So, Dear Community:
To separate, or merge finances? That’s the question today. The answer(s) may surprise you. If we were to sum up the “status quo” on this topic, it generally suggests people merge their finances when they get married, and if they divorce, they separate them again. I’ve also noticed an interesting wave of couples who react to the status quo with a firm decision to stay 50/50 and separate, no matter what.
The truth is, there are so many layers to this conversation, and it’s a conversation for all kinds of relationships, at all relational phases. As usual, there are no black and white answers here. It’s all about getting on the same team in your relationship, and discovering what is the best move for you as a couple, to bring intimacy, clarity, boundaries, and healing.
5 true stories. I’ll go first . . .
Forest & I made an intuitive decision to merge our finances when I became pregnant. Forest & I had separate finances for 7 years, everything split 50/50 down the middle. Even though things were separate, we were 100% transparent with each other – we both knew each other’s “numbers”, but we split everything down the middle and could make our own money decisions.
This really worked for us. The impetus for us to finally merge was when I became pregnant with Noah. This wasn’t a cerebral decision for either of us. It was simply the natural, right, intimate move for us at that time. Coming together in this way represented a new union as we prepared to parent our boy. “Nancy & Jeff” separated their finances after 18 years of marriage, to stay together.
Married 18 years, been together since they were teenagers. Nancy’s the breadwinner right now, and recently Jeff has been searching and exploring new business ideas. Nancy handles the money, and feels like she’s continuously cleaning up Jeff’s money messes. Now, Nancy decides she’s done with it. She wants to handle her own money for the first time, and for each of them to stand on their own two money feet.
Jeff feels dis-empowered and belittled by the money dynamic, and is reluctantly behind the decision out of respect for Nancy. They decide to split their savings down the middle and open separate accounts. They love each other. They want to stay in the marriage.
They make a bold, beautiful decision to separate finances (but not the relationship!) after so many years of joint finances. By creating distance, they created intimacy. They are doing well and continuing to grow in their marriage! “Paul & Maggie” merged finances during their divorce process, after maintaining separate accounts for their entire marriage. Paul and Maggie are getting divorced. Maggie has made the decision to leave the marriage, after Paul revealed he had been having an affair for years.
They have kids and are both committed to co-parenting them to the best of their abilities. For the entirety of their 20 year marriage, they kept 100% separate finances. Maggie really had no clue what was happening with Paul’s money, nor he with hers. Committed to healing and becoming solid co-parents, Maggie asks for total financial transparency, for the first time ever. She wants to merge finances through the divorce process, and see exactly where money is coming and going.
For Maggie, this what what she needed to begin to heal the trust that was broken in their marriage. That’s exactly what they did. “Rebecca & Matt” merged their finances right at the beginning of their relationship. Rebecca & Matt merged their finances from the beginning, although they did this without consciousness and choice. They are now 10 years into their marriage and because neither of them made a conscious decision to join accounts, they are experiencing tension in their current money dynamic and their marriage.
However, Rebecca and Matt are choosing to stay merged, while adding important elements into this dynamic and their relationship. They are healing and shifting without changing their accounts, by incorporating some of these tips. “Jess & Monica” opened a shared credit card after only 4 months of dating. Jess and Monica are far from any long term decisions about their relationship – they are still in their honeymoon dating phase. They decide to merge one account, simply for ease and convenience.
They’re getting really tired of splitting restaurant checks, calculating who owes who – and they don’t want to waste their energy and time together on squaring up financially. They decide to open a shared account so that they can simply charge all shared expenses, and split them down the middle each month.
These are all success stories. These couples listened, and made the right move at the right time. And they are all doing really well! Their decisions to merge, or separate, was so helpful for their relationship, and helped usher them into a new phase with one another. Your Story?
If you’re in relationship, what choices have you made around your finances? Do you have merged or separate accounts? Is it working? Is it time to shift? Have you really, truly made a choice? If not, here’s a question to help guide you: what are you needing and wanting as a couple right now? Are you looking for more intimacy, clarity, healing, boundaries? Let these deeper intentions, and the brave stories above, guide you to your best “right now decision”.
Ultimately, the best choice is the one that helps you grow and strengthen your relationship, and truly get on the same team. There is no wrong answer. This is your money story.