she’d be alone and lonely for the rest of her life. Anyway, she settled. Her husband is a nice person, but personality-wise they’re just not a match. Well, she’s financially secure now because they have two incomes, and when they retire they’ll have two pensions. But she’s pretty unhappy. I’m pretty sure she regrets it. She didn’t have much money before, but she had a good circle of friends and her own place and had a pretty good life. Now she lives with someone who annoys her constantly. She annoys him too, so it’s just this cycle of unhappiness that they can’t get out of. I doubt if it’s worth the financial security to her.

    Think about what it would be like to live with this guy. The rest of your life with someone like that. You’ll be financially secure, but wI’ll you be happy? What’s the point of money if you’re going to be miserable. Do what Wendy said, and work with your husband to find a way to start saving.

  5. Howdywiley says:

    This man will always use money as his power over you.

  6. The end of your letter says it all: you know this isn’t the logical approach. You probably know the proverb: “there is no free lunch”. This man won’t solve your problems by miracle, the whole sounds delusional. It comes with a cost. Don’t you think the cost would be greater than your gain? It is already: you feel an obligation, and it ruins your peace of mind.
    You are not old. You can still work and sort your finances.
    You seem to miss your husband. Affective security is important, and being together makes you stronger. I would try to find a solution with him, and get the couple’s life back on track.

  7. Baccalieu says:

    I have to say I am confused about the nature of your current relationship with your husband. You make it sound like you separated from him purely because you needed to move for work and not because you guys fell out of love or wanted to live apart, which isn’t really a separation at all, just a married couple living apart, yet you are separated enough to have gotten into another relationship, yet “staying with” your husband seems to be an option. How does your husband feel about all this? I really don’t get it.
    Anywaay, WEES. The most important thing you said was you were trying to reduce your expenses. Do that, and try to put aside as much money as you can. Enlist the aid of a financial advisor both to help you maximize your savings and invest what you save in the best way for you. If your preference (aside from finances) would be to stay with your husband and your relationship (whatever it is) is close enough that you have influence over him, encourage your husband to do the same. If you have trouble doing this, think about how nice it would be to be able to be with a person because you want to, and not because you can’t afford not to be with them. That should be a very powerful motivation.

  8. for_cutie says:

    My in-laws were bad with money. At 55 they had no savings, didn’t have much equity in their house and no retirement. It is just 7 years later and they are in a much better place. They started a retirement savings plan, explored social security, and have even moved into new jobs that are more sustainable as they age. They make less money but have less demanding jobs too. If they can do this, you can too. Start thinking about a plan for you, and not what a man can supposedly provide for you.

  9. I don’ think I can be as kind as some of the previous posters.

    I think that someone with a “stronger-than-normal” fear of poverty would have been squirreling away money into a savings account for at least the last 34 years! (I’m only calculating from legal adult age). Now, at 52, you’ve got no savings of your own, nothing to fall back on, and credit card debt! Good thing you found another man to help you! And, my goodness, he bought you a $1,000 ring?? What a keeper! Why is it that a man is supposed to provide the security you “need”?

    What have you done to help yourself in the last 34 years? And what about the husband that you have? The “good man, who has always been a great husband” just isn’t rich enough for you? You sound selfish, entitled, and greedy. You’ve not helped yourself all these years and now someone else is supposed to take care of you. That’s some shit. You don’t deserve either man.

    1. Exactly. We didn’t have disposal income when I was growing up. My father was a roof over our head food on the table and that’s the extent of his time and commitment kind of guy. That’s fine. That was more than others had. But since I didn’t want that for my kid – I did something about it. As in me. As in not relying on someone else. And what kind of job requires two households but doesn’t pay enough for you to save? Something is off. Did I miss the part about you having an open marriage? Because if you don’t then you have added cheater to all your shining virtues. I think you should leave your husband… For no other reason than he can find a good wife.

  10. LisforLeslie says:

    Unless you are his accountant or work for the IRS and have done his audit – you don’t know what he actually has in the bank. You don’t know what debits he has against his current credit. For all you know that house that he “owns” has three mortgages and that $1000 ring was purchased with a credit card on which he owes $50K. People die and leave “everything” to their spouses including massive amounts of debt. Don’t be a sucker.

  11. Northern Star says:

    So your solution to poverty fears, as a married woman, is to sell yourself to another man. Not to work with your husband and move him WITH YOU (if he doesn’t make any money, really, what’s keeping him tied down?). Not to talk with a financial planner about the best way to budget. Not even to find a free church program to deal with debt (yep, they exist).

    Nah. Instead, you choose to cheat on your husband for more than a year in hopes of scoring a (pretty lame) payday. Great decision making, there!

  12. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    You need something that is in your own name because that is the only way you can be sure it will be there for you. If you are an American and have worked at least five years you should be able to collect social security. If you haven’t worked for at least five years you should be able to collect on your husband’s account but will get half as much as he does. If you’ve been working under the table and not paying taxes you need to change jobs and work a job that pays taxes and so records social security for you. Once you’ve got social security look at jobs and figure what job you can get that will give you more. County and state level jobs include pension plans. Getting a shelving job at your local library would help you build toward a pension. Like social security you don’t get a pension until you’ve put in five years. The good thing is that you have plenty of time to reach five years. Another option is to go to a company like Wal Mart. The last I knew, they have a 401K plan. You can direct a portion of your income to to the plan and they should match it. I don’t know if they match exactly 1 to 1 or not. There will be a limit of how much of your income they will match but if you put in 5% and they matched it with 5% you will have an amount equal to 10% of your income being saved for you for retirement. With a 401K you are buying the stock of the company that you work for and the value of your account will fluctuate with the stock market but it will grow over time and the great thing about it is that the money you put into the fund automatically doubles when it goes into the account, or whenever they do their matching. This is also a good option if you don’t yet have social security in your own name because you will also be paying toward social security. That gives you two types of money for retirement from one job.

  13. You marry that man that money will not come free. The cost will be your dignity, your mental health, maybe even your physical well being. The fact he’s volatile now tells me it will only escalate once you wed him. The fact he is willing to bribe you and still treats you like shit tells me what kind of man he is. Furthermore, you are a 52 year old woman. I understand it is difficult for older people to get jobs and go back to school, but you know what’s really hindering you? Your belief that your financial security should come from a man. You want a better quality of life YOU get off your ass and do something about it.

  14. I’m the 52 year old woman who posted this question, and I’d like to respond to the comments left by people. I’d also like to point out that the title assigned to the question I submitted isn’t accurate: “Should I leave my husband for a man who has more money?” This is not accurate because I would have to be with my husband in order to leave him. Granted – I realize Wendy and other respondents don’t have access to my entire life story, or to additional, more specific details about my situation. So to clarify – I haven’t been “cheating” on my husband. We have been separated for almost 2 years. When I had to move for my job, my husband refused to move with me after much discussion. Not because of his job, but because he had literally never lived anywhere else – still in the town he was born in. His family and elderly Father are also there. After being apart and seeing each other infrequently due to work schedules and distance, we grew apart, and agreed to see other people and go on with life. We are still friendly and care about each other. He dated a few women and he is aware I am seeing someone. As for why I have no savings – I do have reasons – but it really doesn’t matter. I have taken steps to reduce my bills – got a cheaper apartment, refinanced my vehicle payment, and have closed my credit cards (I had 3). I am trying to be careful with spending, etc. I have enrolled in my company’s 401k program, but can’t afford to put in much. I actually make decent money, but have had too much going out. I make about 75k per year. I am a manager in a hospital. As stated – I am working actively at reducing expenses. I do not do drugs, drink, gamble, smoke. My daughter is grown and married. I have 2 grandkids. I think what really hit home with me were the comments here about “not relying on a man” or not relying on another person to “take care of you.” THAT, I think, is the issue I have. I believe it stems from growing up really poor with no father. It may be something I “learned” from my Mom, who was married 5 times. But whatever – it’s there in me. For some reason I feel like I need a man to take care of me. I have this fear that I’ll end up elderly and eating from a trash bin or being abused in some run-down nursing home. I fear being old, I guess. But I feel that the responses here have done good. I guess I needed to hear them. Relying on a man is a huge mistake and no guarantee of anything. So many times I’ve tried to “plan” my life – and it never turns out the way I planned. I have spoken with my husband and he is willing to give it another try in terms of resuming our marriage and both agreeing not to see other people. He is still unwilling to move, but he says we’ll manage and that he loves me. As stated – he knows about the guy I’ve been seeing and he has told me he is worried about me – that the guy sounds like he could make me very unhappy. My husband was dating a woman, but told me he hasn’t dated or seen anyone in quite some time. I can manage a hospital department, but apparently not my own life. Most everything everyone said here is true, and was good advice. And I do understand people’s criticism too. I suppose I deserve it. But I am going to think long and hard about this. My husband is a good guy who still wants to try to stay together. The other guy is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My husband is the 1st man I think I’ve ever been in a relationship with who has treated me well, as I have always tended to be attracted to men who have tempers – another blessing from my childhood, I suppose. My husband is the only good man I know. Thank you all for your responses – whether encouraging or harsh.

  15. Your marriage is already over if you’ve lived apart from your husband for two years and been having an affair for a year-and-a-half of that time. It doesn’t sound like you moved away for a huge-paying job, so hard to see how you thought that worked with two households instead of one to run. Sounds like you’ve been living off your bf almost from the moment you moved away from your husband, and you still can’t save. Probably neither of these guys is right for you.

  16. Juliecatharine says:

    Gina, I think it was pretty brave to chime in and I’m glad you did. Does your employer offer an employee assistance program? They might have some good advice re financial planning and overcoming negative patterns in your life. Don’t marry that guy.

  17. You are only 52 years old. That’s young. Get (back) to work. Try harder.

  18. Hi Gina, I could not respond earlier today but I did not feel you were wrong to consider financial safety as one of the aspects of a relationship. But I do not feel the guy you are dating is good enough to be a partner in the long term. If he is not balanced enough by this age, it can only get worse as he becomes older.

    Far better to plan for your old age by yourself starting right now. You still have a decade to earn before you retire. If houses are affordable enough in the area you are working, buy a house and pay mortgage rather than rent. Even if you live elsewhere eventually, you could always rent it out or sell it when you are leaving.

    1. LisforLeslie says:

      More than a decade really. Retiring at 62 is getting more and more unusual . You may need to work several more years but it sounds like you have a position in which that is possible (unlike say, bricklaying). Talk with a financial counselor, figure out where your money is going. If you’re making $75K a year and putting next to nothing in retirement / savings then you’re spending too much. Unless you live in a major city like NYC or San Francisco, you are probably spending more than you need on housing. Additionally, set up a budget and stick to it.

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