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Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Do you have a question? Send it to Athena and Elizabeth here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Pay Dirt,

My husband grew up with poor financial literacy with parents who constantly fought over money and were in debt. Not surprisingly, this upbringing has had a big impact on how my husband deals with money.

It’s a two-part problem. he feels a compulsive need to have more, and at the same time he does not have a healthy attitude toward achieving that goal. He keeps thinking he’s discovered a magical secret to guaranteed wealth (drop shipping, crypto, forex trading…) and that the only reason everyone isn’t rich from it is because they don’t know about it. I push back on the idea, which leads to her complaining that she can’t talk to me about her interests.

During the peak of COVID in 2020, I discovered that he had put $1,500 of our total for shipping behind my back (he knew 100 percent that I wasn’t on the plane), lost every penny, and then put another $500 into crypto. He did apologize and seemed to feel really bad, but due to the circumstances at the time (stress, no childcare, more stress), we really couldn’t work out the trust issue. I just put it in my mind as much as I could and carried on.

I recently overheard him on the phone telling an unknown party that he had lost that party’s money to something and told them to check out the crypto WhatsApp group we discussed earlier that I said is definitely a scam. He said he would be humbled by it. When I confronted him it turned out he had borrowed money to trade forex and lost it all, he was trading the crypto he told me I was sitting on and he was still involved with the WhatsApp group. He initially lied about that first point and claimed he was just joking (I didn’t believe him for a second), and even after admitting the lie, he initially refused to tell me who was on the phone. In the end, it became clear why. it was one of his acquaintances who had recently gone to jail for multimillion-dollar tax evasion. He knew very well that I would not be okay with any financial involvement with this individual.

My husband has admitted that he was wrong, that he was wrong to prioritize money over our relationship, and that he has a problem with money (he has never been dishonest with me about anything else). He wants to do whatever it takes to restore trust. So that’s great. But the question is, how do we rebuild trust after this?

— Small investments are good, but they are not

Dear small investors,

Think of this as if your spouse was financially unfaithful, because he was. Financial infidelity can involve protecting accounts and assets, but it can also involve behavior that your spouse engages in. To rebuild trust, I suggest you see a couples therapist who has special experience with these types of money issues.

A couples therapist will help you move forward by facilitating conversations so you both feel heard and can help you both understand each other’s perspectives. Counseling can be a place where you set healthy boundaries and work toward actionable steps to heal. They may also suggest that your husband seek additional individual sessions to help him work through the other issues you’ve mentioned that may be driving his impulsive behavior.

While you’re in the process of figuring out your next steps, I also recommend checking out the Healthy Love & Money website. Founded by Ed Coombs, the site provides resources to help couples learn to communicate about their finances. This can be a good place to start as you wait to find the right counselor.

– Athena

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