Relationship Connection: Should couples have joint or separate bank accounts?

Question

I’m married for a second time and my new husband is insistent that we have separate bank accounts.

We both work and contribute to the household finances, so as far as I’m concerned, any money that goes into the account is “our money.” I don’t understand why there needs to be “his money” and “her money.” I actually don’t even know how much money he has in his account. He just divides up our monthly bills and we pay them separately. It seems so disjointed and weird. Should a couple have their finances combined?

Answer

Money is such a powerful force in relationships. It has so many emotional and relational implications. While there are no hard and fast rules about how couples should structure their finances, it’s important to have trust and unity around money. One of the best ways to create this trust and security is for each person to commit to full transparency around the family finances.

I’ve worked with couples who have very complex financial arrangements complete with multiple businesses, investments, and bank accounts. I’ve also worked with couples who only have one checking account. While knowing the specific details of every single transaction might be easier for the couple with one checking account, having access to the information about the finances in any setup creates tremendous security and trust.

When a partner knows they have the ability to see the numbers (even if they don’t care to), it creates emotional safety. On the other hand, anytime someone keeps something from us, it is human nature to become more suspicious and insecure. A good marriage is based on mutual respect, trust, and security.

The word “marriage” means that two things are joined together to create a new and unified whole. When marriage partners open up their finances to the view of each other, it creates unity. While the money doesn’t have to necessarily be united in the same account, joint access to the information creates the unity couples need to feel secure.

Your husband may have had bad experiences with trust and money in his previous relationship. People have strong and compelling reasons that drive how they manage their finances. Slow down the conversation and see if you can stay curious with him enough to find out why he feels so strongly about this arrangement. It may not be personally related to you.

Again, the goal isn’t to make your finances fit a certain template, but to have unity and security. Some couples never see what’s going on with each other’s finances, but they know they could if they wanted to. That’s the key. The security comes from knowing your partner is willing to be fully open and transparent with everything. When we hold back in our marriages, it disrupts the oneness that distinguishes marriage as an ordinary relationship between two people. Hopefully you can better understand your husband’s strong feelings about the finances and create the unity you seek in your new marriage.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Molly August 21, 2013 at 8:23 am

    When I was married (divorced) we had separate bank accounts and during the years we were together we never really talked about getting a joint account. Seems strange now to look back but maybe your husband wants to have separate accounts so that he can feel secure and think you will feel secure knowing that you have your own money, or perhaps he is worried (due to past experience maybe) about you spending more money than is reasonable or taking money from the joint account needed for other things? Just a thought. I’d talk to him about it.

  • Betty August 22, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I’m surprised that this wasn’t a topic of discussion BEFORE you married. And if you were married by a clergy member, why didn’t they counsel you before the nuptials? Pre-marriage class or counseling is ALWAYS a great gift to give your loved ones. Don’t be so naïve to think it will “work itself out” after you have married. And we wonder why divorce rates are skyrocketing. Come on people, before you make this type of commitment, talk about these things!

  • Craig August 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

    My wife and I have a joint savings and checking account. We each contribute to the checking account to pay for household bills such as food and utilities. We are blessed with NO mortgage because we are very wise with our dollars. At the end of the month, ANY money leftover in the checking account is moved into the savings account. This is for emergencies or repairs around the home. or our autos or perhaps unexpected medical bills.
    However, I have always encouraged her to have a separate savings account just for herself. This can be her own buck$ for her nail$, a day at the $pa, clothe$, a day with the girl$, etc. She shouldn’t have to ask me for money and NO wife should have to ask their husband for their own “mad money.” That’s just messed up.
    Of course, I know in certain cultures, be it religious or ethnic, my attitude would not fly. The “man” is the head of the household…or claims to be as soon as he pulls it out of his ” @ z z”

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