Q: My husband has three adult children, a boy and two girls. The 24-year-old girl is unusually close to him and she was very upset when we married. I don't think they've had inappropriate touching but it feels like emotional incest. They talk often on the phone and via email and he spends way too much money (my opinion as I’m the sole wage earner) on his kids, especially on her. This not only causes hard feelings in her two siblings but also uses money that is now not available for us. Recently I discovered that when he goes grocery shopping he’s been getting sizable amounts of "cash back" on transactions and using that for his kids. My husband often invites them over for Sunday afternoon backyard barbecues or Friday evening dinners and we really can't afford the outlay of food. I already owned a home when we married and he is pushing me to add his name to the deed. My attorney says NOT to do that because if anything happens to him or to our marriage, I will likely have to sell and give him (or his kids) half the equity. My husband says that if I loved him I'd put his name on the deed. I'm so confused (and the letter goes on). My brain is fried!
A: I’m sure your brain is under a great deal of stress and I regret that life with this man isn’t turning out as you hoped. The concerns you posed are complicated and are best discussed with a good attorney. My brain’s perception is that marriage is a business. Hopefully, it is based on healthy reciprocal love and equal commitment to the partnership. It is, nevertheless, a business, and financials should follow good business practice. Each State has its own laws and you need to research the financial ramifications before you marry or remarry. Many males remarry and never add the wife's name to the house deed. Some never even leave her anything in their will, wanting to retain assets to leave to his children, believing that supporting his wife during marriage was sufficient. That's one reason I always recommend a clear and thoughtful prenuptial for any marriage, but especially for a remarriage. It is not being selfish. It is being prudent.
Your husband may be trying to boost his level of self-esteem by appearing to be the great and benevolent father to his kids. To do this, of course, he must use your money and assets since he is not working and brought no financial assets to the marriage. A skilled counselor may be able to help him take a look at the emotional ties with his daughter. Ties that can actually prevent her from developing a close emotional relationship with her own husband and might even be a factor in their eventual break up. Few men could meet the unrealistic “knight in shining armor” perception that a girl can develop about her father.