Let’s talk about a topic that interests all of us–money.
Ask yourself the following questions: What causes the 3 biggest fights in marriage? Now don’t peek at the next line before you try to answer.
My guess is that you’re right on. It’s children, in-laws–and money. And the money struggles precedes children, and most likely will outlast in-laws. Note that ideas for these entries are taken from my experience in my practice, as well as Jeff Opdyke’s book, Financially Ever After.
Joining forces financially means that “your” money–or your parents’ money–becomes “our” money. And it’s not until you’re actually sharing the checkbook and credit cards every day, in a legally binding way, that you fully recognize how fundamentally different you are from your spouse when it comes to money.
So take two steps as you make this move from “mine” to “yours.”
1. Accept the reality that you are now a “we.” Who you are now includes another person.
2. Communicate. Couples may fight openly and often about money, or they may silently but unhappily suffer, increasing marital unhappiness and distance. Or there’s really still another option, as I’ve learned from my practice–and the Madoffs. One or both can temporarily life in a fool’s paradise, wilfully pretending to know nothing about the couple’s finances–until disaster strikes.
So you might ask yourself, as I have done, why would anyone would suffer in silence or avoid knowing about something that affects him/her so significantly?
People avoid the topic because, deeply and fundamentally in our society, money = power.
The spouse who makes more money earns a ‘get-out-of-chores free’ card, and gets to buy impulse purchases without communicating with the spouse. And while the ‘money spouse’ can use money as a mechanism of control, often the ‘less-monied spouse’ is too timid or intimidated to verbalize concerns.
This situation requires a marriage counselor competent in financial matters.