Dear Engaged Couples—
Last week I read a Dear Abby article that has given me pause. It’s an article about money and marriage. The person writing to Abby, a man referring to himself as “Wondering in Washington,” bemoans the fact that his married daughters and their respective husbands do not share their incomes. Neither do they seem to consult each other regarding purchases. He reads this as selfishness. He says, “My wife and I have been married 40 years and from the beginning I considered what my wife and I earned as OURS, not mine and hers (when she worked). We always discuss significant purchases and I always believed it was my responsibility to support my family.” He wonders what the world is coming to.
I am a premarital counselor and I don’t think that today’s couples’ money situation is as bleak as this father suggests. “Money matters” is a component of my premarital counseling sessions. I would say, from my experience working with couples, that most DO keep separate accounts for themselves, but they also maintain a joint account for joint expenses (mortgage and rent, food, utilities, vacations). I don’t ask the couples I counsel WHY they set up their finances as they do, but I suspect that several factors come into play:
1) Couples are marrying later, than I suspect this dad married. Today’s newly married husband and wife are used to having financial independence. They want to retain some of that financial independence in their marriage.
2) Couples live together before they marry. This is not the exception. It is the rule. Living together before marriage is a testing period. You are testing whether you can fully trust the other person with your heart, and with your money. It would not make sense, then, for a living-together-couple to put their entire separate incomes into one account. In fact, I would consider that fool-hardy. Furthermore, a live-in girlfriend or live-in-boyfriend has no legal financial rights. When a living-together-couple decides to marry, they may conclude, as regard their finances, ”Well, things seem to be fine the way they are. Let’s not rock the boat by combining incomes now.”
3) Most people who marry have dual incomes—this may not have been the case with the dad when he married. And, it may have been expected that his wife would one day stay home and raise the children, in which case, they would eventually live on one income anyway. In contrast to yesteryear, most couples today have dual incomes throughout most of their married lives.
4) Abby suggests one more reason that couples may not want to share their incomes: With high divorce rates in the West, a spouse may not fully believe that his or her marriage will last. In fact, Abby ends her article by saying today we, as a society, seem to prefer disposability in the products we buy—plastics and paper products for example. That may have begun to carry over into how we regard our relationships. They are throw-aways. So says dear Abby.
On this last point, I beg to disagree. Happily, I have never yet married a couple who does not believe their marriage is going to last. Even when one or both soon-to-be wed people have been married before, they believe that THIS time they have hit on the right combo, they have discovered the right recipe, they are on the right path.
And that is my hope for all couples I marry. That they have found the love of their life, the ying to the other’s yang, the peas to the other’s carrot that will carry them forward for the next forty years and then some!
Happy wedding planning,
Your wedding preacher for hire