Can somebody please remind me which part of the marriage vows is about sharing bank details? You know, the bit where couples hand over their credit card PIN numbers and vow to pay for each other’s lattes, manicures and X-Box 360 games for the rest of time?
No? Funny, that, because ever since I got married people have just assumed that I now have unquestioned access to my husband’s cash. And I’ve gotta say, it’s rubbing me up the wrong way.
‘You don’t need to pay him back!’ they say when he’s paid a hotel or a restaurant bill while I’ve been too busy stealing miniature shampoos or licking the last of the chocolate sauce from my pudding bowl to do it myself, and I hand him my half in cash. ‘You’re married – it’s all the same money now anyway!’
Or, even better, when out buying myself yet another pair of unnecessary but fabulous Irregular Choice shoes and being asked if my husband will ‘be annoyed when it shows up on his credit card bill’. Sorry, hisbill?
Now, let’s discuss why this is bullshit. Because apparently that’s necessary.
Firstly, while marriage is a merger of many things – minds, bodies (if it’s particularly cold out) and mutual passions for watching episodes of Arrested Development late into the night – I don’t remember the bit about signing over our independence. I pay for me, he pays for him, and important things like mortgages and DVD box sets get split neatly down the middle. That’s just how our own particular relationship works.
Secondly, do I need to remind you that we still live in a world where men generally get paid more than women? Nope, didn’t think so. If this assumption about automatically shared finances were true, then, it would mean that most women make a financial profit when they get married, like getting a wedding ring is equivalent to receiving a tax rebate, or having a few numbers come up on the lottery. And they said romance was dead.
The idea that getting married means you instantly become richer by virtue of your other half’s earnings is one of the most backwards, outdated views I’ve had to come across since I actually tied the knot. Sure, I’ve been earning enough money to keep a roof over my head and a sufficient level of Cheddar in my stomach to keep me alive ever since I become an adult but I’m married now so – hey – why not use his cash to up my necklace collection or sign up for that Horse and Hound magazine subscription I’ve always wanted? I’m his wife – this is just part of the benefits package, right? Well…no.
If I earned more than my husband (which I will once my Dial-A-Dairy-Milk delivery company ever gets off the ground), I don’t think I’d much like seeing part of it disappearing into his beers, pants and horror films fund just because we’re married. Those chocolate bars won’t transport themselves, you know. And though it’s easy to say that I’d never begrudge him a pint or a burger, or a film about people getting their limbs sawn off now, when I’m only responsible for paying for them when it’s Christmas, his birthday, or I’m feeling particularly generous, I’m sure I would if I knew I was paying for it every week of the year, just as I doubt he’d be too happy forking out for all the mojitos, marshmallows and Paperchase pens I like to buy myself. This is just the way we two individuals work.
My worry, for us, is that it would always be there, waiting to bubble up in an argument. I’d be like: ‘Please can you empty the dishwasher?’ and he’d be like: ‘WHY CAN’T YOU STOP SPENDING ALL MY CASH ON FLUMPS?!’ It could make us resent each other – and in a house where he still insists on leaving his pants on the bathroom floor and chocolate wrappers on the sofa, and I refuse to accept that five episodes of Coronation Street a week is ‘excessive’, we really don’t need extra material.
Of course there are circumstances in which this could and should change. If we have a baby, if one of us decides to retrain, or is unable to work altogether, or anything else comes up that means we have to rethink our current financial situation, then of course we will. We’re not bad people; I’m not going to leave him out in the cold if he loses his job and can’t cover half of the gas bill, nor is he going to make me stagger back from the labour ward because I’ve forgotten to bring a fiver for my half of a taxi home. We’re not complete dickheads. We’re just keeping things even until the moment comes when it’s right to make a change.
But just because this works for me, I realise that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Some people like the whole money-merging thing, and good luck to them. My point is that it’s none of my damn business, nor anybody else’s for that matter, and that it’s just wrong to make assumptions about how other people live their lives. And particularly ones that assume women are the less equal parties in a relationship.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to close the sale of my latest Dial-A-Dairy-Milk van. With my own damn credit card.