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Q. I'm slowly paying off a $5,000 credit card debt that my husband doesn't know about. He'll be furious if I tell him, yet I'm also scared he'll find out by accident and stop trusting me. What should I do?
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a psychologist in Denver and the author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage (New Harbinger Publications, Inc.) and its companion workbook, answers:
A. You're not a little girl anymore, so stop being so afraid that people might be angry with you. True, it's never pleasant to witness someone's anger, but think of it as a summer thunderstorm that will pass.
Still, you need to be savvy about telling your husband. By warning him that difficult news is coming, he'll be more prepared to deal with it than if it comes as a total shock. Start by saying, "I have something unfortunate to tell you." Honestly admit your feelings: remorse, sadness, embarrassment. Then systematically tell him what you have been doing to solve the problem -- and what you'll do to avoid any future crises. If you don't support your apology with action, your husband will continue to worry that you'll blow the budget again. So keep making prompt monthly payments on your bill, and don't fall back into the habit of charging what you can't afford.