Let’s talk about money, baby! Accounting for our differences

UK bank notes and coins
In addition to the out and out bad character which I looked at in the other part to this post, these are some of the reasons I can think of and have come across in real life and while reading extensively about relationships,  as to why money might cause strain in marriages:

– One person feeling that they are taking all the financial burden/doing all the work while their partner spends too lavishly
– One spouse feeling resentful that their spouse seems to be in financial control of the marriage
– Not being able to discuss freely or clearly because of the emotional or psychological hang-ups that either or both spouses might have about money
– Difficulty deciding or agreeing what to spend money on
– Feeling that one person is not pulling their weight in work terms
– Not seeming to have enough money between you to make things work, and then that putting strain on the marriage; as well as unspoken accusations, suspicions and frustrations with one another, each partner might be too busy working to have time to truly invest into one another or the marriage; each spouse might grow close to/confide in people who they work with
– Feeling that your marriage simply requires too much of you; dreaming of what you could be doing/how you could be spending your time and money if you were “free”
– Having vastly different ideologies about money; shocking or even disgusting one another in your mutual approach

This is one idea that I have had that might help to alleviate a few of these issues:
On one hand it seems easy and obvious.  But then if money is the biggest cause of divorce, perhaps it is neither easy nor obvious.  Actually, since drawing it up  I myself have thought of a few holes that could be easily created in this seemingly simple idea.  All the same, the basic idea is very straightforward:

Firstly there is a communal family account, or a few; for instance an account for family savings, one for bills.
Alongside the communal family account, each spouse will have their own account/s
Every time money comes into the family, for instance on monthly paydays, some money will be put aside into the communal funds for bills and communal savings. However, some money will also be put into each spouse’s account, crucially, both spouses are to receive the same amount of money as each other.  Sometimes the family income will fluctuate, but the important thing is that at any one time the spouses receive the same amount as one another.

Crucially, again, each spouse can spend their own funds exactly how they like, without having to be accountable to their spouse.

You know how you hear stories like this:  a woman went to buy a very expensive item of clothing, then had to hide it from her husband?  Or pretend it was on sale?  Or a husband went to splash out on a very expensive toy, and his wife was furious? Hopefully this will help to end those arguments.

Or you know how they say that some spouses are spenders while others are savers?  Well you go ahead and spend just how you like darling- as long as it is with your own money, not our communal funds!

Why do I like this idea?  Because it allows each spouse to have a level of financial autonomy, while still allowing both of them to act as a united front in terms of looking after the family. I also like the fact that there is an equality in this, that no matter how much each is putting in, both are receiving the same, so that eliminates any financial power imbalance – at least at the point where the funds are distributed. As an unmarried woman, I unconsciously take it for granted that when I do get married I will of course be able to make certain significant financial decisions without necessarily having to consult my husband.  With this idea then I can go ahead to make those decisions – as long they only concern me.  Where these decisions might concern my husband directly, or the family, then it makes sense that these things should be discussed, and the decision should be taken collectively.

Things that you could possibly spend your “own” money on: those very things that usually cause conflict!  Perhaps things such as:
Your own clothes, shoes, lifestyle
Expensive coffee/lunch habits
Supporting charities, church (over and above agreed family contributions)
Financially supporting family members
Building up your personal savings
Elaborate gifts for your spouse!  How touching would this be:  when you know your spouse has been saving up for something really expensive, that they have had their heart set on for years, but you present it to them first, as a gift!  That thought is so cute it makes me cry; it shows that you are aware of your spouse, what is important to them, you care about making them happy.

Because this is your money (as far as anything can truly be concerned yours, understanding that it all ultimately belongs to God), you can save up for those things that you’ve always wanted!  Expensive jewellery?  That gorgeous but overpriced handbag?  Save towards starting a business?!

This is where I started finding a few holes in this idea:
What if one spouse decided to invest their “own” money into building a business, and it became very successful, and it started bringing in lots of money?  Will that money from that business now be considered family money to be divided as normal income, or will it be legitimately considered “their” money, as it is a fruit of their own money that they invested?  I think it would be up to the spouses to decide, but it is clear how this could become difficult and painful. (“I invested my money while you spent yours!”) I would say though that time also has to be considered: that there should be a certain amount or proportion of time that each spouse is working to contribute towards the family. If this successful spouse is using normal work time or family time to work towards this business, then even though they might have started the business with their own money, they are essentially running it at the expense of the family, and the proceeds should be considered family income.  However if they are using normal work time to contribute to the family, and they are doing so adequately, and they are still managing to be emotionally available for their family, and give enough time to their family, and they are running this business from their own spare time, then yes, there is an argument that the money could be considered theirs.  This is only a concession though – obviously they can still give it as family income.

Also, I bet that there are some people who would resent getting the same amount as their spouses, especially if they are earning more. But this to me is the best way of fulfilling that marriage vow which says “all my worldly goods I share with you” – or however it is phrased. That said, some people are not at all excited by the concept of equality in marriage, but rather salivate about marriage as a power trip over their would-be spouse, or more benignly, simply take it for granted that they are to be the more powerful spouse.  So of course such men – sorry, I mean people – would never accept the idea of getting the same amount as their wives spouses.  For me such potential spouses are to be avoided. However, this is not necessarily the case for everyone, and perhaps some people would have legitimate reasons for welcoming such a spouse, and even seeking them out.  Some women for instance might not overwhelming want or need to feel “equal” in marriage, but might rather prefer to feel protected and cherished and their husbands might consider it their own place to spoil their wives.  Each to their own, and I’m sure many of these couples would have fantastically successful marriages.

For people who do want to divide funds equally, as well as doing this with money, I think that it is also good to do it with time, so that each spouse can have some time that is fully “theirs” to spend as they wish, without having to ask permission from their spouse – obviously they still need to be accountable to God – obviously within the bounds of what is holy and pure and legal.  So if someone wishes to use that “spare time” to build an immensely successful business: all power to them!

WHAT I HAVE NOT WORKED OUT- the division between communal funds and individual spouse funds: perhaps each couple needs to experiment to find out what works for them

Simplest option:
After putting necessary funds aside for family, including essential savings, remaining funds are divided 50/50 between spouses.  My only issue with this is that it might encourage the spouses to think quite selfishly about “their” money; the higher the ratio of family money to spouse money, the higher the likelihood of thinking in a team about the family income, rather than thinking individualistically, and possibly almost treating your spouse as a rival.  I guess you have to strike a balance between still thinking as a team about the finances on the whole, and leaving enough “spouse money” for each spouse to feel a certain level of independence.

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