QUESTION: My husband and I have
lived together for four years, but we still argue about our finances.
Both of us work full-time. My husband earns twice my salary. He used
to pay all our bills, while I would pay my personal bills, with the
rest of my salary going to the savings account. Lately, he demands that
I pay half of all our bills. Helping out with expenses is no problem
-- I think that is what marriage is about -- but my husband is not telling
me where his money goes. I don't know anything about his finances. How
can we resolve this?
ANSWER: Decision-making is one
dimension of marriage. It appears that you have allowed your husband
to make decisions in the past when it comes to money, but you seem to
be uncomfortable doing so. Decisions cannot be made unilaterally in
a marriage without detrimental impact on your relationship.
Have a discussion with your husband about the nature
of partnership. According to law in most states all income in a marriage
is shared jointly. This means that you are entitled to 50 percent
of your husband's income, as he is to yours. And if divorce takes
place in a community property state, everything you have is divided
in half. But you do not want to have to divorce your husband to feel
entitled to your fair share!
Require that all financial knowledge, including what
each of you makes and where it goes is known and accessible to both
of you. Information, as well as decision making, needs to be shared
in order for equality to exist between partners.
Reflect on whether you have been reticent or unwilling
to accept responsibility for financial information or decision making.
Did you want your husband to take care of things so you did not have
to worry about finances? If so, you may have initially contributed
to his taking over in the present. Women are often acculturated to
not take charge of money or financial decisions. Perhaps your father
took care of finances in your family and it seemed natural to abdicate
this area to your husband. But in your current situation, it is clear
that you are being relegated to a child's role in this area of the
marriage, and you are neither happy nor comfortable with the result.
Establish a partnership in this area. Be honest with
yourself if you have in any way acted like a child in relationship
to finances. If you have contributed by taking the role of a child,
acknowledge that and be willing to accept responsibility educating
yourself about finances. Claim both responsibility and your half of
the decision-making power in the relationship. This does not mean
a power struggle with your husband, but creating equality in decision
making about how money is handled. If a power struggle escalates from
your attempts to establish equity in decision making in your marriage,
seek counseling to resolve the conflict. Unrelenting overt or covert
power struggles that defy resolution are the greatest cause for divorce.
It is natural to get into power struggles with your
husband. Working through these struggles, to resolve them in a manner
that is acceptable to both of you, carries the promise of increasing
your couples' bond. Intimacy wilts under inequity, but flourishes
when partners appreciate and enjoy equality in decision making. Let
your husband know that the way you feel when overpowered by him in
this area has the cost of damaging the affection you have for him.
This is not a retaliation on your part, but merely a natural consequence.
Very often, we cannot see the forest for the trees. Getting your way
at any cost means just that. Though your husband may feel in control
when he makes unilateral decisions about finances, he is paying the
price in deadening the affection in the marriage.
Ask your husband to consider the cost of his behavior
to your relationship. Is the need to control greater than the desire
for a loving and affectionate relationship?
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