Marriage and money: what’s love got to do with it?

Hola from my cosy living room where I’ve been sitting here planning out my month – including a trip to the bank to open a new account. And it got me thinking about finances and marriage. It’s not an easy topic at all – but I’ve decided to talk about it because it’s a bit of a taboo – and I think it’s important to talk about money, because it’s the last elephant in the room.

I’ve always been of the mind that money doesn’t matter – but it does. And to illustrate this, I’m going to share something a little personal.

It goes without saying that John makes more money than me. Not because he’s the man (I know plenty of women who earn more than their partners) but because he’s ten years ahead of me in his career. This was never a big issue before we moved in together and when I was on a full-time wage, but once you start living with someone (and when you quit your job to start a business) the playing field changes.

You see, it’s not a status thing, it’s a practicality thing. It’s pretty impossible to contribute equally to household things when one of you has a Waitrose budget and the other can pretty much only afford Tesco Value.

For example, I’m starting a business. I’ll be honest, almost every penny is being constantly reinvested into Under the Vintage Veil in order to keep improving and growing the site. The site is making money, but I don’t think of that as my money, I think of it as the project’s money – and until it’s where it needs to be, that money will keep going back into the business.

So right now, I’m pretty much being supported. And that sucks. It sucks because, no matter what John says, I feel less equal. I feel like I’m sponging and that’s something I’ve never done in my life. I’ve always been very independent, I think I’ve pretty consistently had jobs throughout my education and I don’t like to be spoon fed.

But here’s how John sees it: his money is our money. We’re a family, soon to be married and soon (hopefully) to be parents (in the next few years anyway) and it doesn’t make sense to see one of us as comfortable and one of us as… well, getting there! It doesn’t make sense for me to constantly be paying him back borrowed money.

The way John sees it, we’re both working hard and we have common goals. Our money should go into a pot (or, in grown-up terms, a joint account) and it shouldn’t matter who earned it because, by working, we’re both contributing.

I’m trying my best to see it that way. I think it’s a very romantic notion, to combine our finances and share everything, but funnily enough, I think I’d be more comfortable with it if I was the one with the pay packet and without the commitment of a business. I’d feel better about it if I was the one earning more. At least then I wouldn’t feel like a scrounger.

However, before I lived with John I think I would have found the idea of combining our finances repellent for any reason other than sharing bills – but now we’ve lived together for a long while and we’re edging closer to the wedding, I can’t help but wonder if John has the right idea. When we have kids, are they going to have parents in two different financial positions? Are they going to have to ask whoever’s earning more at the time for pocket money? Are we going to split all costs for the kids equally and have one of us left with nice disposable income, going out for family meals with the other left behind because they can’t afford it?

What about if we need a household appliance etc. are we going to have to split the cost every time? Or just have it not matter where the money came from? I have to admit, in a very long-term relationship, the latter seems more appealing.

But that brings up the very difficult question of personal items. Am I never going to have a shopping spree again? Not that I really do these days, but what happens when the business really gets going? I’m earning more and more as the business grows – will I resent having to check before I spend my own money? Will either of us feel like the other is frivolously spending their cash? Will it cause issues? I’m hardly one to go out with hubby’s credit card, but at the same time the thought that I might never be able to casually buy anything for myself again is a little depressing.

Then there’s the even more uncomfortable worry of what would happen if we split up. Obviously nobody goes into a marriage thinking they’ll split up – you just have to trust – but is it important to protect your interests? Is it naïve to get into the habit of sharing everything when divorce rates are so high? Is it simpler just to keep everything separate or does that show a lack of faith in your relationship?

It’s early days and I think I’m going to give sharing a go – because we’re at such disparate stages in our professional lives the alternatives are completely impractical for us. This is a way for us both to be comfortable and for “who earns what” to become less of a question.

But that’s just what may or may not work for us right now. Everyone is different – for example, I know people who are entering into their second marriages and keeping their finances separate because they have children to support from previous relationships – they have complicated divorce settlements / mortgages etc. Not everything is as straightforward as walking into a relationship without the financial baggage of a broken marriage.

And some people like to retain their independence. Not everyone thinks of marriage as a “what’s mine is yours” scenario. And not everyone is happy to support – or be supported.

So I guess I’m opening up the floor – if you’re happy to share (even anonymously) please do – I’d love to hear what you think about the issue of money and relationships. Do you share finances in any way? Do you think it’s a short-sighted thing to do? Do you prefer to be independent? Or does “each to their own” apply here? Let me know what you think!

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