Abby Dalton lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their cat. She occasionally blogs about money at Make Love, Not Debt.
It’s easy, in a marriage, to hold onto little grudges without even being aware you’re doing so. The other day, for instance, after a particularly grating work meeting, I came home and decided to unleash a tirade on my husband. He didn’t volunteer to do the laundry often enough; he hadn’t cleaned the bathroom properly; and on and on it went.
This happens every once awhile, these situations where things that linger in my subconscious only come out when I’m annoyed about something totally unrelated, and it’s something I’m working on (and to his credit, he’s working on the laundry portion).
But it raises the ongoing issue of equality in a marriage – something I’m sure many people struggle with. While chore division might be the more palpable manifestation, in our marriage where our income levels are unequal (my husband being a graduate student, and being employed full-time myself), finance is the main area in which I feel we’re constantly working out the scales so that no one’s tipping too far to the side.
Figuring Out a Financial System
In some ways, our financial equality needs to be viewed on a much longer, broader scale. I make more money now, so I contribute more to our savings and retirement accounts; one day, my husband might out-earn me, and those roles will be reversed. It would be wildly stressful and time-consuming to constantly feel as though there’s a lack of equality based on this bigger picture. But then there are the smaller things that I find I still harp on, though I try not to.
My husband and I dated for about six years before we got married, and as a result, we got accustomed to splitting things – dinners, drinks – fairly evenly. I kept a running tally, and we cut checks down the middle, and no one was contributing much more than the other. Now that we’re legally bound, and share a joint checking account in addition to our own personal checking accounts, I find this ongoing calculation is a hard habit to break.
My husband has a much better “go with the flow” attitude than I. Whereas he’s happy to pick up a check here or there (paying for groceries, an oil change, etc.), I almost always ask him what he’s paid for something and how much I should reimburse him for it. He doesn’t view this as necessary – what’s $20 once in awhile when I’m paying for his health insurance? – but it’s a habit I can’t seem to shake. Similarly, when I cover something unexpected, I tend to tell him how much he owes. It’s not ideal, in a relationship where everything is, theoretically, “our money,” and I’m working on it.
Do you divide your money with your spouse or is it all a part of a pool from which you can both take?