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Sharing is caring - but what about the finances?

Date
A couple that spends together, squabbles together.

A couple that spends together, squabbles together. Photo: Glenn Hunt

So you have a joint bank account. How’s that working out for you? Are you happier and more in love than ever?

At some level, sharing is behind every couple’s decision to shack-up, get hitched, or have kids. From bodily fluids to building finances, yours-is-mine living is desired because anything less is considered unloving.

Which is why a couple who make a joint decision to un-share something get flooded with a deluge of criticism from the mainstream – “it’s a sign you don’t love each other anymore”.

But can a separation of something once shared ever be good for your love life, or is it always a harbinger of doom?

I say hear this: Demergers aren’t definitively dire. From unshared bank-accounts to unshared bedrooms, there is plenty of good to be got from a little bit of splitting up.

Why and how? Read on.

From latent communism to the Hapsburg chin, history has shown too much sharing can cause civilisations to crumble, and I’m surely not the only one who loathes over-sharing on in-your-Facebook. There’s only so much of someone else’s life we can take before our own lives are adversely affected.

And, despite all that business about absolute oneness and total togetherness, the same idea about superabundance being super-annoying applies to our romantic relationships.

Yes, it is right to want to be all about someone else, yes commitment requires cooperation. But degrees of autonomy need to be maintained otherwise the whole thing is burned up by all-consuming passion - no longevity there.

Let’s look at money as an example.

A couple I know – who are wed and very clever mind you – have decided to shelve the single joint bank account idea in favour of a mutual kitty for household spending complemented by separate, individual accounts with which they might do as they each pleased.  

Both working professionals, both fairly evenly fiscally endowed, this couple saw it as a way to get around those niggling, every-other-night squabbles over spending habits – the kind of irritating power-struggles which are so problematic because no-one is ever to blame, and everyone stands to become frustrated.  

They copped a lot of flack from their friends who thought it was a sign things weren’t going so well. Perhaps they didn’t trust each other? Was there something he or she was trying to hide? Smells like an affair, or worse, an online shopping addiction!

Of course, those most critical fail to realise that decisions sensible couples make about how to organise the things we cannot avoid – such money, or domestic space – may actually be the result of open, honest, reasonable and (my favourite) rational conversation. Just because they choose to do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on the rocks.

And when you consider more couples argue about cash than chores or children, and those who regularly squabble about dollars and cents are over 30 per cent more likely to get divorced, innovations about monetary management make, well, sense. Unsharing, where necessary, might just make the most of it.

Indeed, when you consider the other common complaint about long-term-relationships exceedingly well represented on this blog - lack of sex in the master bed – such innovative unsharing also makes sense. Unsharing of the master bedroom that is (though unsharing your master sex partner also works for swingers).

Of course, demergers aren’t right for everyone. Which is kind of the point – everyone, and every relationship is different. I just wish we lived in a world where such difference was actually considered the norm.

But until we do, I wonder – where do you stand?

Could you ever unshare, or demerge, something which had been shared previously? Could you give up jointness if it meant you were less disjointed? Cooperative unco-operation -  smart move, or a fatal folly?

 

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kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

 

101 comments

  • Once you establish certain sharing arrangements reversing them implies that something is not working, it doesn’t directly indicate a problem per say but it could, maybe you just found a more suitable arrangement.
    Sharing the master bedroom is a non negotiable for me except for some medical reasons.
    Sharing bank accounts can be a bit trickier and very dependent of life stage, at this point of my life I would say that some shared and some autonomy would be an option, these items are best discussed upfront and some adjustments along the way may be for practical reasons and not always a display of a relationship problem.

    Commenter
    Victorious Painter
    Date and time
    August 15, 2012, 7:54AM
    • Well done putting 'not working' so positively!

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 1:33PM
  • G'day Kate.

    This one is a no brainer.

    We do as you wrote...

    we long ago shelved "the single joint bank account idea in favour of a mutual kitty for household spending complemented by separate, individual accounts with which they might do as they each pleased".

    When initially setting out, we pooled. However, when saving for a deposit on a house we were finding despite all our declared commitment we didn't reach our targets.

    We persisted, and eventually got a deposit. Then, I got crook and for a few years we had a substantially reduced income. As in all relationships, finance stress brings out the worst in each other.

    The issue was not that we couldn't budget - we could when we both agreed and put our minds to it. Rather, in all too many cases, we each viewed the other as making purchases that were stupid and destabilising for the budget.

    Our solution was to pool all our money, but allocate a sum to each for personal expenses - into one's own bank account. The remainder was for major purchases, those that we chose after mutual discussion.

    I suggest the best decision we made is to allow each other to have 'our' bank account for 'our' stuff. In both cases, it isn't a large amount. But, it allows each to spend one oneself without the glare/gaze from the other.

    Best sanity saving move we ever made.

    Cheers

    Commenter
    Dalliance
    Date and time
    August 15, 2012, 8:18AM
    • Cheers for sharing...

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 1:33PM
  • My husband and I have 3 accounts each. They are: 1) a personal everyday account. 2) a personal savings account. 3) a mutual savings account.

    This works for us because the mutual one requires equal contribution and the personal one is a ‘do as we please’ one. For bills, etc we normally go halves but don’t fuss about who paid a bit more or less.

    I suspect most money woes emerge when one or both people are feeling the other is spending too much on frivolous things or one or both are feeling they are contributing ‘more’ and are annoyed at the other person for not contributing as much, which on a long term level, turns into a bitter passive aggressive sort of resentment.

    A (hopefully) less common issue is when a couple has different ideas of what constitutes as ‘our’ money. For example my ex said to me that we owned each other’s money. When asked to clarify, his precise words were, ‘your money is my money. We share everything now.’ To which I asked, ‘does that mean your money is also my money?’ He replied with, ‘no, my money is my money.’ The differences of opinion was one of the multiple reasons which led to a rather irascible breakup.

    Commenter
    Jill
    Location
    psychedelia
    Date and time
    August 15, 2012, 9:17AM
    • Thanks Jill, we're getting married in April next year, hope all is well with you too.

      Your story of the "what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine" ex reminds me of how the nightmare ex used to refer to everything we jointly paid for as "hers" (e.g. the house we shared rent for), but anything solely owned and paid for by me (e.g. my car) as "ours". More generally, my belief in "from each according to their abilities unto each according to their needs" always seemed to land me with ladies of few abilities but a lot of need...

      But 'nuff of that, all the better to appreciate my current partner, she's amazing!

      Commenter
      CaptainFlash
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 10:43AM
    • @CF OH Congratulations !

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 1:34PM
    • @CK, congrats, and like I said if lesson was learned then it was not a total waste, some of us are idealistic and the only way we lean is to get kicked in the guts, when we go down we get kicked a few more times while we’re down, once the pain subsides we get up bruised, the bruises disapear eventually and we become wiser. all the best.

      Commenter
      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 11:31AM
    • For half of our married life, we had just the one account and it was controlled by my husband. He worked and I had the luxury of being at at home mum for seven years. The company he worked for closed down its Aussie operations and overnight he became unemployed, so he and a friend started their own business. I joined when the business partner decided it was all too hard. So, we had the business account and his account.
      When we sold the business, I commenced work; initially by temping. The agency I was with would not put my wages into a joint account, so I opened my own and have had it ever since. It has worked really well. I have my discretionary money and he's got his.
      Currently I am unemployed and I get a generous housekeeping allowance which still gives me my discretionary spending. We run a lot of stuff through credit cards, of which the balance is paid off every month.
      It was never an issue when I opened my account and we've never really squabbled about money and spending. I suppose we're lucky that way.

      Commenter
      Robyn
      Location
      Ballarat
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 11:55AM
    • @CF obviouslly

      Commenter
      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      August 15, 2012, 11:57AM

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