About Morality Judgments In Marriage And Money

Okay, so there was a post on Money After Graduation openly judging a man for wanting to leave money to a woman other than his wife.

I get where she is coming from with regards to marriage and fidelity…but I would have thought that the author would avoided judging others when it is totally without context, especially when the authors of this blog has been really vocal about not wanting to be judged for their financial decisions, with some context at that.

“But instead of suggesting not to give the mistress money or to come clean about the affair, the author Larry MacDonald advises the reader on how to set up a secret trust or to ask a friend to secretly give the funds to the mistress.”

In my opinion, Larry MacDonald did exactly the right thing. After all, one commenter did bring a legitimate point that the woman in question might not have been a mistress. Maybe Larry had the whole story, maybe he didn’t. Whichever the case, he did the professional thing; answer the financial question without any moral implications. If a person went to the doctor for STD treatment, will you expect that the doctor should provide a lecture on the ills of say, prostitution, along with the treatment?

And so what if it had been a mistress? I have three stories here, two of them involving cheating. Any one of the men in the following stories might have been the one who sent that MoneySense query. Please judge, if you will.

Story One

We have a family friend. His wife is a deadbeat. He works; she stays at home, no kids to look after. He does all the cooking; she only eats. He does all the housework; she lazes around and watches TV. He wants to look after his aged parents who have sacrificed a lot for his studies and career; his wife stops him from doing so, and is totally disrespectful and rude to them. I’m not sure if they are still having sex because he is totally trying to avoid her.

He wants a divorce. She doesn’t. Why should she? She has a long term meal ticket, and she sure isn’t going to give him up. Every time it comes up, she resorts to: suicide (note – not only threats but actually carrying out the act), public shaming acts, some violence (throwing things, damaging his belongings etc). He is now totally afraid of letting the word pass his lips. It has been going for years and he is emotionally beaten down. He told us he has given up hope of ever getting out of the marriage.

I’m sure many will say that he should man up and leave the marriage. And we did. But I guess only those who have ever been in an abusive relationship will know how hard it is to just up and leave.

He owns his own small business, and has an assistant. The lady is unmarried, and they got together. She provides him with everything his wife doesn’t – companionship, love, affection, respect (and probably sex). So well, she is his mistress. She is also invaluable at the business. You could say that for every dollar the man’s wife spends, this lady contributes fifty cents.

While this lady draws a salary for her work at his business, our friend wants to provide more for her, because she is, in all but name, his wife. She is the woman who stood by him without asking anything in return. He is not cutting his wife out, she will be provided for despite her lack of contribution. However, he does not want his wife to know about the other arrangements, because he is afraid of the consequences for both himself and the lady if the wife finds out.

Story Two

Another family friend. This man cheated on his wife. She found out. She didn’t throw a hissy fit. She sat him down and asked if he really loves the other woman. He said yes. She bowed out, and they got an amicable divorce. But for some reason, she ended up with a less than fair distribution of assets. Despite that, they remained on good terms. In fact, they were really good friends. We all thought she was a real class act, and he was a heel.

Anyway, he married the other woman. A few years down the road, the ex-wife contracted dementia, cannot work and needs care. The man had by now, realised how unfair the divorce settlement was, and also finally realised what a great person his ex-wife was. He felt extremely guilty. He wanted to at least give her back the rightful share of the marriage assets that was taken from her.

However, his current wife had always been extremely jealous about his on-going friendship with his ex-wife. While he was not afraid of a confrontation with his current wife about the arrangements, he was afraid that that she may in some way be able to prevent him from doing what he thinks is fair to his ex-wife.

Story Three

This involves my mother’s youngest brother and sister. My uncle is married, with three children, and makes a good living. My youngest aunt is unmarried and works as a teacher. For a number of years, she tuitioned my uncle’s kids for free at his and his wife’s request. As my aunt was the only unmarried child left, my grandmother lived with her up to time of her death.

One day, my aunt broke her mobile phone. My uncle bought her a new and expensive one because

1)      Brothers can give gifts to sisters without reason.

2)      He was thanking her for her help with his kids.

3)      He was thanking her for her care of my grandmother.

It is to be noted that my uncle gives the bulk of his not-considerable income to his wife for spending, safekeeping and management. However, my uncle’s wife was always complaining that she didn’t have enough money and was always making noises about the money he spent on friends and relatives.

So anyway, my uncle didn’t tell his wife know about the gift to his sister. Whether that was by design to avoid his wife’s nagging or he just plain forgot, that’s anyone guess. But since he didn’t ask my aunt to keep it secret, I guess the latter was more likely. My uncle’s wife got wind of the gift to my aunt, and was furious that he spent that money. But what happened next – she went around telling everyone she knew about the matter, and implied that there must be an incestuous relationship going on between my aunt and uncle, otherwise, why would he give her such an expensive gift?

I will tell you that the incident broke extended family up for a while.

It all blew over, and everyone is on speaking terms again, but you can be sure that if my uncle ever wants to make gifts to his female relatives again for any reason at all, he is going to make sure it is all done on the side.

If we want to talk about old fashioned, I’m an Asian who grew up with Confucian ideas and operate in a society still full of traditional norms. However, even I am cognizant of the fact that there are unreasonable people out there doing unreasonable things. In each of the above scenario, I could only give financial advice or shut up. The morality of the situations certainly were beyond my capacity to judge. I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t have done the same things in the same place.

And I know these people, their families and their respective lives very well. Which is more than probably what Larry MacDonald knew about the man who wrote in. And which is definitely more than what the authors and commenters of the Money After Graduation post knew about the man in question.

So yeah, I wouldn’t judge. Not in this case.


One comment on “About Morality Judgments In Marriage And Money

  1. Revanche says:

    Yeah, while as the wife I would normally default to: money doesn’t leave our marriage w/o consent from both spouses, I have seen where extenuating circumstances will apply. Has done, through good or bad judgment, on the part of family members, certainly, and it’s not a situation you can change or affect simply by passing judgment. It’s an imperfect world and unless you’re a participant, and sometimes even when you are, you face an uphill battle in changing it.

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