Allison Keating answers your questions about life and relationships.
Question: I am about to get married and my future husband and I have been living together for three years. For that time we have kept our finances separate. We rent and pay half each, even though he earns four times what I do.
We don’t do activities together that we can’t afford 50/50 — for example, there was a group of our friends who were renting a house, and because I couldn’t afford to pay 50 percent of our expenses, we didn’t go even though he could afford to cover for me. I have numerous other examples.
When I ask him about it, he refuses to talk about it. He says it’s fair and recently told me he intends to keep our finances separate once we’re married. I was shocked by this and am not sure if I want to get married now. Does he control me with money? Is it even a marriage if you have separate finances?
Allison replies: It’s never really about money, is it? It’s about the value someone places on money; the belief systems carried from the past into the present; and the fears, worries, or worries about what that means for their future. Notice the part “their future” that is referred to as singular rather than plural, or at least not as a collective pair.
Finances can cause a lot of trouble and problems in relationships. What can help, however, is an open conversation and healthy exploration of what’s going on. Conversations about money can get hot and fast. If you notice your partner turning off or becoming defensive, can you speak up openly and confidently?
Sure might be an odd choice of words when it comes to money, but a great start could be “What does money mean to you?”. The tone is crucial. It’s an odd question, not an attack or an investigation. For some, having “enough” money means they feel safe. Sure to go, sure to have enough. I put “enough” in quotes as this is not only very subjective but can also be very emotional. What I would be interested in is why.
A shutdown response occurs when a physiological sense of overwhelm is allowed to engulf the body and mind. While a shutdown is the calmest response, it speaks volumes that this is a triggering and activating issue for your partner – so proceed with caution.
With all the marriage plans, there is a sense of hope and dreams of a life together. Who you were changes and a different couple identity emerges and develops. Sometimes I prick up my ears when couples proudly say they never fight and that marriage won’t change them—we change all the time. It’s inevitable. An open message is a growth-reducing idea based on fear of change, especially when it comes to marriage.
It could be part of another misguided belief in having a healthy interdependence. Could the finances be involved? Have you spoken about how finance and money worked and modeled for both of you as children growing up in your respective homes?
“You will face challenges in your marriage. It’s important to get as much information as possible about where you both sit in relation to your life values.
Ask why he wants separate finances? Notice the tone, if you back off or pull away before asking these essential questions, this push and pull response pattern will continue between you. A real pity is the missed opportunity that brings this challenge to the fore.
Do you have different attachment styles or parenting around values and norms around money? It’s also worth looking at the other usual suspects like sex, gender assumptions when it comes to parenting, children, and styles of how you want to live and be as a couple in general.
You will face challenges in your marriage. It’s more than important to get as much helpful information as possible about where you both stand in terms of your life values. This is not a chilling message, the essence of intimacy is leaning into the murkier areas where we are uncomfortable.
Be specific – explain how it felt when you didn’t make the journey. Were you embarrassed, how did it trigger you? Ask yourself the same financial questions and consider this your test of financial worth before marriage. Didn’t stop at the joint account, have you talked about starting a family and/or how you envision it?
A major frustration that couples face in therapy is the unseen emotional labor involved in running a household. This is unpaid work, and their unrelenting nature can generate resentment in corrosive ways. If a family is an option, have an “expectations talk” about parenting and finances, and consider possible loss of income or unpaid maternity leave.
These are psychodynamic conversations where the past influences how you can meet as a couple now. You don’t have to do this on your own if the conversations keep ending before they start — enlisting the support of a couples therapist can help. Rather than ringing alarm bells, I would see this as a healthy marriage audit to future-proof important issues and see what is and isn’t negotiable.
If you ask, “Is he controlling me with money?” I don’t know – what I do know is that it’s not working for you and how you want to live in the future. Research on a happy marriage isn’t about whether it’s fair. In fact, almost the opposite is true — a man’s ability to be influenced by his woman correlates with a happier marriage.
This is not to be taken from the context in which it is meant, but the ability to be psychologically open and flexible is a good indicator of marital satisfaction. Possibly because women are already conditioned to be more agreeable or people-friendly. Thank you for writing to us. I hope that some of these questions will prompt some reflective thoughts that you can explore together.
Allison regrets that she cannot correspond. If you have a question you would like raised in this column, send an email email@example.com
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/ask-allison-my-fiance-earns-four-times-my-salary-but-insists-we-split-everything-5050-should-i-marry-him-41956964.html Ask Allison: My fiancé makes four times my salary but insists we split everything 50/50. should i marry him