Should Couples Co-mingle Their Hearts and Their Money?

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You and your mate are living together. You believe you’ve found the perfect. You are loving and respectful of one another. You share many of the same likes and dislikes. You have similar goals, aspirations, and political views. The remaining topic yet to be discussed is money and that begs the question: as partners sharing a household, should you co-mingle your money as well as your hearts?

First off, you might want to get more familiar with the role money plays in your partner’s life if you aren’t already. Do you have an accurate snapshot of each others’ finances, net worth, assets and debts?

Does your compatibility as a couple extend into the financial realm, having mutual financial desires, goals, spending and saving habits? Or, have you slid blindly and naively into cohabitating without a clue of each other’s financial behavior, how money might affect your union, and how to exist financially as a team?

Are there money obligations from the past that could cut into your lifestyle as a couple now and perhaps continue into the future? Do either of you have a sizable loan debt, alimony or child support from a previous marriage, rising credit card balances compounded from accruing interest?

 

The Urge to Merge

When matters of the heart are concerned, responsible cohabitating couples like to start out on the right foot. Does the “right foot” include the belief that money is a part of what they should freely share with one another?

Money makes our world go round and money is wrapped up in trust, a testimony to your devotion and love for one another. Even the convenience of sharing money is also a part of the relationship covenant. Considering what’s mine is yours and vice versa is seen as an act of love, faith, devotion.

 

A Touchy Subject

For some, getting down to the nitty-gritty of money can be a touchy subject. You or your mate – or both of you – may feel uncomfortable discussing money because, well, your feelings about money and talking about it can be complicated.

As more couples decide to live together unmarried, there are more opportunities to get into trouble because their mindset is that love will conquer all. But that doesn’t mean that married couples necessarily deal with money issues any better simply because they‘re married.

Married couples can get into hot water over money just as easily. The difference may be that legally, the rules of property ownership may be more clearly defined in a legally binding relationship. Also, psychologically, you might feel more secure about co-mingling funds as a married couple.

And what do couples living together fight about most? Money is high on the list. Who’s spending what and why is usually what sparks arguments. When co-mingling decisions haven’t been made, arguments can intensify.

 

Ways to Co-Mingle Funds

The good news is that there are all sorts of ways couples can share financial resources. It’s a good idea to explore these with one another and decide which works best for your situation.

While co-mingling is usually thought of as putting both party’s income together into one account where it is considered the property of both, to be used as either or both see fit, there are options to the standard “split down the middle” approach.

Are you comfortable having joint bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts? Do one or both of you already own a house and other real estate and property, from before you met? Should you add each others’ names to the ownership papers? You can make separate agreements about how to divvy up spending and planning your financial future.

 

What to Discuss

So you’ve agreed to have a money discussion. Congratulations! Where to start? How about:

·        Possible consequences of co-mingling or not co-mingling. These will be different from couple to couple. Each relationship has a set of unique situations

·        Discuss financial issues, your preferences, habits, debt. Examples:  do you pay your bills on time? Do you wait until the last minute?

·        If you do decide to co-mingle funds, deciding who will manage bookkeeping or assign financial tasks to each of you is even more important.

·        Are there outside sources of income to disclose, such as getting outside financial support from family?

·        If unmarried, know the laws in your state that affect cohabitation like “community property”

·        Think about how you might individually protect certain assets in the event the relationship ends, such as a pre-cohabitation or prenuptial agreement.

 

Beliefs about Money

You each may have grown up with certain beliefs about money that have carried over … that money should be used for security, or that money should be used as a symbol of status. Air those beliefs.

What if each partner has very different financial styles: saving, spending, investing? One of you may be frugal with funds, the other may like to spend or possibly overspend.

One of you may feel resentful or jealous that the other partner has more discretionary income, a richer lifestyle, money with which they may choose to spend on something fun for themselves: a luxury car, expensive toys. How does co-mingling affect that discretionary income?

Financial hardship can cause extreme stress. What if you and your mate are low on funds, disagree on how money should be disbursed in paying bills? What if one of you overspends or uses money on habits like gambling, drinking, cigarettes? What if you don’t have enough money to get through the month?

 

Be Fearless

The point is, married or unmarried, co-mingling or keeping your money separate, any unaddressed money issues have a way of creeping into a relationship and causing misunderstandings and conflicts … serious problems on both mental and practical levels. Bite the bullet. Be fearless. “Open the books” and discuss possible outcomes and solutions.

Is Your Partner’s Current Fantasy Only for Football?

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We’re nearing the fall season and that means … football! For the next several months, your partner will be glued to the TV for Sunday pre-game shows, the big game, and post-game commentaries and summaries … all day long and into the night.  Then the crew comes over to watch the Monday-night game, and then he’s got some tailgating parties thrown in here and there.

Do you share in the excitement of gridiron action with your sweetie or are you a full-fledged “football widow?” Does he ditch you while in the throes of football fever, leaving you sick and tired of his seasonal addiction to a sport you’d rather didn’t exist?

While you ponder getting a replacement sex partner, is your mate lusting after gridiron action or the latest picks for their fantasy football team draft?  What’s a partner who wants a meaningful life with her sweetie – all four seasons – to do?

 

Attitude Adjustment

Maybe a change in attitude is in order … a change in YOUR attitude, for instance. Here are a few pointers from my sports widow’s playbook, a few ways to look at how you can turn the situation around, take advantage of your mutual downtime, and avoid feeling left out, alone, and bitter.

Let them enjoy their addiction. Is it the best strategy to lament your relationship and try to save it from his football addiction? Why not accept that it’s okay for your partner to get caught up in a harmless addiction to football, some other sport, or whatever else grabs their attention that they so look forward to? Don’t you have some obsessions of your own that he’s not involved in, that he “puts up with?”

 “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” This might sound trite, but have you tried joining him rather than trying to “beat him up” for his activity obsession? Are your complaints falling on deaf ears (because he’s got his headphones on listening to the game)? He might be secretly hoping you’ll give in and not only accept his cool-weather addiction but sit down with him and get immersed in the play-by-play excitement by his side.

A hidden opportunity. What a great opportunity to engage in sports hysteria or other activity addictions with your partner. You can have some quality time for fantasy football AND yourselves. You can delve into the fun and discover the indescribable feeling of rooting for the home team

Make some YOU time. If you’ve called a truce and agree to disagree that his activity addiction is not your cup of tea, why not use the time away from one another to get immersed in stuff that you love? What if you take up a new hobby … read those books you’ve been meaning to get to … listen to your favorite music … binge-watch that new TV series … schedule a yoga or workout session?

Must you be “joined at the hip?” Try to dispel the belief that you two need to do everything together. It’s healthy for couples to have time apart. His sports time your opportunity to practice your individuality, have a social life outside of the one with your mate. You could catch up with friends, visit family, plan an outing with the girls, join a discussion group.

 

When Things Get Out of Hand

Sometimes being a fanatic about football or other activity that you don’t particularly care for or can’t good-naturedly accept can get out of hand. Sometimes a line gets crossed from fanatic to addict. My take? I think the keyword is “balance.” If balance is absent, a relationship can suffer and deteriorate.

Is he spending every waking hour of free time with his obsession? Is it cutting into activities or special moments you used to share? Is he shutting you out by cutting off meaningful conversations or the intimate chit-chat of everyday life? Is the glue of your relationship failing as you come unglued by the lack of communication?

Make sure to express your feelings. Tell your mate, in a loving way, how you feel.  You might tell him you feel like you’re not getting enough of his free time and ask if he can cut back or somehow modify the football frenzy. Tell him you love the time you spend together and you miss it, that you feel bad that so much of it goes to something that you don’t enjoy sharing an activity with him to the extent that he enjoys it.

Get a commitment to change. You can do that by being clear about what you would like him to change and what is acceptable to you. For example, if you can live with one or two days a week of total football immersion, tell him. Or, you might ask if he will agree to spend a certain amount of time with you in an activity that you both enjoy on a regular basis.  

Does he get that his preoccupation is a big deal, a serious roadblock in the relationship? Does he understand your concerns? Is he willing to make compromises? Is he assuring you that he’s not shutting you out for other reasons and that he’s telling you the whole truth when he says that?

It’s also important to put his obsession in perspective. Are you being realistic? Football is one season. Isn’t it reasonable to give him this one season where he doesn’t have to worry about arguing or the stress of displeasing you when there’s three more seasons? What if circumstances were reversed? How would you feel if he complained every time you were unavailable because you’re out with the girls?

Have you made peace with some aspects of the situation? Are you allowing yourself space and activities outside of your relationship? Have you adjusted your attitude some? Is he understanding and being reasonable? If your answers are “yes,” I’d say that’s a touchdown.

Is Your Partner Playing Private Eye to Check You Out?

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Is your sweetie snooping into your private life, looking to see what you’re up to, into the life before you two met? Or maybe they suspect something may be going on currently. Maybe they think you might be cheating on them. Could they be digging for records of possible criminal activity or less nefarious but still unpleasant history? Why are they playing super sleuth?

Your partner’s activity begs the question: Do they have a right to know that which you have not yet – or may never– reveal to them? Are you upset because they are clandestinely seeking “the goods” on you instead of asking you directly or because they are seeking that information at all? How do you feel about that and what are you going to do about it?

 

How Do You Feel About Being Surveilled?

Why would your partner seek a third party rather than come to you? Do they lack the confidence to ask you face-to-face? Do they feel unequipped to confront you directly? Are they perhaps simply seeking reassurance that you’re “clean” without having an awkward conversation with you?

 

Reasonable Suspicion

Has something in your relationship changed that would cause your partner to be concerned? Have the routines in your life together changed? For example, have you been coming home late after work frequently? Have you been evasive or vague responding to their questioning you about it? Have you been “gaslighting” them, assuring them that their suspicions are all in their head?

How’s your sex life lately? Has something changed in your level of intimacy with one another?

Have you considered that your mate may be extremely emotionally distraught because they’ve noticed changes in you that they can’t explain and that you haven’t explained to them? Maybe they need closure to feel secure again in the relationship. Maybe they want to know for sure if there’s a problem or not, and if there is, what that problem is, and have time to deal with it internally, mentally adjust to this new information and then decide how to approach you.

 

Justifying the Search

Do you condone active surveillance in general? If you learned from a friend that they hired a private investigator because they think their husband is having an extramarital affair, what’s your gut reaction to that? Then ask yourself if you would feel differently if the tables were turned and it’s YOUR mate that’s acquired the services of a private eye to investigate YOU?

What if it’s a new relationship and they just want to make sure they’re not making a mistake by getting involved with the wrong person? Maybe you met on an online dating site and they want to know things about you that you might not share … like you just got out of prison or are running scams on unsuspecting dating site subscribers to get their personal data, clean out their bank account, or do them physical harm?

So peace of mind, closure, and even reassurance that you’re not “going whacko in the head” are often reasons why your mate may want to pursue investigative work behind your back.

But what does that say about the level of trust s/he feels for you? Is there something subliminal they’re picking up? Could there be a personality flaw in your mate that might be behind them having an urge to check up on you? Are they overly possessive, jealous, vindictive, paranoid?

Have you breached trust with your mate in the past? Have you kept something from them before in the relationship and they discovered it? Did they confront you about it? If so, did you fess up or cover it up? Did you turn the tables and deflect the accusations by telling them it was THEIR actions or behavior that were suspicious in order to get the heat off you? Was there an incident in their past they told you about, something that occurred before you were a couple, that you think might be reoccurring?

Are people checking up on their mates more these days than in the past because of technology? I believe that’s part of the reason. Before the internet, social media, smartphones with GPS, video and audio recorders, and home security systems, personal information wasn’t so easy to acquire.  Is it simply tempting to do a little snooping, for curiosity’s sake? Are they tempted just this one time to see if you’re on the level, that you’re being honest with them? Do they like to “check-in” periodically to see if something has changed? If so, at what point do you stop the search and trust each other?

 

 Relationships Are Repairable

I believe that most relationships are repairable if people want to repair them. An infraction doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed; you and your partner are the deciders of that.

Make sure you’re not:

·        Bringing trust baggage from a previous relationship

·        Wrecking your relationship with your own insecurities

·        Digging to find something (If you are, you probably don’t need to be in a relationship right now)

·        Justifying your reason to dig

·        Listening to friends that are encouraging your behavior