March 22, 2008 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
“I have made one of the worst mistakes of my life. I am 48, and lost my husband due to cancer four years ago. We had a great marriage and I care for our teenage sons. We are a farming family which has been financially successful, to the point where much of my time now is spent in charitable work. We help kids with scholarships for college, support our church, and literally give away a great deal of money yearly to a variety of causes.” Sandra wrote.
“Less than a year ago, I met a man who I married after knowing him six months. I now realize that I caved in to loneliness. He is a professional, well known, and, like me, lost his wife due to illness. While we were dating, I was a bit surprised by his suggestion that we each pay our own share at all times. Little did I know this was a sign of worse things to come, later.
“I wanted a real wedding with family and friends, but he insisted on a civil ceremony in front of a judge friend of his. We had no reception, at his request. Then, once we began to live together, in his home, I discovered he is the most stingy, miserly person I have ever met.
“He is an excellent artist and great musician, but all of his easels, paints, and musical/recording equipment are ancient, falling apart and he refuses to buy new things, moaning that it costs so much money, or that the stock market isn’t doing well, or for any number of reasons, he just won’t spend money.
“His closet is filled with rags for clothing. In winter, he refuses to keep the heat above 62. When we go out with friends (mine, as he has few) he never offers to pay his share as he forgets to bring money. He is sitting on well over $2 million cash in the bank, plus a million dollar home. He flatly refuses to contribute to any charitable organization, church or to the schools where his kids received college scholarships — how they got them, I really wonder.
“He ridicules me for our family’s generosity and desire to help others, but when we were dating, complimented us. I can’t live this way. What should I do? If it were possible to separate his miserliness from the rest of his personality, he is a charming man. Is there a treatment for these kinds of people? If not, can I annul the marriage or do I need to file for a divorce?”
Sandra has two choices open to her for a solution using the Court System: File for a divorce, or, try to have the marriage annulled based upon her husband’s financial misrepresentation and a clearly unsound attitude toward money. But this is not a slam dunk.
“California law is not terribly impressed when a husband or wife complains about being financially misled, or that former drug/alcohol abuse issues weren’t disclosed, and then wants a judge to declare the marriage a nullity. While it is possible — and certainly worth a try — to aim for an annulment, economic misrepresentations alone often just aren’t enough to satisfy many judges,” L.A. County Superior Court Judge “Manny” replied when I discussed Sandra’s case with him.
“Marriage is based on consent. You can’t know everything, and some personal issues are not large enough to stand in the way of a valid marriage. Your reader seems to have had enough evidence that all was not quite normal with her husband before deciding to proceed. She could be found to have knowingly entered into a far less than ideal union,” he concluded.
I would still recommend that Sandra file for both a nullity of marriage, and divorce. If a Superior Court judge does not think there’s enough for a nullity — which is the equivalent of saying there was never a valid marriage in the first place — a divorce will be granted down the road.
Large issues — Is there a treatment for misers?
“If I let you use my name, and my in-laws see this, they will think I am talking about them,” Sacramento psychologist HC told me, laughing. “Misers are the stuff of great literature. All of us have known frugal, stingy and miserly people. It is more than a matter of degree, and a true miser is one of the most difficult people on earth to deal with, especially in a family setting,” she told me.
“These tend to be intelligent, well accomplished people, but believe themselves to be poor, or are afraid of poverty, despite having no rational way to conclude that. It is an illness that — especially in our environmentally aware society — can justify itself, for example, where the individual wears rags, allows the home to fall into disrepair, will not properly heat or cool the house, claiming to live that way as an environmentally responsible citizen,” she concluded.
“Today we know these people aren’t merely frugal, but suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Behavior, with a large dose of narcissism adding to a sense of entitlement,” Bakersfield psychologist Dr. Dean Haddock stated.
“Having a miser for a patient is itself a challenge, as few see that they have a problem. Unless someone else pays the bill, treatment is out of the question. Seeking help for yourself if you think your family members are crazy for giving back to society, isn’t going to happen. It is an interesting mental illness, in that others — typically a spouse — can be sucked into the same twisted view of money, adopting the profoundly dysfunctional behaviors of the miser,” Dr. Haddock added.
“Interesting, case studies show that children of misers are fully aware that Mom and Dad are messed up people. Despite a financially perverted family up-bringing, often these children have a very healthy attitude toward money, and tend to go the other way,” he added.
“When interviewed, children of misers, in addition to being embarrassed by their parents, are fully aware of just how much damage to the family relations occurs.”
“Tell your reader to get the heck out of there as soon as she can, unless her husband will agree to go into counseling. Even then, the success rate isn’t all that encouraging. The mental torture of living with such a person isn’t worth it,” both psychologists concluded.
Sandra needs to dump this creep and then figure out why she fell for him in the first place!
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.