People look puzzled when they first hear the phrase financial intimacy. But when they understand the concept, they see how achieving this kind of intimacy can minimize conflicts 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. A wife shouldn't have to learn about financial insecurity at a time of crisis in her life, such as divorce or widowhood. It's also the worst possible time to learn about the basics of money management. The problem goes deeper than that. Failure to achieve financial intimacy in your marriage creates a climate of resentment, suspicion and lack of trust.
Other important areas of your marriage are bound to be affected if you're feeling angry, patronized or excluded from participating in one of the most important parts of your marriage - your finances. 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: "Why should I keep having to ask about our net worth and be told I'm the biggest nag on the planet?".
" One can argue that intimacy is the opposite of romance. Intimacy provides a clearer picture of a situation or another person because it's based on what truly is real, rather than what we want to be real. Romance, on the other hand, seeks to create a quality or environment that is remote from everyday life. Without financial intimacy, your can't really claim an equal relationship between husband and wife. It's not about trusting, hoping or assuming that your husband is doing everything right. Everything your husband does financially affects you, whether you know about it or not.
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. If you think of yourself as a partner, not specifically as a wife, you will act like a partner and take a fuller role in asserting your right to equal access to financial information. 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. If your marriage ends, you will need to act as your own agent. You will need to know how to do the financial things that you relied on your husband to do for you.
Take the reins of financial responsiblity and step up to the plate. 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!.
Helga Hayse is a financial intimacy expert who teaches women about participating and understanding their marital finances. She is the author of "Don't Worry about a Thing, Dear" - Why Women Need Financial Intimacy. http://www.financialintimacy.com