Q: My fiance and I are getting married this spring and we've run into a conflict concerning finances. Should we have joint or separate checking accounts after we're married? What are your thoughts?
Jim: Opinions on this question vary, but as I see it, a "yours and mine" mentality is not conducive to a healthy, happy marriage. A husband and wife are not two people who happen to sleep in the same bed but lead separate and independent lives. On the contrary, marriage is best and most fulfilling when both spouses are "all in" and cast their lot together, for better or worse. The sharing of your financial assets is an important part of sharing life as a whole. And this includes the establishment of joint accounts.
In some cases, special circumstances may necessitate opening separate accounts for separate things -- a personal business venture, for instance. But for the most part, it's best to handle your finances as a team. If both of you will be working outside the home, you can put all of your earnings into one account and then agree that each of you will receive an equal share of a monthly "allowance." That's the simplest way to keep yourselves accountable to one another.
If you're uneasy with this arrangement, you need to determine why. You've given us few details about your relationship with your fiance, so we really aren't in a position to comment on this aspect of your question. We can only tell you that if two people don't feel they can trust or ought to be accountable to one another, they would be well-advised to re-evaluate their marriage plans, or at least get some serious premarital counseling. It's best to resolve issues of this nature before tying the knot.
Q: When should we talk with our son about what it means to be a responsible husband and father? He's still pretty young -- not even in his teens yet. Should we wait until after puberty? Or would it be better to hold off even longer?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: That's a good question that deserves careful consideration for many reasons. Perhaps the most significant is the tendency for today's couples to marry later in life than in the past. As a result, young adults are entering into marriage with a stronger sense of individualism and personal independence than previous generations. While a certain level of this can be healthy, it can also present challenges for a marriage relationship. Often times the more "set" two people have become -- the more time they've had to "harden" their personal routines -- the more difficult it can be for them to merge and meld in marriage.
Why mention this? Because, from a certain perspective, it underscores the need to start preparing our boys to understand the responsibilities involved with marriage and family life as early as possible. Good husbands and fathers don't just happen. We have to create them. And we create them, at least in part, by teaching and modeling for them beforehand that good marriages and strong families are built on a foundation of love, and that love often means putting aside self-interests and learning to make sacrifices for others.
With that in mind, it's wise to start talking to your son about what it means to be a good husband and father now -- before he's had a chance to form too many self-centered, potentially relationship-damaging habits. A good man anticipates what lies ahead on the journey and prepares for it. I'd encourage you to help your son get moving in that direction as soon as you can.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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