What does it really mean to completely share financial responsibilities in marriage? In the 21st Century, it’s not uncommon for married couples to maintain separate bank accounts, car payments, as well as individual debt. Concepts on this topic that were normal twenty years ago, are now viewed in a much different way. The one factor that virtually all married people share, is that we all have disagreements on how our money should be spent.
The lack of being able to negotiate financial problems is, often, considered to be the primary factor leading to divorce. We can all agree that divorce is more likely for younger couples today, than it was for our grandparents’ generation. Sara and I fully intend to discuss this topic in as much depth as is possible, based upon our personal experiences. However, it’s important to understand that we are in no way qualified to give advice in this topic. We don’t pretend to have it all figured out. We are nothing more than a normal married couple of 12+ years, who would like to engage in conversation with others like us.
During the reign of the Roman Empire (17 B.C. – 476 A.D), marriage was lawful in one of two ways, depending on which class you belonged to. In the lower class, bride’s father would give her away to the groom. The bride and groom would publicly vow to be married, then (presto) they were considered married. The tradition of the upper class wedding in this era is, by far, more interesting to me. In the upper class wedding, the bride and groom come together before witnesses and actually sign property documents in order to legally join them together. They weren’t married because they vowed to love each other in sickness and health, blah, blah, blah. They were married because they legally combined what they had and agreed to share it.
As a young dating couple, Sara and I never really worried about any problems that would come from financial responsibilities. This was not due to excess wealth, even though our combined income was fair. We just didn’t consider the potential of ever having any problems. We didn’t have a very long courtship (six months) or engagement (six months). Even after we were married, we didn’t have a lot of time to get these things worked out before we found out that baby #1 was on the way (six months). Respectively, we had just less than a year and a half between our first date and being faced with preparing for parenthood. In hindsight, I can say that it would have been wise to save, save, then save some more. In the absence of any marriage classes, we had no idea what we should do. We were too young and too naive to care like we should have. We just wanted to be married and be together. We’ve endured and overcome many hardships in our marriage, and continue to learn more about the best ways to have a healthy and happy relationship with each other. Our disagreement over household finances have, at times, been some of the most difficult challenges we’ve had.
In the fairy-tale world of rainbows and unicorns, a married couple should gladly share everything; home, meals, plans, hopes, dreams. The harsh reality is that all of these things are eventually tainted by the biggest marriage-killer of them all. Selfishness is, most often, the root of what married couples refer to as “financial problems.” After all, why should I give up the money that I’ve been saving for the new video game console, just because she thinks we need a new couch. She says that if we had a new sofa, she’d be more comfortable having guests over. I’d experience more actual “comfort” by keeping the sofa that we already have. I don’t even like having guests over……It means I’d have to put pants on and act nicely to people. This is where it starts. A simple disagreement like this can turn into a much larger problem. First, Mr. Problem-Solver tries to “fix” the problem “I’ll go down to the store & get a Rug Doctor. I’ll clean that couch up and make it look brand new.” When that doesn’t work, here comes the sales pitch disguised as compromise, “Baby, let’s go check out some garage sales. I’d bet we can get a sofa, loveseat, and matching rug for half the price of a new sofa.” Finally, when that doesn’t fly, we do the absolute worst thing that anyone can do to resolve an argument…..nothing. After “waiting it out”, and the argument over the couch has been put aside, the video game console is purchased. New game, old couch, and everything is fine. Meanwhile, every time she passes by the old sofa, something cuts a little deeper. Before you know it, there’s trouble in paradise. After all, if a happy wife=happy life, the opposite is true as well.
You see, the escalation process of “money problems” are just the same as any other problem in marriage. It goes something like this: Disagreement leads to argument. Argument leads to harsh words. Harsh words lead to hurt feelings. Hurt feelings lead to resentment. Resentment leads to contempt. While a simple disagreement between husband and wife is as common as each new day, contempt in a relationship is something to really fear. A disagreement means that we have different opinions on how to handle a problem. Contempt is a problem of it’s own, often having nothing to do with the original disagreement, that changes your objective outlook to problems. While resentment usually sounds something like “he always” or she always”….fill in the blank, contempt sounds something more like “i hate him” or “i can’t stand her.” Friends, if this familiar to you…..beware. Somewhere in the breakdown, you’ve gone from a difference of opinion to a shift in attitude that changes the way to feel about your spouse. You should talk to someone qualified to help you and your spouse with this issue, post-haste. Take care to resolve disagreements before they turn into arguments. In the event of an argument, never let it progress to harsh words. After all, life is much better spent with someone who actually wants to be with you.
Please feel free to comment below and share feedback or personal experiences. Also, take the time to engage in an ongoing conversation at #marriageappeal.