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Zinnie and all fincially savvy... need credit advice
April 13, 2004
11:59 am
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gingerleigh
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I never thought I would be in this position. You know those commercials on TV that show all these people who are scared to pick up the phone or check the mail? That's me now. I'm averaging a whopper of a bill that I didn't know about hitting me about once a month. I don't find out about them through final notices either... nooooo, I find out about them when our joint checking account has an order placed against it, or like yesterday when I got a notice saying that the IRS took the liberty of garnishing my tax refund for a debt that was owed to the Military Exchange. None of these debts are mine. They range from everything from direct withdrawls not being set up correctly for his truck payment to the state realizing that they overpaid unemployment benefits last year and that they want their $850 back and decided to grab that out of checking, plus a $75 processing fee. I figured there couldn't possibly be anything else, and then yesterday I got the IRS notice. I'm super pissed as you can imagine, since I was counting on that refund to secure a wedding site... well forget that. OH that's not all... Diners Club charges from 2 years ago, unpaid electric bills from his old apartment, dental bills...

Anyway, mad as I am, and as much as I'd love to fly over to Iraq and strangle my husband myself, that would be counter-productive, so I'm trying to focus on what I can do now to find out any other debts pending and put a stop to this bullshit.

I have always been responsible with my money. I don't balance my checkbook and invest like I should, but when I get a bill I pay it. To be somewhat fair to my husband, these final notices were all mailed to his previous address and none of them were forwarded (or else I would have gotten them). No wonder they say the first year of marriage is stressful. I bet money has to be at least half of it.

Anyway, I confidentially contacted the Army Family Support group, and their advice to me was to obtain copies of our credit reports. There are 3 agencies though, and each of them charge something like $30 online for each, so at 3 reports, $30 each, and 2 of us, that's $180. Anyone have advice on which of the agencies I should use, or all three, or if there is a free service I could contact? It would really frost me that I actually have to pay MORE money to fix his mistakes that I'm already paying for.

Grumble grumble. Some wonderful wife I am. I know when you get married, it goes from I to We, but I thought we had already taken care of this financial stuff. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was being taken for a ride, but my gut tells me that he really just isn't good with money. And I'm sure that his credit score will back that up. I'm still struggling with the idea that I am so angry over this yet he has his life on the line, getting rocks hucked at him by Iraqi children (yes, I got an email from him on Sunday, and kids throw rocks at them). I'm trying to validate my own feelings, but I don't want to take them out on him. But still, I want him to share in the responsibility of running this household too. Am I wrong?

God I've rambled. To sum up... (1) where can I get a reliable credit report on both me and my husband that will show pending debts without breaking my bank any further, and (2) Is it ok for me to be angry?

April 13, 2004
1:24 pm
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Anonymous
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G,
If you are angry it is what it is. Get mad and vent and then get to work fixing this mess. I work for a bank and you don't want this hanging over your head.

I think there is an on-line way to get a credit report cheaper than $30 bucks, you may even be able to get a free one since you have had recent trouble.

It sounds like he is lucky that he isn't here for you to throw rocks at!! Just because he is in Iraq doesn't mean that you can't be angry about him being irresponsible. It does mean that he can't fix the problem, you do. There are agencies that will help you consolidate and even negoitiate lower payments on the bills that you owe. Many of them offer a free service.

Money trouble will pass..... just take them on one at a time.

MILO

April 13, 2004
1:47 pm
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Zinnie
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Ginger,

First things first. Contact Consumer Credit Counseling immediately and get an appointment. Many times they can help you life wage garnishments, reduce interest and stop late fees.

The will charge you a monthly fee of about $20.00, and that is their administrative fee to get everything set up and processed. You will have to pay them monthly, and they will then cut the checks to the creditors. Once you have made three consecutive payments with them, things will be reported "current" to all credit reporting agencies.

The IRS... well, you know who you are talking to. First of all, if he owes any back taxes, you are 100% right when you said I am now we. Any refund you were due is now theirs. So, that is gone and there will be no getting it back. However, you can set up a payment plan with them, and I will tell you that they are actually quite willing to work with tax payers UNLESS they have made successions of payment plans and not kept them. But, generally they will help you as much as possible. Despite what most people think.

For your credit report - the best is to get all three reports as sometimes people report to different agencies (deregulation in 1986) and it can be a mess. However, you are allowed to have a free credit report by each agency run on yourself every year, so you should not have to pay anything. You will have to write or call all three agency's and tell them you need your credit reports and they will comply. Now, he might need to sign off on something to get his, that is something you can check on.

Hope this is helpful.

Z.

April 13, 2004
3:06 pm
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gingerleigh
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Yes, this is helpful, thank you both. What I'm having trouble with isn't getting things paid off... it's not knowing what is outstanding. I'm one of those people who can solve any problem so long as I have enough information. But in this case I'm flying blind.

The credit counseling numbers on TV usually say "collect up your bills and call us up..." I don't have any bills to gather together to consolidate. Do the credit reports list the agencies who are currently chasing him for money? I've had credit reports run for myself when I bought my home and car and things like that, but usually what shows up there is the snapshot balance on my credit card that I pay off every month. I just want to know who else I should be expecting to knock on my door next month. 🙁

Thankfully his tax returns for the last few years are in order. He doesn't have any credit cards, and the only loan he has is the truck, which I now manage and mail in a check each month for from his account. What's killing me is that final notices don't get forwarded through regular mail forwarding. This makes absolutely no sense to me, since of ANY mail wouldn't it be the most critical to forward final financial notices???

Thanks again, I'll check on these things.

April 13, 2004
3:09 pm
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Zinnie
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Any outstanding bills should show up on the credit report.

April 13, 2004
3:12 pm
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Hey gl.

Your banker can help you. Ask to talk to a loan officer and explain what's going on. The bank can run a credit report for you -- it will take like two mins and is free. The loan officer can then also help you think out a plan, like getting a loan to cover this and setting up a reasonable monthly payment amount. That way you are paying them off right away and just dealing with the bank. I know our bank has also been way lenient with those deployed, as they qualify for loan deferrment until they return to the states.

Good luck, girl! I am sorry you are having to deal with this by yourself. I would be nervous too. Good move, too, going to the Army support thing. Good idea.

April 13, 2004
4:52 pm
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gingerleigh
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Thanks SFB. I might do that as well. I did call the consumer credit counseling people and they first said that I'd have to bring my husband in with me. I told him I had a power of attorney, and he said he'd have to have someone call me back. I asked him if it would be today, and he said "Well, I don't know. We'll call you when we know something" which was tremendously NOT helpful. Oh well. All I can do is sit back and wait I suppose.

I did go to freecreditreport.com and filled out all the info, and lo and behold, which I clicked submit, it said I had already been to that site and gotten my free report. I was trying to do this as my husband, so that doesn't at all surprise me that he has requested a copy of his report. I do vaguely recall that he got a copy of it about 8 months ago. So that's out. I'll just wait until I hear back from the credit counseling people.

Patience is not my strong suit.

April 13, 2004
6:40 pm
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hi ginger

Personally, I don't like consumer Credit counseling. A friend of mine did that and every month she was chasing down late payments kuz the CCC payment date was a different payment date than the creditor's and so was racking up late fees on those cards they were supposed to pay off. As long as you are under a consumer credit counseling thing, you can't claim bankruptcy. I for one would be afraid to shut that option down.

there are many things you can do once you discover what your debts are.

TransAmerica and Expedia are two credit reporting agencies. I can't think of the third. If they won't give you a free credit report, apply for aloan or credit card in both of your names. When it gets denied, you will be given the address of the credit reporting agencies to write for a free credit report.

You're not gonna stop the bleeding today, ginger, and probably not tomorrow. It took awhile for things to start bleeding like this.

It's gonna be one bill at a time, so easy pony. The IRS tax attachment was from the most serious and aggressive bill collectors. The rest aren't gonna be that bad. You can handle this.

I'd say, first thing to do is to try to discover debts owed. You need to know if bankruptcy is necessary. After that, that 20 bucks a month to pay your debts- keep, and pay them yourself. High interest ones first, on down. You can contact the debtor directly and negotiate. For example, Id worked overtime and had a big check coming, so I called a debtor for a little over 3k and said

"hey, if I send you half of what I owe in one lump sum, can we clear the slate, I'm in a mess, yada yada." Done ginger. So I sent it and ignored the city bill (1.5% interest, the gas bill (1% late fee), the phone bill (1.5% late fee) and used my extra money from that check. But saved about 1500 bucks. Of course, keep a record of the call, who ya spoke to, ask for the agreement in writing on office letterhead. Not that big a deal and the worst they will do is say no. But, getting that half from you in a lump sum saves them attorney fees to sue, attorneys fees for the IRS attachment, etc, and they'll think of that.

Just don't panic anc run to consumer credit counseling. I just think you're too smart for that.

I'm sorry about the wedding site. Hey, you're gonna be together for a lifetime. How about spending this year getting debt free so as to start that lifetime on a clean slate.

free

April 13, 2004
7:22 pm
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gingerleigh
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Hi Free... I'm a little bit too paranoid to let another agency handle our debts. I'd rather pay them off myself each month, which is do-able. But like all of you have indicated, you can't take any real effective action until you know what's there. So... What I did do was schedule a one time consultation to walk through his credit report and see what all of the black marks mean and what is left outstanding. From there, I can figure out a plan. My gut tells me that credit cards won't be a problem, since he hasn't had one for years. What I'm nervous about are the surprise ones... like unpaid electric (which I paid), or other utilities that were never paid for his old apartment. The military exchange one shocked the hell out of me since he usually purchases things through the exchange via check card.

What I will have a very hard time with is if outstanding credit card stuff comes up. Before he left, we had a lot of money talk, making sure I had everything I needed to take care of things. He told me he had no outstanding debt other than his truck payment. I specifically asked about credit cards, and he said he had paid everything off and couldn't get a new card if he wanted to. If other credit card debt does come up, that will mean he lied. I don't want to go down that path of thought right now. Too painful to consider, so I'm not going to fret over it unless the credit report shows that.

Thanks for hearing me out you guys. I do appreciate it.

April 13, 2004
8:53 pm
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Hey, you're gonna be ok girl. You're actually doing very well, sounds like, keeping your options open and thinking this thru. Kudos to you.

The third credit agency that free can't remember 🙂 is TransUnion. That's the big one, the one we use exclusively at work. I do agree tho, I've heard bad things thru customers about those agencies that are supposed to help, about money sent in to them either not always finding it's way to the creditors, or being late and making this worse. This on top of the fee they charge (no, usually they aren't free, although they advertise that extensively on tv.)

Free, that was interesting to know, about the credit card company agreeing to take half and write the rest off. That's heartening to know that the "big companies" have a heart, hey?

Good luck, gl. I'm rootin for you and if you need any more advice, I would be happy to dig up what I can. Hang in there girl!

April 13, 2004
9:57 pm
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Hi GL,

Sorry to hear that CCCS was less than helpful. When I worked with them with debtors they were always very helpful not only to us (the issuing company), but to the debtor.

However, both Free and SFB are right and that there are other ways to handle it, and it can be done on your own. I was just looking at it in the way I helped others before, but I was working for one of the creditors.

Another thing you might want to do, if you are willing - it's up to you because it is a big step. But, can you refinace some of the equity in your house? Find out all that is out there and combine it into the one payment?

After my son's ex-girlfriend took off, she left with various credit cards that she ran up. Well, he started getting the bills, and of course cancelled the card. He told the banks that they were charges run up by her. Bank said "she was authorized, and your name is on the bill." When he bought the house he is in now, he worked out something in being able to pay off the cards, purchase the house, and still have money left over for the babies.

Good luck,

Z.

April 13, 2004
11:59 pm
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It wasn't a credit card company that wrote off 1500 bucks- they go psycho and one even sued me after I filed bankruptcy (even though the debt wasn't mine personally)

It was dental bills.

Anyhow, just recently my attorney wrote off 850 if I'd send a thousand.

It's just that bills add up, and creditors will often work with you versus spending a bunch of money trying to collect, or selling to a collection agency for one half to two-thirds, or losing all the debt in a bankruptcy.

If you or he ownes a house, oh, man, a second is the way to go kuz the interest rate is so low compared to what you are likely paying with everybody else. Might wanna check to make sure there is no lean on it.

Once you know what all the debts are, then some serious decisions need to be made. For example, how bad is your credit because of them? If it's just wiped out, then it may be wise to consider bankruptcy. If monthly payments strap you for years to come, then it's time to consider bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy was probably one of the hardest things I ever did. I tried to pay bills, but after awhile they start snowballing. Monthly owed was just barely matching and sometimes exceeding what was brought in. Making the minimum payments will take many many years to end the debt because of compounding interest. So at that point I just payed all the smaller ones and personal ones (attorney, dentist, medical) knowing I was going into bankruptcy and let the debts that were too large (and not mine) go.

It was a tough choice as I bankrupted on 19 years of perfect credit kuz I started building it with 4-H loans when I was just a wee girl. I'll be about 65 before I have THAT credit rating again.

But, the alternative was to be 65 and still be paying on those debts.

These things have to be weighed out.

there's a formula for compound interest that can help you figure out the time it will take to pay off a debt at a certain interest and principal. Man, once I sat down and sttarted figuring things out, I'm like "okay, it'll be 33.5 years for this one at a minimum payment, " etc.

That's nuts. that's just throw in the towel time and start anew.

Banks make their money betting that you don't know about compound interest: it's an exponential function. I'm sure I need say no more.

good luck

free

April 14, 2004
1:10 am
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gingerleigh
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Actually Zinnie, I bet that the credit counseling folks will be helpful. I called back to schedule the appointment and got a different call center person who was a bit more experienced and said they could get me in on Friday. Sure, it's $35 for the hour, but if they can explain what his rating means and what the long term plan is to fix it, I consider it money well-spent. I got my own free credit report online, and nothing there looks amiss yet, so I'm hopeful. I do own my own home, and have my own savings and checking which I chose not to put his name on. He actually was a little miffed that I was "slow" in doing it, but truth be told, after cleaning up the credit of an ex to the tune of $20,000, I wasn't quite ready to jump into that scenario again just yet. Honestly? Deep down I suspected that I would see all kinds of interesting things this year, and I have. I just don't trust other people when it comes to money, and apparently with good reason 🙁

Who knows? Maybe the credit report will come up with nothing outstanding and I can just get on with life.

April 14, 2004
1:25 am
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Zinnie
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Hi Ginger,

I keep trying to go to bed, and I keep getting IM's from the kids...

Anyway - who are you in contact with? CCCS does not charge a fee for a consult, and you can go in without your husband, with or without a power of attorney. Our friend that is staying with us just had an appointment with them yesterday, and I asked her about it.

You have every right to be "slow" on putting someone on your financial stuff - especially if you have been burned before. I have this feeling you might have had suspicions that this might have been an issue from your prior post. If that is the case, then I guess you need to realize that you will be the one taking care of the money in your family.

I know for me, I'm alright with money, but my husband? He is the best - good with investments, savings, etc. If not for him, I could not have afforded the care I have been able to receive. Something he learned from his Father - although thankfully he is not quite as cheap.

However, you asked if you had the right to be angry? Absoutely.

April 14, 2004
2:51 am
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I misspoke, it's actually the National Foundation for Credit Counseling http://www.nfcc.org/ I found an office near me and booked an appointment. *sigh* I can't seem to do anything right these days.

I'm going to try to get some sleep and forget about all this for a few hours. Zinnie, hope you can get some sleep too. Thanks for reading and providing good guidance. I am all alone out here, and I do a good job of being a tough cookie most of the time, but sometimes I want to crawl into bed and not come out. I guess maybe we all go through that.

April 15, 2004
3:32 pm
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So I got some more information from the most recent creditor that whacked my IRS refund. Turns out it was the remaining balance on a credit card balance from 1996, and recent activity shows that he applied several payments to the balance before he left. On the one hand I'm relieved that it was from something old, and not some surprise credit card he'd gotten a year or two ago and had gone nuts with. On the other hand, I'm really disappointed that he didn't tell me about the remaining balance. When I asked him about credit cards while we were preparing for his deployment, he said that he had recently paid off everything. The payments show that he had paid off a lot of it, but not all... I sent him an email explaining what I had found and what actions I was taking. As luck would have it, I was in a meeting and he phoned from Iraq, to tell me that he got the email and wanted to talk to me about it, and would try back again in the evening for me (we're 11 hours different). No call ever came, but I certainly can't hold that against him considering they are in a war zone, they have to stand in line for a single phone line, its 30 cents per minute payable in cash only, and they get between 2 and 4 hours of sleep each night.

Yes, he and I agreed that I am our financial manager going forward. However I cannot manage what I don't know about.

I need to talk to him, as he has some explaining to do. I need to hear his side of the story. But I should not have to bear this alone. I will take the actions necessary, but it is also his responsibility to share in the fixing, right?

April 15, 2004
3:42 pm
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Right. You are right to question why you were kept in the dark about this also, as he had to know it was bound to turn up eventually. These are valid questions, absolutely!

April 21, 2004
1:36 am
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Guess I'm just venting now, since I have a plan, but it isn't helping me thus far with the anger. A lot has happened, I've gotten a lot of info. Met with the counselor, ran the reports, and followed up with each open account. I got the data for everything except for the car repo that happened a few year ago. Oh boy was I angry... but I knew that I had just barely enough in my savings to cover it. No more wedding savings account, no more rainy day savings account, but at least it could get paid. The only item left that I hadn't gotten information on was the car repo.

I sent him an email with the information that I had, and told him I was pretty damn mad at him for lying to me on this stuff. And he responded, told me that he technically did lie because he was so embarassed, thought he could handle it on his own, etc. I was prepared to accept it, and just do my best with it, and pay it. But then I called about the car...

The outstanding debt on that repo is worth more than I more than the blue book value of my own car. I'm horrified. Lesson for ANYONE who has a car repossessed... do what ever you can to get it back and sell it yourself, take the loss. What happens is that the car company puts the car up for auction and then you owe the company the rest. Sounds like an OK deal, right? The company does the selling for you, and you probably just pay a small difference, right? WRONG. They sold a car worth $18K for a little over $4K. Yep. And now we owe the rest. The good news is that the collection agencies can work with you to reduce the amount owed, sometimes even by half. The bad news for us... my "wonderful" husband never followed up on anything, and this has been in collections for the last 4 years. 4 YEARS. Last month, collections sent the claim back to the car company, and now the next step is for them to get a court order to make him pay the full amount. (This will be court order number 3 for shit he hasn't paid.) I'm working with the last collection agency to plead with them to work with me rather than file a court order since I'm approaching them voluntarily and want to settle the account. I won't know anything until Thursday if that's possible though.

I told my husband's parents about it, and they were pathetic. Didn't offer to help or anything. It's their son! Couldn't they have at least warned me, or offer to help? I'm so angry right now. People keep asking me "so have you heard from your husband? How is he?" And all I can do is smile, grit my teeth and say fine.

How DARE he! How can anyone be that stupid? I look down at my wedding ring and want to throw it into the ocean and tell him to go fuck himself. Hey, I could sell the engagement ring and put it towards his debt, right? How could he not know about this? And even if he didn't know, if he loved me the way that he said he did, how could he NOT have checked on everything and followed up to make sure he didn't destroy our future like this?

So once again, it falls to Ginger to save the day... sure Ginge, forget about that wedding. Cancel the trip to go see your family. All because your husband is a fucking moron, and you were a fucking moron for marrying him. I hate him right now. But ultimately it's my fault for taking him at his word.

I can't sleep. Can you blame me?

April 21, 2004
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Ohh I'm so sorry, Ginger. I don't have any concrete money advice, but keep trudging along slowly and things will eventually work out. And yep, Iraq or no Iraq I'd be livid too. You got smarts. Just hang in there.

April 21, 2004
3:07 am
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And although his parent's didn't offer to help, can you still at least ask them? Then again if they're anything like my BF's family...

April 21, 2004
11:35 am
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Ginger,

I'm sorry - I'm still digesting your message. I will write more later...

sadly, I'm having an attack of the stomach roils...

I'm sorry this happened to you.

April 21, 2004
11:57 am
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Sometimes I just need to know that someone is listening. I'm OK with the money stuff, like you say just trduge through it, one bill at a time, and do what I can. What I'm so heartsick over is that this is a man that I loved, married and trusted. How can I ever trust him again? What else is he lying to me about? Is our marriage just a farce? I don't want to live with a habitual liar. Is it doomed?

April 21, 2004
12:12 pm
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Zinnie
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This is a really really big thing Ginger, I'm not going to lie to you.

Yes, you have the money to bail him out, and I know you would have had he told you the truth about it up front. But, he didn't. Then, upon finding this out, you found that it is worse than you ever imagined. I can only guess your anger, and every bit of it is justified. Every bit.

It's one thing to recognize and say "well Ginger is the better money manager so she handles the finances" in a marriage. It's a very different thing to realize that he had totally lied to you about this stuff, and now you are the one left holding the bag.

Sadly, this would have happened whether or not he was in Iraq. If he was there though, you would have the pleasure of conking him over the head with a turkey leg vs. just sending him a really angry e-mail.

I know you have a lot to think about and work out.

Z.

April 21, 2004
12:13 pm
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Good questions, ginger. Hard questions.

I hear your anger and I completely do not blame you at all. There is no excuse for him not telling you, to go halfway around the world and leave you holding the bag. Then to lie to you on top of it when you asked him before he left if there was anything you needed to know about!

I don't know Ginger. How long have you known him? How long have you been married/dating? Is this the first big lie you've caught him in?

April 21, 2004
3:18 pm
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Is this the first big lie? Well, define "big". When we were getting ready for his deployment, he got a huge electric bill, or rather, I got it since it was sent to the house. I showed it to him, he took it and said he would take care of it the next day. About a month later, I got the final notice in the mail. I called him and sweetly asked if he had paid that bill, and he said that yes, he had. I told him that I had just gotten the notice, and he said then that he had forgotten to mail it, and that he would mail it. He reported in a few hours later that he had dropped it in the mailbox. I was aggravated, but didn't want to add any more stress to him when he was already heading to Iraq, so I just let it go. Turns out he didn't mail in a full payment for it, so of course that was one of the "minor items" that appeared on this report that I took care of.

The one that continues to bug me is from a long time ago when he used to work at my company. He got fired over this one. He was the lead engineer on one of our system deployments, and it went disastrously. His boss fired him, it was very poorly handled, but the rumor is that his boss fired him for lying that the system was working when it really wasn't. I talked to his mother, and she said that Brian used to lie all the time as a small child, stretch the truth, make up stories or excuses as to why he did or didn't do something. I could analyze this and say that he will lie in order to tell people what they want to hear rather than going with the direct approach because he so badly wants to be loved and accepted, but I'm not inside his head, I'm not a counselor, and to be honest, I really don't care WHY he does it. I just want it to stop.

I recognize that I can't do anything rash while he is there, because if he loses focus and gets himself or one of his guys killed, I'll live with that guilt forever. So I'm trying to be mature about it... for now. I may need to come here and vent about it from time to time though, which you guys are always so understanding of, and I do appreciate it. I was reading in a meditation book last night that when all else fails, "try acceptance and gratitude", so I'm going to try to consciously look for the things to be grateful for. Like this site. My job (cruddy as it is sometimes, it's stable and pays the bills... well, my bills anyway), I'm healthy, I actually made it through last night without drinking even though I was in a lot of pain and chose something else. Life is still OK. And whether my future involves him or not, I know I will be OK.

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