I remember well when Gretchen and I, freshly married, went in to a local community bank with her dad, Richard, to open a joint bank account. Her family had banked there for a long time and Richard had arranged for us to meet with the president of the bank. We had a pleasant conversation there (of which I remember nothing) and opened our accounts (checking and savings). The rest, as they say, is history.
First off, I should mention the most obvious lesson on marriage (and general preservation of life) to be gleaned here: if you are recently married and your father-in-law sets up a time for you to meet with the president of his long-time local bank, open up your accounts there. Period. (Just kidding Richard – but…seriously).
I actually remember the trip we took to the bank where I had my account before we were married. I remember closing the account, withdrawing all the money, and taking it straight on over to our new accounts. We were two years into college, so we’re not talking huge sums of life savings here (flash forward 10 years—nope, still no big sums of life savings). For us, I remember, it felt very natural to combine forces and launch out together with our money. I know that this is not necessarily everyone’s experience. For us, I suppose part of what made it easy is that we hadn’t lived on our own previously. The other thing that helped tremendously is that we have always thought very similarly about money.
If you ever went through some form of marital counseling, you were likely told that finances are one of the top causes of marital stress and, quite sadly, divorce. Getting on the same page financially is hugely important for a relationship. I will likely take a few weeks to share some things on this topic, but wanted to start with some thoughts on combining all finances when married.
First off, I am very aware that some couples chose to do their finances separately. They have separate bank accounts and each refers to his or her money. While understanding that there are reasons why couples do this, I want to share some of the big benefits that I see in combining all finances and talking solely about our money.
- All in – Marriage is truly an amazing thing. Two completely different people from completely different backgrounds choose to be bound together for the remainder of their lives. Combining finances to where they are all ours is a concrete act that demonstrates in a very tangible way this choice to be bound together as we at the cost of I for the purpose of love. There is no holding back. I would argue that this facilitates greater intimacy. The cynic would observe that it also facilitates more conflict, but love does not fear conflict and even grows in the midst of it. Turning I into we is no walk in the park…making it all the more worth it.
- Melding together –We money forces discussion about priorities, values, wants, preferences, etc. These will not all match up. As partners, this is a learning process and an appreciating process. There is a reason that we are not exactly the same. That would be boring and would stunt growth. Don’t be afraid to talk about differences. Vulnerability is important, along with a willingness to not be defensive and not take differences personally. There are many areas in marriage that we are coming together on. Practicing this with money will help ingrain good patterns for all of the other areas. I should also say that our objective here is to find the beautiful balance of the passions and purposes of both parties. The objective of we should never be a double me. Again, I’m not so narcissistic to think that the world desperately needs a bunch more of me.
- Transparency – In desiring a strong, intimate relationship, we don’t need to leave a lot to chance. Why wouldn’t I want my wife to know how I am spending money? Why wouldn’t she want me to know? Transparency allows for the fuller discovery of each other, which, as lovers, is our passion, right? Keeping too many things separate can lead to doubts, suspicions, fears, and worse. Why would we even entertain that possibility in any area?
- Regular communication – Gretchen and I talk about every non-normal purchase that we make. While we are intentional about good communication in all areas and making sure that we are on the same page, it never hurts to have these things that we have to talk about. It gets us talking about other things that we might have fallen behind on as well.
- Simplicity– The less accounts to deal with and balance, the better. In addition, having combined transparent accounts allows for a couple to play to their strengths and free each other up on their weaknesses. One may be better with balancing and doing the regular “maintenance work” of the household budget.
As you can see, my big point here is that there’s a reason we married each other. We’re passionately in love and want to take this world on together. Money is a practical, tangible area to practice principles of transparency, intimacy, respect, vulnerability, putting the other first, etc., etc., etc. Why not take full advantage of this? It will absolutely strengthen the marriage, which should be all of our desires. Working together is a blessing, not a curse. I am blessed to have a partner like Gretchen to navigate life with, even when it hurts!
Next week, I’ll hit some on some ideas of what to do when you feel worlds apart. In the meantime, from a money standpoint, how’s that ol’ two become one thing going?
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This post is linked to Welcome Home Link Up at Raising Arrows, Better Mom Mondays at The Better Mom, Seasonal Celebrations at The Natural Mother’s Network,Titus 2 Tuesdays at Cornerstone Confessions, What Works Wednesday at Upside Down Homeschooler, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, WLWW at Women Living Well, Simple Lives Thursday at Gnowfglins, Your Green Resource at Live Renewed