“Why did you get married at this stage of your life?” asked recently divorced Sue of recently married Marilyn. Marilyn went on to explain that she’s a very traditional woman and felt it was a more moral way to live. To which, Sue again pressed “but you trade off a sense of your feeling of morality for potential financial problems. You mentioned that you both have children from former marriages and both have assets”. “Oh, I’m not worried about that as we have a verbal agreement between us” exclaimed Marilyn. And so it went on until Sue realized that it was a fruitless conversation as Marilyn could not and would not entertain the thought that there could be/would be any problems in her new and exciting married life. For her, this was not so much about money but her values and sense of morality. They’d work out the finances.
Now Sue knew better, she thought, as she just recently experienced a brutal divorce with her second husband whom she thought adored her and would always have her best interest at heart. Ah, but life has its unexpected twists and turns and that was before Sue decided she’d like to become more active in her community and share her talents with the non-profit world. She could never have anticipated that this decision would have had such a significantly negative impact on her marriage.
If she were only as smart in love as she was in her career and investments, she would be working by choice and not by necessity. In hindsight, she was blind and naive in giving her spouse control of their pooled money believing he would be trust-worthy and care for her and assure the same for her money that she contributed to their new life and lifestyle. Initially, all went well but as soon as she wanted to develop some independence and some energizing non-profit work, he apparently felt abandoned. His needs were no longer being met so he decided to take care of them financially as a consolation. He was clever in his mismanagement of the couple’s money so she never surmised he was siphoning off cash and socking it away in a secret account for his next phase of life.
The lesson Sue wanted to impart to Marilyn of “maintain control of your money and leave little to chance” was in good faith as she came from a place of good will in wanting to caution another woman who could potentially make the same bad choices and realize unfortunate life-altering consequences.
Making the decision to cohabitate vs. marry is obviously complex and certainly not always about what’s smart financially. Emotions play a significant role and have their way of making a significant and often time unconscious impact on the decision. The essence of making the most suitable decision is to understand feelings as well as facts and not to ignore or confuse the two. Understanding both and how they may play out will certainly help you make the most appropriate decision for the short as well as long-term.