Do you remember old marriage ceremonies which used to include that quaint line: "all my worldly goods to thee I endow?"
It didn't mean much if all you owned was a second hand couch and a few tins of pork and beans. But the sentiment was supposed to symbolize something: there is a financial joining upon marriage. "The two shall become one..." is how the God phrases it. We aren't just two individuals; we are now a unit. We share everything equally now.
Can We Really Share Money?
But do we? Many of us don't like the idea of "our" money as much as we do "his" and "hers". We live in a society where our worth is largely determined by our jobs. And careers mopping up when toddlers miss the potty don't count, either. This attitude certainly has detrimental effects on the self-image of stay-at-home parents, and in their marriages if their spouses also dismiss the job they do. But it also affects our financial arrangements.
I have known women who had no access to the bank accounts because it was "his" money. Other women suffer the opposite problem: though they stay at home with the kids, they find it difficult to rely on their husbands because that kind of trust feels scary. Who am I without a job? Or, even worse, what if he leaves me? We should all have training for a job, but living our lives for the "what ifs" guarantees we're always living in fear, rather than trusting in God.
Do What You're Good At
In actuality, marriage is not a financial trap for either spouse. God made marriage as a way to bless us, even financially. Indeed, researchers Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite found that when couples pool their skills, everybody's better off. In an ideal world, each spouse would do 50% of the paid work, 50% of the childcare, and 50% of the mopping up around the potty. But the real world's not like that. What if one spouse makes more money? What if one can't go part-time? What if one can't do laundry without shrinking something? Here's where the benefits of couplehood enter the picture. Each is free to do what he or she does best, and in the end everyone's better off.
Specialization is Better Than a Legalistic 50/50 Split
This doesn't mean he should never have to change diapers or clean a toilet-only that it's okay to split up the work in whatever way works best for your family, so long as you both work equally hard. At our house, that means my husband doesn't touch the laundry (he also doesn't let me mop). But he does earn most of the money, because being a doctor earns way more than being an author! Everything's getting done, we're both working, and the family's better off than if we tried to split everything down the middle legalistically.
One couple we know did decide that each would contribute 50% when they married. And that worked fine-until she got pregnant! But he still felt she should contribute her share, so she left the baby with Grandma and went back to work. He spent his money on golf games; she spent hers on diapers.
Not surprisingly, they're not together anymore. If instead they had realized that they were not just two halves entering a relationship, but two people joining, maybe they would have been able to let go of this silly 50/50 arrangement. Instead, neither ended up with much of anything.
In marriages, there often are few magic solutions; there are only trade-offs. Sometimes, though, in relationships those trade-offs aren't really so bad. One plus one can actually be more than two. And so let's celebrate that we have someone to share with, rather than obsessively trying to do everything ourselves!
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books specializing in marriage and household organization, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Get your FREE household organization charts, including chore sheets, organization checklists, and more!
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