I see this all the time when counseling couples. If the husband is the sole income earner in the household, the woman approaches it as if it is his money. Ironically, most husbands don’t view it that way. In fact, minus the unhealthy relationship where the husband is using money as a control tool, most men attempt to dispel the notion that there is a single ownership of money in a relationship…at least in theory.
However, through their actions, men oftentimes send another unintended message. First, men have a tendency to take control over the finances and not include their wives in the day-to-day decision-making. Without both the husband and the wife seeing the day-to-day issues dealing with money, there is no way that the two can be on the same page.
For example, let’s say the wife really wants the family to go on a vacation. Every time she brings it up, the husband, knowing the financial strain the family is under, reacts with a condescending attitude. The wife, understandably, takes that response very negatively. Depending upon the relationship, it can create a number of different attitudes, emotions and future reactions. Of course, probably none of these reactions are going to strengthen the relationship.
Should Couples Have Separate Bank Accounts?
There is nothing wrong with a couple having two bank accounts. In fact, it can even be used in a positive way. Unfortunately, much of the time, it also creates a sense of separation. There are certain things that are paid out of one account, creating more responsibility on one account versus the other account. This often creates resentment. It can also end up reinforcing a division of responsibilities with the bills. For example, you are responsible for that expense and I am responsible for this expense, creating a situation in which the couple is operating as individuals instead of as a team.
What is the solution?
Keep in mind that you are not just going to undo years of bad habits and thinking overnight. Start with baby steps. First, acknowledge that this is happening in your marriage and commit to starting the process to change the way you both look at money. Second, simply set up a date night on the 15th and the 31st of each month and spend time looking over the expenses and income of the current month as well as anticipating expenses for the upcoming month. This one step will make all the difference in the world. Finally, both of you commit to leaving your ego at the door during this process and commit to working together. Also adopt the old Stephen Covey principle: seek first to understand, then be understood. Money does not have to be a weapon or be the reason you argue and fight.
Finally, and most importantly, dispel the notion of ownership for good. Realistically, neither of you own anything. It is all God’s.
When you and your spouse joined in Holy Communion, you became joint stewards over God’s resources. To truly shift attitudes and beliefs about money, a couple has to live within this reality. Operating within the reality of God’s economy changes everything. We are not owners; we are just given the responsibility of stewardship.
So how are you and your spouse handling God’s money? Only with this mindset as your foundation can relationships be healed and lasting change be created.
Bob Brooks is host of the Prudent Money Radio Show heard weekdays on 91.3 FM in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. For more information, go to www.prudentmoney.com