Sometimes, I get emails that make me wonder what people are thinking. I had to think about this one for several days before responding, and I think the email response that I sent wasn’t very good. It was too safe, and I didn’t really say all the things I was thinking.
Here’s the email:
“Hey Kate, I’m in the military and I am married. My BAH is used for the rent on our on-base housing. My wife doesn’t work. Am I obligated to give her money?”
The answer I gave was mostly kind and encouraging, emphasizing that marriage is a partnership and that they needed to work together towards common goals.
Here’s what I wanted to say:
“I don’t know, do you want to stay married?”
“You are going to have to give me a lot more information if you want me to condone you being selfish with your money.”
or maybe even:
I just don’t really understand why someone would ask this question. In my mind, when you say your wedding vows, you are joining together in a lifetime commitment in everything. Including money. Yes, one person may have more income, or one person may have more debt, or one person’s life might be more expensive (hello, grad school!), but once you are married you are dealing with all these things as a team. You talk and work together to look at your income and figure out how you are going to spend it in the way that makes both of you happy.
How much the actual money is mingled is up to each individual couple. Most couples find that having mostly joint accounts is the most effective way to ensure that there is a full-integration of money management issues.
(I am making some assumptions here. I am assuming that both parties are sane, rational people and neither the writer or the writer’s wife has a drinking problem, a drug problem, or a spending problem. In those situations, the rules are totally different.)
There is another option, which sounds like what the writer thinks that marriage looks like. You can act like two separate people, and look out only for yourself, and the chances are you will be unsuccessful with your finances, or unsuccessful with your marriage, or both.
There are 100 questions that I’d like to ask the person who wrote this letter, but it is generally a bad idea to get into a disagreement with a stranger. Questions like: How do you currently manage your married finances? Why doesn’t your wife work? Did you talk about money at all before you got married? Have you talked about money since you got married? Do you have a spending plan? How do you expect your wife to purchase necessary things (even if it is just new underwear) if she doesn’t have a job and you don’t think you should give her money?
However, I’m just one opinion, and goodness knows that people disagree with me all the time. If you received this letter, how would you respond?