When I got married nine years ago, I had every intention of merging my life and my husband's as completely as any independent woman can and should. Sure, we would maintain our own hobbies and interests, but I wanted our marriage to last forever, and to me, that meant no secrets, full disclosure, and total trust.
I had witnessed both my grandparents' 60-plus-year marriage and my parents' 35-plus-year one by the time we walked down the aisle at 31, and I knew that I wanted a partnership as strong as those relationships — and creating that would take a lot of work. Step one: breaking down the walls I'd been building over the course of three decades and many a lesser romance. I would have to let him in to every part of my life, with one notable exception: my bank account.
I know, I know, it's going to sound like a double standard — because you better bet that I made sure my husband added me to his bank account within a couple of weeks of our "I dos." That became our joint account, and I transferred the majority of my money into it and made sure that my paychecks were directly deposited there. But, on the advice of my megafeminist mom and grandma, I didn't close my separate account.
"A woman needs her own money," they told me, and while the notion felt a bit antiquated, part of it also rang true, especially considering that my husband and I had already discussed that I wouldn't work as much after we had kids and, surprise, surprise, we came home from our honeymoon expecting our first one. After she was born, I went from full- to part-time work. Then, when her brother was born three years later, I cut back even more, becoming a freelancer. Obviously, my salary was cut dramatically, too.
Holding on to my bank account helped me maintain a sense of self in a life dominated by diaper changes and sleep deprivation.
In just a few years, I'd gone from having an exciting, growing career (one that involved lots of cute outfits and many a pair of high heels) to spending most days in yoga pants and nursing-friendly tops and relying on my husband's income for everything. It was like moving to a foreign country with no return ticket, and my little bank account became a lifeline to my former self, a person who liked fancy skincare products and a new footwear wardrobe for every season and didn't want her husband to question every Sephora or Nordstrom purchase as necessary or not. Of course, they weren't necessary, but then again, maybe they were. Call me materialistic, but holding on to these items helped me maintain a sense of self in a life dominated by diaper changes and sleep deprivation and a body I no longer recognized.
My kids got older and I eventually had time to work and earn more. My husband began questioning whether my "little" account — which I disclosed had grown since I'd started depositing my freelance checks (first paltry, then not so much) — was unhealthy for our relationship. He couldn't argue with my response. Besides the current debate we were having about the very existence of my separate account, when was the last time we'd really argued about money? I asked him. The answer: pretty much never. Our finances were in good shape. We had plenty of money in our retirement account, and we'd consciously purchased an affordable home instead of stretching our budget.
I continued with the crux of my argument: did he think we would be more likely to fight about money if he saw the price of every pair of jeans or $9 pressed juice I purchased on our joint credit card? Or was it better for those items to come out of my own account, which could also fund the occasional family expense, like flights or home improvements? For our individual personalities and our relationship, the answers were definitely yes and yes.
My separate account wouldn't work if my husband and I didn't trust each other so fully and communicate with each other so well, but for the sake of my wardrobe and my anti-aging regimen, I'm so glad we do and it does.