Disclaimer: The views in this post are mine alone and based on my personal, very subjective experience. This is not to criticize the experience of my childhood or members of my biological family.
I have been married for 5 years. We have two children between us and one from my husband’s first marriage. Deciding it was time to buy a home of our own, we finally started to put our money together rather than function as 2 independent earners with separate bank accounts and divided responsibilities for spending (or saving) our money. (You can read more about our journey here)
But honestly, I don’t really know how to do that. I feel in my heart that at this point in the game, if we team up and work together, we can conquer our remaining debts and plan better for our life together with our girls. You may be thinking, “how does this woman not know how to share money with her husband?”. I know, I sounds kind of silly.
To make a long story short, the reason is fear and lack of knowledge.
Lets start with lack of knowedge. No one taught me about money. Sure, my depression era father (born into the Great Depression in 1938) always told me to save, save, save my money. And for the most part, I am a saver at heart. He would give us $5 to spend in KB Toys and I would leave with my toy and $2 dollars still in my pocket. Meanwhile, my older brother would beg my dad for ‘tax money’ because the toy he wanted was $4.99 and he only had $5. Even siblings raised in the same family can have very different relationships with money.
Beyond the $5 limit at KB Toys and the message to save my money, there was no further instruction. Over my lifetime, I have been able to save large sums of money but with no ‘plan’, I ended up squandering it away. It’s painful to think about. This at least explains my lack of knowledge. It’s been up to me to figure out money and how to make it work for me with the examples I had and with the powerful consumer culture pushing against us all the time.
Fear. Fear is a different reason and one that is the hardest for me to shake off because its visceral. My mother has been married 5 times (engaged 7). Her marriage to my father (at age 21) was actually her second marriage. They made it 10 years. I was born a few months before my mother turned 30 and their divorce soon followed. My mother would move on to 2 more marriages followed by divorce, one almost marriage, completed by her current and last marriage (in 1996). Between 1978-1996, my mother would experience 3 divorces, a major break-up, and 3 marriages. By default, by the time I was 18 and completed my first year of college, I too would experience my mother’s 3 divorces, major break-up, and 3 marriages. I was in her wedding party this last time.
That’s a lot of dissolution, chaos, and financial uncertainty, not only for a parent, but for children to endure. Essentially it’s trauma. It also embeded certain messages about partnership, marriage, family, and money. I learned self-reliance very early. I was able to feed myself (find food in the refrigerator and cupboard for breakfast) by the age of 4. My brother was cooking eggs and toast by 6 years old.
I also learned that you can’t trust or depend on others, they will fail you. I learned to always have a safety net, a way out of any situation. I learned that women should have their own money, independent from her spouse. Going through therapy as an adult, as well as getting married has made me face these assumptions and reconsider my beliefs.
I am afraid to pool my money with my spouse. It means I have to trust him, fully. It means I have to exchange my control for cooperation and when you grow up with trauma and access to money means survival, its not an easy shift.
Do you have any fears about sharing money with your significant other? How do you deal with it?