The Beatles were right. Love won't pay your bills. Love won't even buy you a stick of gum. It's not supposed to buy anything. Love is an intangible entity. On the other hand, money is concrete. Real and material, money is a tool that we use to acquire security as well as various items that we need or want.
We can accumulate money by working, by receiving an inheritance, making smart investments, or merely by having good luck. It is true that we can have love without money and we can have money without love. The two are not directly related at all.
So if love and money are not directly related, why does money seem to interfere in loving relationships? Ahhh that is the question! But it's not hard to answer. Let's look to what we can discern on this topic via what is predictably revealed in the pre-marital counseling process.
A lot of wise and/or troubled couples come to me for pre-marital counseling. Naturally, in the counseling process we address all the obvious potential pitfalls married couples can fall into unless they are willing to address and work out their differences prior to marriage.
That's what pre-marital counseling is for: to prepare two people to get married and stay married.
DO YOU TRUST EACH OTHER?
Pretty early in the counseling process (usually during the first session), I ask couples if they trust one another. Only rarely do partners look directly at me to answer that question. The couples that do make eye-contact with me usually say "yes" in a confident tone. And, most often, those are the couples who are pretty much ready to get married.
The majority of partners, however, first look at one another with bashful doubt in their eyes, and shy smiles on their faces before answering with tentative "yeses". This is always a big red flag for me. But rather than directly addressing the trust issue right then and there, I ask a different question:
"How do you plan to handle your finances after you get married?"
The way couples answer that question can almost always accurately predict whether or not they are ready to get married.
THE PROBLEM WITH SEPARATE BANK ACCOUNTS
All too often, couples (the kind that are NOT READY to get married) tell me that they are planning to keep separate bank accounts. They have an "agreement" that they will "split" the bills 50/50 and will be free to do whatever they want with whatever they have left in their respective accounts.
They insist that they are comfortable with this sort of arrangement and seem curious as to why I point their plan out as being non-conducive to a having a happy marriage. I go on to find out that these couples are usually living together prior to marriage and that they currently share expenses roommate- style.
They both pay their share of joint expenses and live otherwise financially independent lives. They defensively wonder why, if things are working out now, they should change their arrangement just because they are getting married. The answer to their question is in the question itself: BECAUSE THEY ARE GETTING MARRIED!
Marriage necessitates interdependence between the partners. Relationships, in which the partners live independently of one another, cannot truly be called marriages. Partners needn't be helplessly dependent on each another for their marriages to work but they shouldn't be independent agents either; at least not financially.
When I dig into couples' rationale for not combining their money, I usually find that one or both partners feel insecure about the other partner's spending or saving habits. They don't trust their partners' behavior around money and don't want to be "stressed" about finances.
They sometimes go on to say things like "I work really hard for my money and I don't want to waste it on stuff she wants" or "He never buys anything and I don't want him hassling me when I buy a pair of shoes or something." Wow!!!
I ask couples such as these why they are getting married if they don't trust each other. They INSIST that they DO trust each other. Just not with money. HELLO!!! If two partners cannot trust each other with money, how on earth can they trust one another with their spirituality, their sexuality, their children, their hearts?
"The answer is that they cannot."
What I sadly point out to couples who don't want to co-mingle their money is that they clearly are not ready to inter-mingle their hearts. The only thing couples like this seem to having going for them, in terms of compatibility, is their love for each other.
But love is not enough to make a marriage happy. If it were, the divorce rate would be….well, there probably wouldn't be a divorce rate.
Obviously, most partners who marry love each other. But I find that, despite their true love, couples who struggle with financial intimacy are not compatible on many other levels as well. A vast number of these couples marry anyway because they simply don't believe they can bear the pain of breaking up.
And eventually, their love takes a beating from all the fighting, frustration, disillusionment and lack of trust within their relationships. They frequently end up miserable in their marriages and many ultimately divorce.
If you are considering marrying someone who does not want to inter-mingle his or her finances with you, you may want to think twice before you walk down the aisle. Likewise, if you are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing your bank account with your ‘intended', your intent should probably not be to marry him or her.
Finally, if neither one of you are willing or wanting to become financially intimate with one another, please consider your overall compatibility and try to make a rational decision about the life-long commitment you may possibly make to each other.
You may discover that the only thing you have in common is love. But, take it from a marriage counselor; loving without trusting is a very painful endeavor indeed.