Love and Money – Partners or Roommates

January 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Marriage Commitment

One way to approach management of money in a relationship is each person keeps their own financial resources and common expenses are shared 50:50. Call this the roommate solution for this is generally how financial management is done when unrelated individuals share a living arrangement. I don’t know your financial details, you don’t know mine and as long as we each put in to pay the common bills on time, no problems.

If you are in a committed relationship and this is how the money is approached this is a great business relationship. You can probably maintain this for a while but what happens when one half of the relationship wants something the other half can’t afford? The lesser income partner always trumps the higher because if he or she can’t afford half, the household goes without? The natural progression of this is easy to foresee – the one with greater financial resources will start covering the costs of those wanted items. In the beginning, no problem, maybe gratitude or appreciation for accessing more than the individual might afford.

Over time, this is a huge potential for conflict, resentment, and embarrassment. If I’m the one with fewer resources, I start to feel guilty; I’m not pulling my fair share. If I’m the one with the resources, I might begin to feel resentful that I’m always putting out the money, taking care of things when my partner is short. Without communication, the hidden emotions manifest in behaviors that can undermine the relationship. I’m angry so I withhold sex. I’m humiliated and don’t feel I can make a preference known when decisions are made. The power imbalance just festers.

The roommate solution works for non-involved roommates because when you are not in a committed relationship with someone there are no expectations. When you are in a relationship with someone, there are expectations. I expect my partner to take care of me when I can’t take care of myself. To help me make sure my basic needs are managed. Support me while I seek to better myself and invest in our future.

An investment in a future together requires a partnership. A strong partnership is not about equal income and expenses, but equal respect and understanding which are based on communication.

One way to approach that partnership is to acknowledge that individual incomes belong to the individual but the common unit that the relationship creates, the couple, the family; has common expenses and goals. Each person controls their own financial resources and each contributes to a common pool that all household expenses are then paid from. Monthly, recurring expenses are paid from the common fund. Larger expenses are discussed and planned for. A way to mange funding those larger expenses (cruise vacation, property taxes) is to set up individual savings accounts and contribute monthly or quarterly into those accounts until the expense comes due.

This partnership method enables the individual to retain financial autonomy while supporting the whole of the relationship. I can still give a gift to my spouse but because we discuss any large financial obligations, plan and have a process for funding those larger expenses; no one person is covering the cost without balanced discussion, or input from the other. The financial contribution may not be the same from both of us, but before we get to an unequal cost share, we have discussed it and worked through any issues or feelings that may bring up. Together we have set our financial goals and priorities.

This post was contributed by Vicki Hudson at Home & Hearth

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One Response to “Love and Money – Partners or Roommates”
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