Be an island. Then be a peninsula.
I meet people all the time who want to beat me up because I advocate financial independence within couples. “Com’on Gail, marriage means you have to be a team.” “Yeah, it’s about trust.” “Just because you’ve been divorced three times doesn’t mean we’re all headed that way.”
Y’know what, they’re all right. Every one of them has a point. But nothing they’ve said has changed my mind. I believe with all my heart that to be strong as a couple, you each have to be capable of standing on your own two feet. You have to be an island. Then be a peninsula.
Being on the same team means you’re going to set your goals together and help each other meet those goals. If one of those goals is to have a family, then together you have to decide how you will provide care and money to take care of that family. If one of you decides to stay home, that doesn’t mean the money-maker gets to make all the decisions about how the money gets spent or abdicate home-care responsibilities. But so often, that’s exactly what happens.
It also often happens that the non-working partner ties themselves completely to their mate financially. They share a bank account; there are no individual accounts. They share credit. One may even give up his or her financial identity completely. Hey, I’ve seen it. And it isn’t healthy.
I’m not saying your relationship is sure to bust. I am saying that to be good for each other and strong together, you each need to be taking care of the money – individually and as a team – and you each need to be independent.
You won’t both always want the same thing at the same time. If one person has more power in the family – financial or otherwise – the other’s needs will be swept aside. Not good for long-term contentment.
You must each be clear about what you need, want, expect from your relationship. And it can’t just be clear in one guy’s mind. You have to talk about it, negotiate the gray areas, come to a happy place where you’re each getting some of what you want.
Being an island isn’t so bad y’know. It is scary for some people. That idea of independence makes some people want to duck and hide behind words like love, and trust and honour and team. But independence doesn’t negate any of those things. It enhances them because each and every day you’re choosing to be together, not defaulting to togetherness because you’re trapped.
Once you see yourself as independent you can then talk about how you enrich each other’s lives. You’ll talk about what you’ll do to make sure you have each other’s backs. And you’ll listen to each other because “together” isn’t the default. It’s what you get by acting like a team. Yup, now you’re a peninsula.