Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trust Issues?

A letter to Dear Prudence in Slate Magazine begins with:
My husband and I have separate bank accounts, with a joint account for bills. Since we make roughly the same amount of money, the bills are split 50/50 through the joint account, and the rest of our personal paychecks are for ourselves to spend as we wish.
The writer then goes on to say that she and her husband are trying to have a child, and that he is not pitching in money to help with fertility treatments and any medical expenses. She wants to know if it's reasonable to expect him to pay for procedures that are "her problem".

I don't get this whole financial situation -- this ia married couple, and yet they have entirely separate finances, splitting the household bills like roommates. I could imagine that situation if all they really were was roommates, but married? Shouldn't married couples merge their finances as well as their furniture and cd collections when they get married? I find the whole idea of having "his" money, and "her" money and some generic pool of "bill money" to be absurd. It's even more absurd when the income levels are very different: if one partner makes minimum wage and the other a six-figure salary, is it fair that the executive is able to buy every toy s/he desires, while their partner can't even buy new jeans? I can't imagine one person saving for months to get a new cell phone when the other can pick up an iPhone on their way home, along with an iPod and new stereo system. what sort of resentment does that kind of situtation engender? I assume that household bills are split according to salary amounts, but what about things like vacation? Do you go through the phone bill and highlight each person's long distance?

Many years ago a worked with a woman who had two kids and had remarried to a man with no kids of his own. They had the whole "separate finances" thing going, and the new husband did not pay for naything having to do with the kids. That had to come from *her* money -- school clothes, christmas presents, medical bills, toys...they were her kids so she funded everything. He apparently paid half the utilities and rent, but otherwise, he spend his money on his own hobbies and toys. And she was okay with this arrangement! In fact, she thought it was quite reasonable and was surprised that it wasn't the way everyone else did it. She saw nothing wrong with her husband, the man she married and ostensibly loved, not investing anything into their financial life together beyond splitting the rent payment. I was horrified -- but she's not the only person I've talked to who has the same sort of arrnagement.

Maybe I'm naive -- it was never an issue between the Adorable Husband and I; when we got married, we quite literally didn't have a pot to piss in, so our finances were combined out of necessity: neither one of us could have managed on our own. We have joint checking, our investments are in joint accounts, we have the same credit cards. Meybe for couples who already have established themselves alone, merging everything is not such an easy process. But shouldn't it be the goal? Isn't part of marriage *trust*?

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