He pays a lot of alimony

I'm visiting a high school in a week to talk about Love Letters and the history of advice columns. (Educators, I plan to do these visits more often. Feel free to email me at meredith.goldstein at globe dot com if that interests you.) While I'm there, I'm going to have the students answer some letters. If you have a letter that's good for teens, please send it along through the form. It doesn't have to be G-rated, just watch the language.

Dear Meredith,

My husband and I are both in our 60s. We met six years ago and are now happily married. We were both married previously; both marriages lasted more than 20 years. The problem I have is with his divorce agreement. He pays significant alimony to his ex-wife. We have managed our finances well so it doesn't cause a hardship. We are financially stable but not well off. His only child is grown, married, and independent.

We've discussed this arrangement a few times over the years, and I said that I didn't think the alimony was necessary. He gave her the house, and she's now retired. My husband's response to my comment was, "When we divorced I was making a lot more money than she was, and gee, I don't even know where my divorce papers are anymore ... I think her lawyer screwed me over." He shows no desire to change this arrangement and I have kept mum, figuring that this is his business, and there's nothing that I can do about it.

Recently he mentioned anticipating his retirement, and I am glad he's getting ready for it. I'll continue to work as long as I can. When he retires, we'll be cutting back financially, so I am wondering about the alimony situation. Is this a matter for a marriage counselor, a financial counselor, or both? I don't want to wind up resentful in our golden years but I am not sure whether I ought to address this matter with him (again) or wait and see if he addresses it when he's ready to retire. Can you help?

– Worried Wife


"He shows no desire to change this arrangement ..."

That's your answer, right? He wants his ex to have access to this money.

Maybe he fears a change would cause serious conflict. Maybe he wants to be generous to the person who was with him for two decades. Whatever the reason, it's what makes him comfortable. You went into this marriage knowing that was part of the deal. It would help to start thinking of the alimony as a necessary expense.

I do think you and your husband should meet with a financial counselor to talk about how to cut back without becoming resentful. There might be other ways to find extra money. You also might learn how other couples manage expenses like alimony with their own financial needs. Get as much information as you can as a team.

– Meredith

Readers? Is this worth another discussion?