Sharing control of finances

My husband and I have been married for over a year now. We have a beautiful baby girl who is nine-months-old. I earn four times my husband's salary and it bothers him. Recently, I deposited some money into my father's account and did not tell my husband. He searched my purse without my permission and found the deposit slip. He was upset that I did not ask permission to give my dad the money. I don't understand why I need to ask him for permission when I earn my own salary. What do you think?

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

The good news is that you are sensitive to your husband's feelings about the fact that you earn a greater income. There is no doubt that traditional gender roles have defined men as being the "major breadwinner."

No matter which spouse earns more, marriage involves sharing equally in the family's decision-making processes. Do not shy away from talking about money. It is not a matter of "permission", but negotiating how the joint funds will be spent. You may be jumping to conclusions to assume that your husband wants unilateral control over whether you give your father money. Naturally, this is not a viable solution in a marriage based on equality. It is more probable that your spouse feels disrespected as his opinions were not included when you made this decision.

Women have righteously complained about the tendency of their husbands to assume unilateral control of financial resources in the family because the husbands bring home the paychecks. Feminist family therapists have pointed out the fallacy of relegating women to non decision-making status merely because their work at home is "unpaid". Similarly, because your husband earns less then you do, it is no reason to keep him out-of-the-loop.

Couples may consider making a budget, and rules, for monthly joint expenses. Naturally, contributions to the joint account would be based on equitable percentages that reflect differences in salary. After these expenses, and any savings they agree to deposit, are satisfied, couples may agree to consult one another on any transaction that exceeds 100 dollars, or whatever amount they feel is significant enough to warrant joint decision-making.

If a spouse feels "cramped" by this agreement, the couple could consider having separate money, after monthly joint expenses were paid, that each was free to spend or save according to their own desires. This kind of negotiation allows for individual choice and freedom in money matters, yet attributes equitable power to both spouses about how decisions concerning joint money are made.

Consider that your husband is responding to an inequity regarding the power to co-make decisions in the family, rather than attempting to block your ability to help your father. Develop a strategy for dealing with money that reflects equitable sharing of finances and treats both of you respectfully when it comes to making decisions about your resources!

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