Ask Allison: My fiancé earns four times my salary but insists we split everything 50/50. Should I marry him?
Allison Keating answers your queries about life & relationships.
Question: I am about to get married and my husband-to-be 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 any activities together that we can’t afford 50/50 — for example, there were a group of our friends renting a house and because I couldn’t afford to pay 50pc of our costs, we didn’t go even though he could well afford to cover me. I have numerous other examples.
When I bring it up with him he refuses to talk about it. He says it is fair, and told me recently that when we are married he intends to keep our finances separate. I was shocked by this and am not sure if I want to get married now. Is he controlling me with money? Is it even a marriage if you have separate finances?
Allison replies: It’s never really about money is it? It is about the value someone places on money; the belief systems that have been carried from the past into the present; and the fears, worries or concerns about what that means for their future. Notice the ‘their future’ part, which is singular instead of plural or at least not in a collective couple way.
Finances can cause a lot of upset and issues in relationships. What can help though, is an open conversation and healthy exploration as to what is going on. Conversations about money can get hot and fast. If you notice your partner shuts down or becomes defensive, can you point this out in an open and safe way?
Safe may seem an odd choice of words when it comes to money but a great opener could be ‘what does money mean to you?’ The tone of this is essential. It’s a curious question, not an attack or inquisition. For some, having ‘enough’ money means they feel safe. Safe to leave, safe to have enough. I have ‘enough’ in inverted commas as this is not only immensely subjective, but it may also be highly emotive. What I’d be curious about is why.
A shutdown response occurs when a physiological sense of overwhelm can flood the body and mind. Even though a shutdown is the quietest of responses, it speaks volumes that this is a triggering and activating topic for your partner — so go gently.
With all the plans to get married, there is a sense of hope, and dreams of a shared life together. Who you were changes, and a different couple identity emerges and evolves. Sometimes my ears prick up when couples say proudly that they never fight, and that marriage won’t change them — we are always changing. It’s inevitable. An overt message is a growth-reducing idea based on a fear of change, especially when it comes to marriage.
It might be part of another misguided belief about having a healthy interdependence upon each other. Could finances be mired within this? Have you spoken about how finances and money worked and were modelled for both of you as children growing up in your respective homes?
‘You are going to face challenges in your marriage. Getting as much information as possible about where you both sit in terms of life values is important’
Ask why does he want separate finances? Being mindful of tone, if you back away or withdraw before you ask these essential questions, this response pattern of push and pull will continue between you. What is a real pity is the lost opportunity that this challenge is bringing to the fore.
Do you have differing attachment styles or up-bringings in terms of values and norms about money? It would also be worth looking at the other usual suspects such as sex, gender assumptions in terms of parenting, children, and styles of how you want to live and be as a couple in general.
You are going to face challenges in your marriage. Getting as much helpful information as possible about where you both sit in terms of life values is more than important. This isn’t a message to deter, the core of intimacy is to lean into the murkier areas we feel uncomfortable going to.
Be specific — explain how it felt when you didn’t go on the trip. Did you feel embarrassed, how did it trigger you? Ask yourself the same financial questions, and see this as your pre-marriage financial values audit. Don’t stop at the joint account, have you spoken about having a family and/or have you discussed how you both envision this will work?
A major frustration that comes up for couples in therapy is the invisible emotional labour involved in running a household. This is unpaid work, and its relentless nature can build resentment in a corrosive way. If a family is on the cards, have an ‘expectations’ chat about parenting and finances, looking at the potential of reduced income or unpaid maternity leave.
These are psychodynamic conversations, whereby the past is influencing how you can meet each other as a couple now. You don’t have to do this alone if the conversations keep ending before they begin — it may be helpful to get the support of a couple’s therapist. Rather than this sending alarm bells, I would see this as a healthy marriage audit to futureproof important issues and see what is negotiable and what’s not.
When you ask, ‘Is he controlling me with money’, I don’t know — what I do know is that it isn’t working for you and how you want to live going forward. The research on a happy marriage isn’t about it being equitable. In fact, nearly the opposite — the ability of a man to allow his wife to influence him is correlated with a happier marriage.
This isn’t to be understood out of the context in which it is meant, but the ability to be psychologically open and flexible is a good predictor of marriage satisfaction. Possibly because women are already conditioned to be more agreeable or in people-pleasing mode. Thank you for writing in, I hope some of these questions create some reflective thoughts that you can explore together.
Allison regrets that she cannot enter into correspondence. If you have a query you would like addressed in this column, email [email protected]
Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.