I wondered if I should even post about this. When it comes to rattling cages, I do not posess the courage of Aunt B, or Kat Coble, or Brittney, or Sarcastro. I’m pretty much a go along to get along kind of guy. But today I saw something that touched on one of my deepest held beliefs, and I had to ask myself, “If you’re afraid to say it out loud, how strongly do you believe it?” Even though I know this will rub some of you the wrong way, here goes.
This morning, I’m on the treadmill, and somebody’s put the TV on The View(first bad sign). At first it was entertaining watching Dennis Miller ripping into Rosie O’Donnell . Then, after a commercial break, Suze Orman comes out as guest. She the proceeds to give boilerplate buy-and-hold advice (which is GOOD). No problem. Then she’s says something I find appalling.
She said that every married woman listening should have their own private stash.
What I am going to say about this comes from experience and learning the hard way. I’m going to come at it from two angles, one a religious one, and the other financial/emotional . If you are not of the Judeo-Christian tradition, by all means skip to financial arguments. Unless you voyeuristic-ally like to listen in on our internal arguments.
The religious argument.
About the time we had been married 5 years, we had it all figured out. We had a joint checking account, a savings account, and his-and-her private accounts. My wife had very good reason to be wary – something you’ll find out about when Kathy Tposts Lintilla’s wrinkles. We had an elaborate system for distributing the money, with a who-pays-what formula based on monthly income and other factors. We were quite proud of ourselves.
So, one day, we’re visiting my family. We’re bragging about our wonderful system, and then after a long silence, my dad looks at us and says in his folksy way, “So, when are y’all gonna get married?”
I rolled my eyes, but for weeks I couldn’t get his question out of my head. I did a lot of soul searching, bible reading, and praying. It finally came to me that dad was right. Lintilla and I had a long talk, and we decided to “marry our fortunes together”, as Paul Simon said. We even combined our record collections!
The ideal concept of marriage, at least in religious circles, means that each partner gives themselves to the other wholly. You don’t hold on to something your past life without them. You don’t cling to something for yourself with an eye toward a life without them. You jump off the cliff. You drink the KoolAid. It’s risky and it’s exhilarating and it’s depressing and it’s rapturous.
People to whom autonomy means everything have no business getting married. And if you are a Christian, you have already renounced your autonomy anyway. If you hold on to your life, you’re going to lose it. If you give it away, you’ll save it. This is foolishness to the outside world. But, as you know, it’s part of The Plan.
“The two shall become one”. If you’ve been married any amount of time, you know how much it’s true. I never understood the Trinity till I got married. There’s Lintilla, there’s me, and then another being called “us”. It is greater than each of us apart. Sometimes it has a mind of it’s own. It sustains each of us, gives us strength, compassion, and the ability to put up with far more than we ever could if it was just “she” and “me”. And in the early years of our marriage, we were starving this wonderful being. When we turned everything over to that Being financially, he/she/it did some incredible things. Which leads me to
The Financial/Emotional Argument
Say what you will about Dave Ramsey and his absolutism about debt. One thing he says that I absolutely know is true is that money and emotion are tightly entwined. Each controls the other. You cannot divorce the financial from the emotional. Another tenet of his is absolutely true: two people who are not of the same mind financially 100% are much weaker than two people who are.
Getting “of the same mind” is hard: it involves some knock-down drag out arguments that MUST be worked out before progress can be made. Married people with separate finances may be avoiding those arguments, but they are crippling themselves. The money differences are just symptoms of other problems in the marriage that MUST be worked out (usually involving power).
Two people with a passionate, common goal have an incredible power. There is an exponential factor that comes into play (I’ve seen it). The sum is greater than its parts. Two people hiding things from each other are at such a disadvantage, it’s not even funny.
But won’t you need your own stash in case he cheats and we have to get divorced? Well, once again, trust issues like that mean that money is just a symptom. Also, consider this: if I were the lecherous type, the very first thing I would want is my own, private bank account. Then, I could use it for hotel stays, gifts, sexy clothes, and dinners with my mistress(es). Having all the money in a place where both people can see where it’s going is a pretty strong deterrent.
I’ve ranted long enough. But I do know I’ll never take advice from Suze Orman.