Doing Life Together

money-256319_1920I admit, when it comes to sharing finances in a marriage, I am old school. Once married, my husband and I combined our bank accounts and shared. We saw this as part of the “I” becoming a “We.” What’s mine is yours and what is yours is mine. If you are going to commit to someone in marriage, money is part of the deal. It seals that commitment in a new way.

But today’s couples may have a different idea when it comes to sharing finances. Rather than seeing separate bank accounts as a lack of commitment, the question is, “Do you trust me enough to allow such independence?” In greater numbers than previous generations, Millennial marriages are saying “No” to joint accounts.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) Millennials are marrying later which means they have probably established their own accounts prior to a commitment. And they like the idea of continuing that independence.

2) More couples are cohabitating and don’t see the need to commit to a join account. It’s one less thing to worry about if the relationship doesn’t last. For this reason, I would question the stability of this relationship from then beginning–too many escape clauses.

3) Holding separate finances is a sign of autonomy and independence-a way to maintain self-identity. The problem I have with this is that the two are not exclusive. Maintaining autonomy can be done in the presence of another and building self-idenitiy is helped by seeing yourself in relation to another person.

4) Because of the earning power of two people, individuals feel that separate accounts give them a better idea of their individual contribution to the relationship. Perhaps, but I wonder if this feels competitive and then sets up conflict regarding who is contributing more and has more to say about how money is spent.

5) For some, it’s a way to say, we aren’t traditional and don’t want to embrace gender stereotypes. Does traditional mean bad? if so, yes, we can try new things. Not sure that pooling money is a gender sterotype or more of an effort to simply say we are committed to two becoming one.

6) Keeping separate accounts keeps you aware of what you are spending and allows more control over your money. I’ve seen this work both ways. It also allows those who are not good with money to get out of control with spending and debt. There is no accountability to another person.

Interestingly. a 2006 study in Gender and Society found that separate accounts is related to trust. Those who combined their finances were more likely to stay together than those who did not.

But Millennials say this study is not updated. Separate accounts do not reflect trust issues for them. It is in fact the opposite—a sign I trust you enough to let you do your own thing. But the emphasis on autonomy may not be the best for long term relationship commitment. Interdependence is the work of couples. The learning of two becoming one sacrifices all rights to self in the service of the other. So let me just say, for me, the jury is still out on this! I’ll look at the data in a few decades.

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