Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Wife's Secret Bankroll Troubles Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife has recently purchased a car for herself. I had no idea she even had the funds to do something like this. She gave her old car to our daughter to take to college and refuses to answer any of my questions about her personal finances.

I have a separate account from our joint account, but I would tell her anything she wanted to know about my finances. Doesn't my wife owe it to me to disclose her financial statements? I could never imagine hiding thousands of dollars from her. -- No Secrets, Baltimore

DEAR NO SECRETS: Your wife is likely following old-school wisdom that tells women they should always have a private stash of money. Years ago, this was particularly popular for women who did not work or who earned a much smaller income than their husbands, just to ensure that they would have a cushion in case their husbands did not share resources.

Is this the best practice? No. In a healthy marriage, it is much better for both partners to be open and honest about everything, especially finances. Rather than pressing her at this moment, take a step back and ask yourself why she may be doing this. Did you two talk about buying a car for your daughter, and you were against it? Has anything occurred between you and your wife that would make her feel that she needed to have a personal stash and spend it now?

When you do broach the subject again, take the approach of wanting to learn. Ask her if you have done anything that encouraged her to feel she had to hide money from you. Make it clear to her that you want to understand where the two of you are. You want to be in alignment, but right now you aren't.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently hosted a dinner at my home and didn't ask the guests to bring anything. Much to my surprise, a friend of a friend showed up to my home, gifting me a box of wine. I have never had wine from a box and do not intend on starting now. Could I give this wine back to her? She told me it comes from a company that is trying to be sustainable, but I cannot imagine myself ever drinking wine from a cardboard box. -- Bottles Only, Westchester, New York

DEAR BOTTLES ONLY: I feel like I have to remind people to breathe a lot these days. Please take a deep breath and step back for a moment. Your guest surely did not mean to offend you with her gift. Believe it or not, many people are choosing wine in a box as an eco-friendly delivery of the libation. And some wine lovers are actually enjoying this new option.

This may never be your choice, but there's no need to insult your guest by giving it back. Feel free to give it away. You can also toss it if you just want it out of your house.

(Harriette Cole is a life stylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)