My Money and My Marriage: 3 Lessons a Roadtrip to D.C. Taught Me About My Money Issues

BY: - 26 Feb '13 | Marriage

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By Kara I. Stevens

My husband and I took a weekend jaunt to D.C. this Presidents’ weekend to get away and reconnect with some friends. We pulled into a rest stop and he asked for my credit card to fill the tank.

“How much would that cost?” I asked.

He said, “Around $65.00 or $70.00.”

He noticed my discomfort and said, “Look, babes, we are married and I am all in, you gotta stop looking at our money as separate.”

I saw his lips moving, but all I could think about was my mother and how my father took advantage of her, left her with two wonderful kids to raise alone, and notoriously swindled many a women out of their hard-earned dollars — starting with what I imagine was a conversation similar to the one that I was having with my husband.

But on the way to buy some water while my husband used my  our  my credit card to fill up his our tank, my ‘aha’ moments surfaced.

My husband is not my father. I am not my mother. 

Does my upbringing impact my thoughts, feelings, and proclivities with respect to the opposite sex, money, and how money and marriage should mix? Absolutely! Am I one of Pavlov’s dogs that operate strictly on conditioning — thus making my past experiences and behaviors an indication of my future moves? Absolutely not!

I firmly believe that you can change anything about yourself, your thinking, or life if  you want to. I think it can be extremely seductive and safe to use the stock phrases such as “absentee father,” “single-parent household,” or  “broken home” to win sympathy and be excused from the hard work of being proactive in your self-improvement.

I want to improve my money mindset and I will improve it because our happiness and comfort are at stake.

The merging of finances will be a gradual process and it will be dynamic as our marriage matures.

I reject any formulas, and ‘must-dos’ that tell newlyweds or partners how to manage their money without understanding the couple personally. Growing a money blueprint will be trial-and-error and will change with the unexpected spills and thrills of life (e.g. a windfall of money, a loss of a job). Currently, we maintain not only the separate bank accounts with which we entered the marriage, but we also created joint checking and savings accounts with yearly targets based on our expenses and incomes. It works for us now, it may; however, change as our marriage grows and I am fine with that.

Be honest from the beginning about your expectations; and if you can’t be honest, be brave.

When we started dating, I pushed the idea that expenses should be shared equally amongst partners. But in hindsight, I think what I wanted was for my husband to pay the majority of the entertainment costs and we would tackle household expenses together. Now, it is my responsibility to express my feelings and thoughts about this since he is keeping up with his side of the agreement and my feelings and expectations have changed.

BMWK — What are your thoughts about money and your man? Have you and your partner discussed how expenses should be taken care of? What models of marriage have influenced how you interact with your money and your man? 

Kara Stevens blogs at FabulousNFrugal, a personal finance blog for women-of-color. Kara gives practical tips on all things girl power, wealth management, and juicy living. Connect with her on Twitter: @fabandfrugal 


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  • Ressurrection

    This is a great topic. I think alot of people do not understand how you should see money especially in your marriage. If you can trust that person with your body, but not your money I encourage you to sit down for counseling. I do offer 15 minute consultations to support others in developing and maintaining healthy relationships. 202.717.7377 (RESS)

    • Scheryka

      I just wanted to add that I do know what my problem was… is… was. My Dad has alwasy taught us girls to never depend on a man and make sure you have yourself set “in case”. I was always taught to “do me”. And the old saying that “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours in mine” is a subliminal hint of Christian manipulation… umm wisdom. But that got me a whole lot of trouble!

    • kara

      Thanks for commenting. I think each couple will have their own way of handling money. I think what is important is helping couple access what emotions and thoughts they have about money and support them in communicating these thoughts.

  • Scheryka

    Thank you for this article. For years my husband was not on MY checking account. Even though I offered for him to be on it when it was first opened. For his reason, I wish not ot share, he declined. So when the time came and he mentioned to be on, I never got around to doing it. This went on for like almost eight years and I had not taken the time to doing it. Recently, I’ll say in the past two years, we went into the bank for him to add me to his new account (I had alwasy been on all of his accounts) and when he stepped out of the room I had told the rep that I wanted to add him to my military account. Anyhow, the response came back and it said that he could not be put on the account because of the credit analysis. We are still unsure how and why it was like this because he had just opened an account himself.
    I would like to add that we have been separated since June of ’12 and God has been doing some things in our marriage. Neither accounts that either one of us had are open because of the separation and I believe that when God bring us back together, everything will be beautiful!

    • kara

      You are very welcome, Scheryka. Best of luck with getting back together!

  • Superwife

    The mingling of money can be very complicated. Everyone is not disciplined and everyone is not wise in handling money. That being the case, even when both parties are both (disciplined and wise), keeping finances separate is not always a bad thing. My husband and I don’t co-mingle funds, yet all the bills get paid on time and no one has any secret accounts – he knows about all of mine (I have 4) I know about all of his (he has 2). It works just fine for us.

    • kara

      I agree, Superwife. I am extremely disciplined and so is he and I pride myself on my financial acumen. I think what has been hard about being newly married is the sharing of everything and reflecting on the validity of the thought that everything SHOULD be shared. Like you said, not only is the mingling complicated, it is also very case-specific. Thanks for your input.