July 22, 2024
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Should Couples Share Their Finances With Their Parents?

I’m 24 years old and engaged. Everything is, so far, so good. But there is one problem that is really irking me and I figured I’d see whether I’m overreacting or whether this is something worth fighting for. I grew up in a home with a lot of children and very little money. From an early age, I did whatever I could to earn money. I started buying my own clothing for myself at a ridiculously young age. I also like nice things and figured out how to get them, since I knew my parents couldn’t afford to buy these things for me or my siblings.

As I got older, I became very independent in this way. I was on my own financially. (I even paid for my dentist!) But it also motivated me to take school very seriously and do well. Right now, I have a wonderful job and earn a salary that I am very proud of. But I’ve never discussed money with my parents, since they never asked and probably knew that since they had nothing to contribute, it probably wasn’t really any of their business.

My chasan grew up in a very different type of household. His parents paid for everything, including his education. And so, there was an open dialogue about money, and when he landed his first job last year, he was excited to tell his parents what he was earning. When we marry shortly, we will be totally independent, financially. No one will be helping us and we don’t need any help, thank God. However, my mother-in-law wants to know how much I earn, how much our rent will be, etc.  I find her questions inappropriate and rude. I don’t feel I need to share this private information with her, especially since they aren’t contributing to our finances.

It’s causing some friction between me and my chasan. What do you think? Must they know my private financial details?

The Navidaters Respond:

I heard a wonderful response/comeback recently. “If you forgive me for not answering, I’ll forgive you for asking.” While I advise against retorting to your mother-in-law and chasan with this response due to its snarky nature, I do want to convey how much I think you are in the right! Not only do you and your husband-to-be earn your own money, you have also earned the right to keep your finances private. You and your chasan are doing it right and you should be very proud!

In certain circles, couples marry at a very young age and the possibility of financial independence is quite grim. Couples getting married while they are still pursuing their education cannot possibly support themselves. It seems to be the norm that parents are financially supporting their children. I’m not placing a personal value or judgment on this practice; I’m simply reporting the reality. As a result of men and women marrying before they can possibly be financially independent, it has placed parents in the position of being involved financially—both from a practical investment (handing over money) and from an emotional investment (questions and concerns).

Since this seems to be a universal practice in some circles, I am going to give your mother-in-law and chasan the benefit of the doubt. In your email, you didn’t mention whether or not she has married off other children and whether or not those children are financially dependent on her. Perhaps she has friends with married children and understands her involvement as common practice. Whatever the case may be, whether she is rude and inappropriate or simply a product of her environment, in your situation, her involvement is unnecessary.

I am hopeful that the friction you are experiencing with your chasan can be chalked up to your very different backgrounds and upbringing. As long as there is open communication and mutual respect, this can hopefully be worked out. You are asking for a boundary to be placed around you, your fiancé and your finances. Your chasan does not want the boundary. It is open territory. These matters, when unable to be resolved organically within the couple, ought to be brought to a qualified therapist’s office for some premarital counseling. Get a good referral and seek guidance, now. Couples benefit from learning how to effectively communicate. Part of “effective communication” is learning how to listen to each other’s feelings about issues. Perhaps there is a compromise that can be reached; perhaps this situation warrants no compromise. This issue needs to be squared away before you get married.

Approach your chasan again about this issue. This time, make it a collaboration.

We seem to be hitting a wall when we talk about your mom’s involvement in our finances. Can you help me understand your perspective and what you want? You are warm, open and simply gathering information. No fighting. You will now have an opportunity to share your feelings. After you do, you can ask, So, how do you see us resolving this issue? Depending on his answer and whatever comes of this collaborative conversation, you will know whether or not you need premarital counseling. If you do, I see we are both feeling uncomfortable regarding your mother’s role in our finances. I think we should talk to someone so we can come to some resolution.

Couples have disagreements and bumps in the road. Fairly typical and to be expected. Your job now is to make sure you feel comfortable moving forward. 

Sincerely,

Jennifer Mann

Esther Mann, LCSW, and Jennifer Mann, LCSW, are licensed, clinical psychotherapists and dating and relationship coaches working with individuals, couples and families in private practice in Hewlett, New York. To set up an appointment, please call 516.224.7779. Press 1 for Esther, 2 for Jennifer. To learn more about their services, please visit thenavidaters.com. If you would like to submit a dating or relationship question anonymously, please email [email protected]. You can follow The Navidaters on Facebook and Instagram for dating and relationship advice.

 

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