In the Wall Street Journal, Family Finances section there was an article posted last week entitled: ‘I do’ – Now Hands Off My Check Book. As a marriage therapist I have seen countless times how having separate accounts is destructive for a marriage and the family system. When it comes to marriage and finances – merge or separate – I say much more often then not – merge. In contrast to my observation, the article slant was with regards to the idea that couples having separate accounts is a good thing. Here is my commentary in reaction which explains my theory as well as 4 key reasons why having separate accounts is not therapeutic for far too many couples. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule, oh yes, there are indeed, but generally speaking joint account(s) in a marriage is the way to go.
I have observed time and time again couples who report marital distress with a significant piece of the challenged marital puzzle, reporting as either their main presenting problem for attending treatment or one of their main challenges as, is; money. Specifically it has been my experience in working with couples as a marriage therapist that couples who do not have their financial accounts as joint, it is that fact which is often symbolic for other aspects of their marital lack of connection and lack of the overall feeling of joint partnership. It has been my observation that for the majority of couples, having separate financial accounts is destructive for a marriage and the family system. I offer the following 4 key reasons:
- Sends and keeps the message of: separate thereby keeping you separate emotionally, further creating and exacerbating the condition of marital disconnection.
- Creates a power struggle where the pendulum of marital power shifts from one spouse to the other based on money (i.e., who is making more holds the power). This struggle creates communication disharmony and emotional resentment.
- Creates and exacerbates secrecy and lies rather than creating a ‘couple team’ and rather creates opposing teams.
- If the couple has children, the children learn to triangulate and separate/create sides beyond the parents not only with regards to money matters, but in other areas as well, as the bank accounts are a symbol for the couple hood, the partnership, the team – or the lack thereof. There are several reasons that certainly make sense as to why one spouse or both wish to hold their own account, some of which were covered in this article. There are also reasons to hold a shared account, a few of which I mentioned above in my commentary. Couples who try and learn how to and succeed in communicating about financial matters, working together as a team, and hold the same account – you will likely find that most if not all of the other areas in their couple hood also present as a team, a unit of success.
I hope this commentary offers some insight into your own marriage and opens up the door for communication with your spouse. If you want to learn more ways of which to have a successful marriage along with concrete and do-able communication techniques that can be implemented right now with proven success – take a sneak peak into my newest book and/or order your signed copy today, as discussed on FOX & Friends.