What does it mean to have a financially intimate marriage? If couples achieved financial intimacy, wouldn't that do a lot to minimize the friction about money in their marriage?
Culturally, we link the concept of intimacy with romance, not realizing that we are talking about two different things. Romance is make-believe, it's Disney, it's a stage set - and it's great. But not when it comes to money, which operates in the real world. When we think about money romantically, we're basically not thinking at all. We're just fantasizing.
We need a wider definition of intimacy, a concept we currently link with the physical, sexual or emotional revealing of ourselves to another person in a most private way. We need to think of intimacy as transparency, especially when it comes to marital finances because so much is at stake.
Unfortunately, full financial disclosure is still treated as taboo in many marriages, especially when the man makes the big money decisions. A wife may be contributing a significant amount of money through her work, yet may go decades knowing little about her shared finances. In many cases, her financial insecurity does not become evident until she is divorced, which is the worst possible time to begin grappling with money troubles or decisions. It’s also the worst possible time to learn about the basics of money management.
The problem goes deeper goes even deeper. Failure to achieve financial intimacy in your marriage creates a climate of resentment, suspicion and lack of trust. If you’re feeling angry, patronized, ignored or shut out when it comes to finances, your feelings are certain to spill over into other areas of the marriage. Sex, honesty, closeness, trust, parenting – all will be affected on a conscious or subconscious level.
Bad feelings don’t go away; they redistribute. One acquaintance put it very colorfully: “He expects sex twice a night, but he won’t tell me what our net worth is.”
One can argue that intimacy is the opposite of romance. Intimacy allows a deeper, closer understanding of another person or situation based on revealing what actually exists. Romance, on the other hand, seeks to create a quality or environment that is remote from everyday life.
The fact is, financial intimacy creates financial equality between husband and wife. It’s not about trusting, hoping or assuming that your husband is doing everything right. It’s about knowing and understanding what he is doing because everything he does financially affects you.
That’s what being an equal partner means. You are part of a fifty/fifty relationship. In fact, it has nearly the same structural characteristics of a business partnership. As a partner, you have a right, and the law supports your right, to all the financial information about your partnership. If you are the primary breadwinner in your family, your husband has that same right.
You are not entitled to special treatment because you are a woman, but to equal treatment because you are a partner. You may earn less than your husband, but you take the same amount of financial risk for decisions made within your partnership.
If you find yourself widowed or divorced, some things will be immediately clear. You will need financial resources and the skills to manage them. You will need to understand basic finances so you won’t have to rely on family members, friends or a financial advisor to tell you what to do. You will need to understand and sign contracts on your own. You will need to know how to do the financial things that you relied on your husband to do for you.
Participate, understand, keep a copy of the records, ask questions, and assume that you have a right to all the financial information that affects you both. The law supports your right to have it!