The Question That Left Me Penniless — And The Person Who Asked It

My husband thought it was normal to ask someone to sacrifice any personal ambitions for his own.

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You would think I was a big spender. On account of having no money and all but I wasn’t.

As the child of a single mom, I did spend but never recklessly. In fact, looking back I wish I had spent more and saved less. Wild, right?!

It all started in my twenties. 

It was a simple question followed a few years later by a second question.

I mean how can you say no to the love of your life?! Your one and only. The guy you vowed to love for like forever.


“Will you stop working?” asked my husband.

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At first, it was to help build a business. And then it was to stay at home to raise our children.

Was I conflicted? The first time, absolutely. I didn’t necessarily want to help him build a business.

I had my own dreams.

But he needed me.

At first, it was a struggle. I found it endlessly boring. I didn’t find the industry as exciting as he did.

But as often happens, familiarity breeds interest. The more I delved into every day the more I began to find it interesting. I became as vested as he was.


I know, it surprised even me.

The next time my husband asked me about working my answer came more easily.

I was a mom! Certainly, I would stay home to raise our baby. After all, we had properly secured our financial future. We had been responsible. What could go wrong?

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How could I know this simple question, asked not once but twice would one day leave me penniless?

I wasn’t a fortune teller. I was a dreamer. A believer in all things good. In all those I trusted. I didn’t know any bad people. I knew good people. I came from a deeply empathetic family of first responders who rescued strangers and who treated the ones they loved even better.


People who were givers not takers.

I didn’t evaluate the risks. 

Because in my family love wasn’t a liability. It was an asset. It kept producing exponentially. We didn’t lie, cheat, and steal. We weren’t self-preservationists. We were too busy celebrating one another.

But I neglected to realize one thing.

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We were also people who didn’t ask much of each other. We wouldn’t expect someone to make a huge sacrifice for our benefit — and when we did ask for something we remained conscious of it.

It wasn’t taken for granted.

We cared about the ones we loved — something that would never be entirely lost even in separation or estrangement. Because it’s a fundamental aspect of being human and of being deeply empathetic and caring.


Conflict or not conflict. If the bottom fell out. We would answer the call.

Even if we hadn’t inflicted it we would feel a sense of responsibility.

Love is funny that way.


My husband asked me a question that left me penniless. He didn’t think he owed me anything.

He thought the luxury of having no obligations except his profession was expected.

He thought it was normal to ask someone to sacrifice any personal ambitions for his own.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist.