- 8 months ago
thatlass : (Pre/post-script: After I wrote this post, I realized how cold it sounds. I’m an analytical person by nature and I don’t do empathy well, so please forgive me for coming off as more devil’s advocate and less gospel-choir-testifyin’).
I think you’re doing the best thing you can by postponing the wedding and taking the time to think and talk this through before you make any permanent decisions. You seem like a very smart, strong woman and I applaud you for advocating for yourself. You’re practicing a lot of emotional discipline here and that bodes well for your career.
The terms you’ve more recently negotiated are a lot closer to being fair and I really hope he’s sincere about them. I’m assuming the first conversation you had really did come from just the most cursory, perfunctory meeting with his attorney (who I’m guessing is also his dad’s attorney) because he would be foolish to pay him to draft an entire document without even discussing the terms with you first. I say that in case it helps restore your faith in him a little bit–maybe give him the benefit of the doubt when he says he went into this naively.
Your proposal about each putting half of your income into a joint account seems fair and logical. I can understand why he would hesitate, however, at the suggestion that assets purchased through that account (most of which, presumably, would be consumables but might also include furniture, appliances, recreational vehicles, etc.?) should be totally joint property. I wouldn’t feel great myself buying in at 75% and later dividing things up 50/50. I know that it doesn’t feel loving or generous to you, but it’s technically fair–for the years you are both working.
Bear in mind that I am coming at this from a very different set of experiences which has altered my perspective on marriage and finances. I was the breadwinner in my first marriage and I was royally effed in my divorce. My current husband went through the same hell with an even more horrific outcome in his first marriage. I’m not going to hijack your thread with our tales of woe, but please understand that while some people lose an annoying, inconvenient amount of money in their divorces, others lose an amount of money that is borderline ruinous. Money that they earned without any help from their spouse. The state typically doesn’t concern itself with dissecting the details of your partnership and deciding what’s fair given your unique circumstances. They award money based on who, on paper, can presumably afford to pay regardless of why one person’s income is higher than the other spouse’s and who gave up what. I’m not insinuating that you’re out to take advantage of him–or even that he thinks that–but everyone has heard these kinds of horror stories and perhaps even knows someone who has lived through one. It’s scary as hell. And they say you get to know your spouse when you’re divorcing them, so everyone has that little sliver of doubt in the back of their mind that makes them wonder if their 1-in-a-million fear will come true for them when you run off and leave them for someone new.
My husband and I had experiences that changed our mentality toward money in such a way that we actually feel more comfortable with an arrangment similar to the one you and your Fiance are working out. We each put 25% of each paycheck in a joint account for household stuff and keep the rest for discretionary purchases and savings. His retirement is his retirement no matter what and so is mine. I make my car payment, buy my clothes, pay for the occasional lunch out with the girls, etc. with my separate account and he does the same kind of thing with his. Even though we share with each other by treating each other to little surprises and gifts from our individual accounts, we still retain control over most of our money, which is a security thing for us. Although we trust each other, having been a worker/saver living with a profligate spender damages your peace of mind in such a way that you never completely trust someone to have full access to your entire bank account without watching it constantly. We also know that in the very unlikely event of a divorce, neither of us is getting the rug pulled out from under us; we both get to keep the IRAs and savings accounts we have busted our asses to build. I’m not saying any of this because I think he’s been divorced or because I think you’re a profligate spender. And I’m not saying we’ve figured out the definitive way to handle money in a marriage. I’m only saying that it is possible to be in a very loving, trusting, respectful relationship and keep your money separate. Please don’t think that a 100% shared bank account is the only way of demonstrating love. I absolutely adore this man and trust him more than I’ve ever trusted anyone and he treats me like he feels the same way about me. But I have to sleep at night and that means knowing that I’m not going to get cleaned out just before retirement and have to work until I drop dead.
At the end of the day, though, it has to feel right for you. It doesn’t matter at all what is empirically fair if it runs counter to your philosophy or your instinct of what marriage should be. If either of you sign off on something you don’t truly agree with on a visceral level, it will poison your marriage. Resentment and insecurity will build over the years and you’ll feel like you’ve sold yourself short. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, especially not someone who seems as deserving as you. So, be intellectually open to a marriage that looks different than what you have always been told is the “right” kind of marriage, but ultimately follow your heart and don’t agree to something that hurts.