If “mawage… is what bwings us together,” money can be what tears us apart. In this new Men’s Vows series, we want to share expert and anecdotal advice on how couples have addressed the subject of money as they head into married life.

By and large, how we as a society, tackle money is pretty binary: we either brag about it or bury our heads in the sand about it. And, this can be especially pronounced between men who, ascribed the traditional role of “provider,” are faced in marriage to confront any discrepancy that might exist between two husbands. Extremely rare is the instance where two men in a couple are in the exact same place in career and earnings.

But, like with everything in marriage, the subject of money boils down to two efforts: communication and expert advice.

Communication: Ahead of all of the practicalities of finances, it is fundamental that you discuss the “philosophies” of finances and establishing a shared one for your relationship.

Consider questions such as: How aligned are you about what money means to you? What do you each feel about yourself relative to your financial position, and to that of your partner? What impact do you want money to have on your life? What impact do you want money to have on others’ lives? What about your finances will strengthen your relationship?  What about your finances could weaken it? What value do you place on other contributions you will make to your relationship: emotional, social, managing your household, etc.? What do you each consider as fair about your respective contributions to the relationship? How will you hold each other accountable for not “keeping financial score?” 

We fall in love with someone because of whom they are, how they think and how they “show up” in the world and in the relationship, not based upon what they bring financially. So, push yourselves to have the very deep conversation of who you are relative to money, how you think about it and how you want to “show up” to your relationship financially.

Like with all things to do with communications, this should be an on-going effort. A financial conversation is not a “one and done” type of discussion given your financial circumstances will evolve, as will the answers to the questions above.

The candor and open mindedness you bring to conversations around finances will strengthen your bond as a couple.

Your financial bonds might involve fully integrating your monies. They might have each of you contributing a share to your running costs (house, car, groceries, travel) while keeping a portion of your holdings to yourself. Or, you simply might live parallel financial lives. It is up to you to decide, based on the above questions, and professional guidance, how enmeshed you want to be financially.

That said, when asked the secret to their longevity together, a couple who has been together for decades replied: “community property.”  Their quipy answer carries meaningful advice: the complexities of extracting oneself from fully-shared assets and mutual financial dependence can help you weather through tough times.  Like pets or children, deeply intertwined finances can provide motivation not to walk away too quickly.

When it comes to the more practical aspects of marrying your finances, the topics that couples most often cite of greatest concern are:

- Whether to merge assets and accounts

- Personal debts and what joint obligations the marriage
  will bring

- How much to save and invest

- How much each partner can, will and wants to earn

- The mutual tolerance for risk in investments

And, getting even more tactical, read this article from TIAA-CREF on specifics around financial planning. Ultimately, once you’ve established your philosophy for your finances, find yourself your “philosopher of finances” or a financial planner. She or he can help you moderate a conversation around the above. We will introduce you to some of our trusted planners in a future article, not to mention continue our conversation around money.  

The life you're building together will require deep understanding and meaningful compromises. Those you will make around money will be challenging but will ultimately build the sturdy foundation for your lifetime together. 

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