Maintaining financial autonomy in a marriage.

I know this can be a very controversial topic. Can even lead to some disagreements. I’m wondering about the possible commentary to meet me for this blog post. I’m anticipating two types of responses to this.

1. Husband and wife are one and all they have belongs to each other. They’re autonomous together.

2. We are individuals and we have a right to not be answerable to the other for what we earn and what we spend. Autonomy is a practice by an individual. I love my spouse but I love them more if I don’t have to talk money with them frequently.

Can I say I agree with response #2?

But my agreement doesn’t really matter because I’m me and you’re you. And as long as you’re happy with your financial arrangement with your spouse, it’s okay. I don’t think finances should be joint and I’ve learned that that’s my very personal opinion and may not ring right with everybody.

But have you ever regretted pooling your money with your spouse? Have you ever considered the initial joint account banking to be getting a little old now? Did you ever wonder how your marriage may become less stressful if you didn’t have to answer to your spouse for every dime you spent? Do you think that as you’re getting older and have witnessed some financial autonomy in your friends because they share their financial vision with their spouse and you don’t, you have started to crave for either a joint vision or at least an independent bank account? This can happen. Our financial vision for ourselves and our marriage can change over the years. That’s part of growing up.

So how can you turn this around for yourself? I don’t think there is a stress-free and argument-free way to do it but I think the best way to make it seem fair to your spouse (and for it to be actually fair) is to assure them that you’re not financially abandoning them when you talk of separating your money and that your intention is just to claim a little autonomy and self-indulgence.

Don’t make this a battle of egos either. Don’t make this happen over dinner one night. You’ve been in this system for a while so don’t destroy the system or try to. Change the system. Changing the system helps in retaining parts of it that are good and reconstructing parts that needed changing.

Start the dialogue gently and factually. Don’t just jump into it. Develop a prologue. Then slowly ease into this conversation. Don’t demand instant results. Wait for the message to sink in. This is a huge change. Marriage, to me, is many parts of many things and finances are many parts of marriage. Trying to change our marriage’s financial face overnight is a little dare-devilish in my opinion.

Once you feel that your spouse is ready to make some changes to how you manage your money, go ahead and put your plan on the table. Chances are they won’t agree immediately. Continue to make room for their opinions and ideas too. Most of us didn’t go to accounting school so don’t act like you know all the answers. Explain that your purpose is autonomy. Don’t bring up things that you haven’t even been thinking like mistrust, unaccountability and the likes.

Don’t use emotional language or thought processes when making this decision. Don’t say things that sound hostile, even though may be true. Sentences like

“It’s my money. You shouldn’t care if I burn it”. Or

“What do you care where I spend my money?” Or

“You should be ashamed of living off of my money”. Or

“I make more than you. Of course it works for you if we pool our money”.

Remember, money isn’t bigger than your marriage.

Once you and your spouse have come up with a good plan, start to show that you are not abandoning them financially. Before you reassured them with your words, now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Split expenses. Split ’em. Just split ’em. Every month you are responsible for this, this and this and they’re responsible for that, that and that. Done. Said. Agreed upon. Great job. You are now being autonomous and incredibly supportive. You’re also now being an accountable spouse.

Some people think that financial autonomy is important because what if we divorce in the future? Dear people! The lack of financial autonomy bugs us in a marriage and can lead to a divorce. It doesn’t really matter if we don’t have it when we are divorcing.

Ideally, have this discussion when you get married. Talk to your spouse about why this is something that you want to do. How this helps you be your own person. How this removes something uncomfortable like money from the equation. Tell them that they can always depend on you. Spouses should try to share their fiscal goals and ideologies. It helps a marriage a lot.

Can I tell you that it’s so nice to say to my husband “I got the check” at the end of a date night? Can I say I share financially with my husband without any knowledge of how much is in his bank and without him knowing how much is in mine? Can I say we still ask each other (shamelessly and without any reserve) for any amount of money that we feel like? We have no doubt that we have a right to each other’s money. But do we take charge of our own money and trust each other with our money if we need to? Yes. It is a system with its nuances and works very well for us.

I know women will tell me that Islam says that a husband is the provider and I have a right to his money. He is bound to take care of me financially. I know Islam considers it a favor if a wife spends her money on her husband. But I don’t think I’m favoring my husband in anyway by being an equal financial contributor. Not at all. We are both building a life together. A great life Alhamdulillah. And when you’re building something great together, the contributions have to be great too. The sacrifices have to be great too. And I’m very proud of my contribution and I’m very proud of my husband’s contribution. And together, we are very proud of each other and comfortable knowing that we are two responsible adults who are fully capable of looking after our money by ourselves.

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