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Still Staying Separate

QUESTION: Karen in Texas says she and her husband separated last year, including their bills and checking accounts. They reconciled after a few months, but he still wants to keep their money separate. Dave says they need to fix the deeper issues and finish healing their marriage.

ANSWER: It’s not about where the money is going; he just doesn’t want you to know. He doesn’t want to have to answer to you.

This is part of marriage healing. This has to be addressed. It can stay the way it is right now because you guys are in the process of learning to work together in a lot of ways in your marriage. If you stopped going to a marriage counselor because he didn’t want to pay for it, that’s not all right either.

When you’ve gotten to the point in a marriage that you are willing to separate, and then separate all your finances–which is the last step before someone files for divorce–and then something occurs that gets you back together, you have some work to do on your marriage that will require a counselor’s aid through that process.

You guys fixed the top-level stuff, but you didn’t dig in and fix the other stuff. This separate account is part of that. You guys are not cooperating or communicating at the level you should be. That is reflected in the question you are asking me.

I don’t think we give him money for his account. If he wants separate accounts, he gets them separate until we are ready to put them together, and then we put our lives together. But the indication is you haven’t put your lives together because you’re still running two separate lives together. That’s speaking as to where you are in your reconciliation process. You’ve got some more work to do there.

In the meantime, if you want to pile up some savings or finish paying off some debts that are in your name, that’s fine. There’s no harm done when you’re able to reconcile and everybody learns to work together, but this doesn’t need to be a three-year plan where you keep everything separate.

It needs to be that you finish healing your marriage to the degree that you want to set goals, work together and have a future together. This is like having a roommate instead of a husband. There are parts of managing the money that he is probably pushing back against. If it’s a typical situation, he probably felt like a little boy asking for an allowance from his mommy.

He probably likes the idea that he gets a say in this and a sense of independence. He likes feeling like a grown-up. But you guys can do those things together. He really shouldn’t want to be doing anything that you can’t know about. That’s what’s bothering me in the conversation.

I think as you heal your marriage, and counseling is the best way to do that, I think you can make this issue go away. In the meantime, just pile up cash. But don’t accept this and just be sitting in this place five years from now, because what that means is that you guys haven’t finished your healing.

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