Everyone knows that one of the top issues that couples fight about –and break up over–is money. But why? It’s just dollars and cents, right?
I think part of understanding the power of money in a relationship is knowing what it represents, as something more than just a way to pay the rent and buy the groceries. In relationships, money can be about control: who makes the big spending decisions and how. It can represent security: how a couple plans to provide for the future and how safe they feel with their savings and salaries. It highlights priorities: what you spend money on reveals what you think is important and valuable.
Maybe most importantly, money is about trust. Do you have faith in your partner to make major decisions affecting both of you?
I never saw myself as someone who was very hung-up on money, but I’ve always liked to have complete control of my spending. I hated having to spend large sums for any reason and especially despised unexpected expenses. For me, my security and comfort about money revolved around being in control.
While my now-husband and I were dating, this issue presented itself in subtle ways as we went on dates and occasionally fought over parking tickets (okay, maybe I had bigger control issues than I thought). But the rubber really hit the road after we got married.
Our worlds had merged. We were still two people with two jobs, two salaries, two bank accounts, and two sets of student loans, but we were paying one rent and buying one load of groceries every month. For my husband, the solution was obvious: we should open a joint bank account and put everything we’ve saved in it, so we were truly sharing all things.
I guess I had known at some level that we would want to do that eventually, but when it came to making the decision, I balked. My husband had already made some spending decisions I disagreed with, and he had more student loans than me. More than that, though, I wasn’t sure I was comfortable in giving him a complete look at my spending, and trusting him with the entirety of my bank account.
We had already pledged our lives and futures to each other, but pooling our money felt like one last, tough holdout—a test of our mutual trust and willingness to depend on each other.
It was really my reflection on what we had promised each other that helped me to change my thinking. If I was willing to trust my husband with my future, why couldn’t I trust him with our money? We had years of big decisions ahead of us – ones we’d have to make together. I didn’t want to hold a piece of my life back and just be “almost” entirely committed to our relationship. I wanted to be all in.
It wasn’t easy, but we did it. We opened the account together. And, all-in-all, it was easier than I thought it might be.
We still have money issues that can cause stress and strain, from unexpected car issues to doctor’s bills and loan payments. But now they’re not my issues or his; they’re our problems to solve together. And every time we work through a problem, we’re learning to trust each other a little more.