Q: My fiancé and I are looking forward to getting married. But we've run into a conflict concerning finances. Should we have joint or separate checking accounts after we're married?
Jim: You'll hear various opinions on this question. In my mind, a "yours and mine" mentality isn't 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. Marriage is best and most fulfilling when you are both all-in and cast your lot together -- for better or worse. Sharing your financial assets is an important part of sharing life as a whole. And this includes the establishment of joint accounts.
Now, there may be some circumstances that necessitate opening separate accounts for separate things -- for example, a personal business venture. But generally, it's best to handle your finances (and everything else in life) as a team. If you're both working, you can put all of your earnings into one account and then agree that you'll each receive an equal share of monthly "allowance." That's the simplest way to keep yourselves accountable to one another.
If either of you are uneasy with this arrangement, you need to determine why. If two people don't feel they can trust or ought to be accountable to one another, they would be well-advised to reevaluate their marriage plans. That's one reason why premarital counseling is so important -- it allows you to gain clarity on such issues before you tie the knot.
We have plenty of resources to help, including premarital assessment tools, at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My husband is a former military man -- special forces, in fact. Ever since his last deployment a few years ago, my kids and I have been subjected to verbal put-downs, emotional abuse and even threats of physical violence. I believe he's suffering from post-traumatic stress, so I try to give him a pass. But where is the line?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: Unfortunately, the situation you have described is not unusual. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a well-documented issue in today's war-torn world. Many returning veterans find it difficult to share their emotional pain. They've been to the brink of hell and back. They naturally assume that only those who have actually engaged in combat can understand their internal struggles. As a result, they keep their mouths shut and stuff their feelings deep inside. All too often, when this emotional suffering does finally "vent," it may find expression in the form of domestic abuse.
Does PTSD-induced abuse call for a special response? Yes and no. On one hand, if your husband is suffering from the psychological impact of his combat experiences, there's a sense in which his condition is unique. It's vital that he receive specialized professional help as soon as possible.
At the same time, I must quickly add that your dilemma isn't significantly different from that of any other abused or threatened spouse. Regardless of the underlying causes, a person in your position really has no choice. You must adopt the attitude that safety is your top priority. If your husband becomes physically violent, don't hesitate to call 911. And if it's a question of emotional oppression and verbal put-downs, make it clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.
Bottom line: Seek help. Because PTSD is so prevalent, most branches of the military are now providing private, confidential, one-on-one counseling for those who are struggling with the fallout of combat service. In addition, our staff of counseling professionals stand ready and eager to be of help. For a free consultation, you can call 855-771-HELP (4357).
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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