If you had a financially intimate marriage that would minimize your friction about money and increase your opportunities for love.
What does it mean to have a financially intimate marriage? Culturally, we link the concept of intimacy with romance, not realizing that we are talking about two different things. Romance is make-believe, it’s Disney, it’s a stage set – and it’s great.
But not when it comes to money, which operates in the real world. When we think about money romantically, we’re basically not thinking at all. We’re just fantasizing, linking money with love when in fact, money is money and love is love.
We need a wider definition of intimacy, a concept we currently link with the physical, sexual or emotional revealing of ourselves to another person in a most private way. We need to think of intimacy as transparency, especially when it comes to marital finances because so much is at stake.
Unfortunately, full financial disclosure is still treated as taboo in many marriages, especially when the man makes the big money decisions. A wife may be contributing a significant amount of money through her work, yet may go decades knowing little about her shared finances. In many cases, her financial insecurity does not become evident until she is divorced, which is the worst possible time to begin grappling with money troubles or decisions. It’s also the worst possible time to learn about the basics of money management.
The problem goes even deeper. Failure to achieve financial intimacy in your marriage creates a climate of resentment, suspicion and lack of trust. If you’re feeling angry, patronized, ignored or shut out when it comes to finances, your feelings are certain to spill over into other areas of the marriage. Sex, honesty, closeness, trust, parenting – all will be affected on a conscious or subconscious level.
Bad feelings don’t go away; they redistribute. One acquaintance put it very colorfully: “He expects sex twice a night, but he won’t tell me what our net worth is.”
Financial intimacy creates financial equality between husband and wife. It doesn’t mean that you earn the same. It means that you both know what the other earns, how you spend it, how you save it, what your shared goals are and how you intend to achieve them.
It’s not about trusting, hoping or assuming that your husband is doing everything right. It’s about knowing and understanding what he is doing because everything he does affects you.
That’s what being an equal partner means. You are part of a fifty/fifty relationship. In fact, marriage has many of the same structural characteristics as a business partnership. You, as a partner, have a right, and the law supports your right, to all the financial information about your partnership. If you are the primary breadwinner in your family, your husband has that same right.
You are not entitled to special treatment because you are a woman, but to equal treatment because you are a partner. You may earn less than your husband, but you take the same amount of financial risk for decisions made within your partnership.
If you find yourself widowed or divorced, some things will be immediately clear. You will need financial resources and the skills to manage them. You will need to understand basic finances so you won’t have to rely on family members, friends or a financial advisor to tell you what to do. You will need to understand and sign contracts on your own. You will need to know how to do the financial things that you relied on your husband to do for you.
Don’t rely on your husband to do the finances. Participate, understand, keep a copy of the records, ask questions, and assume that you have a right to all the financial information that affects you both.
The law supports your right to have it!
(c) 2008, Helga Hayse. Reprints welcomed so long as the article and byline are kept intact and all links are made live.
Helga Hayse is author of “Don’t Worry About A Thing, Dear” – Why Women Need Financial Intimacy. She teaches women about participating and understanding their marital finances. She speaks to financial planners and estate planners about how to encourage crucial conversation between generations. Visit her site at http://www.financialintimacy.com for her frequently updated blog, free articles and more information about her book.