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Two Shall Become One: A Case for Financial Togetherness

two shall become oneI’ve been planning this post to come out today for a couple of weeks. Then, lo and behold, Grayson at Debt Roundup wrote a post on Monday entitled “Love and Money – An Internal Debate.” So I used his post as a springboard for what I was going to talk about anyway – how two shall become one in marriage.

Thanks Grayson!

In it, he propositioned that he would NOT pay for his wife’s debt under most normal circumstances wherein people incur debt (car loans, student loans, credit card loans, etc.). His main reasoning for this stance was so that a lesson could be learned and responsibility taught to the spouse who had been reckless in running up debt. After all, marriage is about making each other better people.

Grayson and his wife sound like they are completely on the same page in regards to how they live out their financial life. They have set themselves up for success by communicating their values and beliefs to one another and then agreeing to move forward together based on what they believe. By all accounts, that’s a winning formula!

The great thing though about personal finance is that it’s personal.

There are some basic principles that lead to financial success for everyone, but those principles play out in different ways in all of our lives. We all have our own value system that determines how we move through life, make decisions and relate to those around us. What works for Grayson may not work exactly the same way for me, and what works for me may not work exactly the same way for you. And that’s OK as long as what you are doing IS actually working for you.

With all that being said, I could not ignore my wife’s debt and make her pay that on her own. I could list a bunch of reasons why but those would seem hollow compared to the much bigger issue. For me, it simply boils down to one spiritual issue: I believe God meant for a man and woman to come together and be one complete unit – in all aspects of life together. I’ll expand on that a bit and then give the best example from the Bible of a couple that lived this admonition out.

“The Two Shall Become One Flesh”

You probably have heard this phrase uttered as part of a marriage ceremony – “the two shall become one flesh.” It does actually appear in the Bible in four places:

In Genesis 2:24 – “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

In Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:8 – Gen. 2:24 restated by Jesus

In Ephesians 5:31 – Gen. 2:24 restated by the apostle Paul

The essence of the message is that a man and woman leave their biological parents and form a new family unit that is characterized by complete oneness in all things physical, spiritual, and emotional.

Choosing not to tackle every aspect of our marriage with joint effort would not have been productive for our relationship. It would have always seemed like there was this one thing out there that we were not working on together. That would have created more tension than either of us would have liked.

A Model of a “One Flesh” Marriage

One of my favorite couples in the entire Bible that demonstrates this principle is the husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquila. It wouldn’t surprise me if you were not familiar with them. They have no book named after them and they are only mentioned in passing comments (they get little one-liners) in the New Testament. But we can derive a lot about their relationship and their values from those short comments. Here is what we know about them:

Priscilla and Aquila were entrepreneurs together in the tent making business. They shared their business with the apostle Paul (for at least 18 months) so that he would be able to support himself on the mission field. (Acts 18:2-3)

They gave of their time together by traveling with Paul and then stayed together where they were needed to lead a local church in Ephesus. (Acts 18:18-19)

Being more seasoned in their faith, they chose to teach and mentor a new convert (Apollos), who had recently begun to be a bold speaker in the synagogue. (Acts 18:26)

They chose to meet danger together and risked their lives to protect the life of Paul. (Romans 16:3-4)

They encouraged others by sending along warm wishes in Paul’s letters. They also chose to allow a group of Christ followers to meet in their home. (I Corinthians 16:19)

Priscilla and Aquila were a team. They embodied a “two shall become one flesh” marriage. Their names are never mentioned separate from one another in the Bible. They combined their talents to maximize the benefits of their profession and the ministry. They shared in the joys and risks of life. Which is why for me they are a great example of oneness in marriage.

Can you be “one” in marriage if you choose to have separate financial lives? I believe so but maybe only to a point. I really can’t speak with any authority on that question because that is not how my wife and I have chosen to live. I can only tell you there has been nothing that has moved our marriage relationship forward more than sharing in and working together on our financial goals and dreams.

That’s why I believe the personal finance journey is one best completely shared together.

Questions: Do you believe in the adage “two shall become one flesh” in all matters – even financial? Are your finances separate or combined? How has shared financial goals moved your marriage forward?

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Next Post: Budgeting Series, Part III: How to Make a Budget

Prior Post: Budgeting Series, Part II: 8 Reasons Why People Don’t Do a Budget

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Comments

  1. I think it is terribly important to talk about and be honest with all things before you even think about getting married. With my husband and I, we had not assets and lots of student debt when we met. We also racked up lots of together debt, but I always viewed it all as “our debt” just like income is “our money.” I think both of our jobs are valuable and benefit people, probably his more than mine, but my salary is about 4x more than what he makes as a teacher. It would not be very fair if we didn’t share our money.

    • My wife and I have reversed earning roles in the last few years as she now out-earns me as well (and has the potential to greatly out-earn me as she advances along as a CPA). That would really bother some guys but I just don’t have an issue with it. We are a team and I’m thankful we are working together on our journey through life. It makes it so much more enjoyable and sweet!

  2. Holly Johnson says:

    As I mentioned in the comments on Grayson’s post, my husband and I have commingled our finances since our relationship got serious. I helped pay his credit card bills while he finished his internship and last year of schooling. He couldn’t make ends meet and I was working full time so it made a lot of sense to share the burden.
    Because of the education he earned while I helped support him, I now enjoy a much greater lifestyle than I ever could have on my own. The small investment that I made in him has paid off in so many ways.
    Greg is my best friend. Everything we have is “ours.” Nothing is his or mine. We share our finances, our responsibilities, our home, and our children. Any problems that he has would be mine as well, and that includes any debts.

    • I find any type of burden becomes easier when it’s shared. When you have someone to help you along with whatever issue you are dealing with, it lets you know someone is in your corner giving you strength and cheering you on. There is great emotional strength in knowing that.

  3. Great post, Brian! As you said, personal finances are personal and it’s not black and white. . I do believe that once we get married we became a unit – including our debt. At the same time, I can admit that if I was dating someone with a tremendous amount of debt, I would be concerned about the ramifications for me. I’d need to understand how he got himself into such debt and what he’s doing about it. I know that if he was aggressively paying it down and didn’t want me to use my money to help him get out of a problem he created – it would make a huge difference to me. And then I’d want to help him do it too. 🙂

    • I agree completely Shannon. Honestly, I’m not sure I would marry someone with a mountain of debt who thought it was OK and wasn’t serious about paying it down. That’s a potentially HUGE marital issue that needs to be worked out ahead of time.

  4. Separate, because we’re not married yet. I think we’ll probably combine things once we get married. We have sort of a weird system for paying bills and saving. Bf pays the mortgage then the portion that’s mine to pay I save for him in my savings account. Some people probably think that’s weird, but it works for us.

    • I think you are showing some great wisdom here by keeping your finances separate until you get married. You could head into some real messy situations that would be hard to untangle if you combined them now and your relationship didn’t work out for some reason.

  5. Basically combined. At the start of our relationship he was the main breadwinner and supported us with his fulltime income (I was a student). After the recession hit and he was laid off I was the breadwinner and helped keep us afloat, including helping with his debt repayments. I can’t say I did it joyfully, but we’re a team, and I know he would do the same for me.

    • Sounds like you both are working together even through the tough times. That’s great! Togetherness really is the key in the whole issue – whether your finances are separate or combined.

  6. My wife and I combined are finances. I think we did this more to simplify things and also we both trust each other not abuse what we earn. We also believe in for better or for worse that we will work together to make things work.

    • I like the simplification that combining finances brings. Plus each partner in the relationship has access to all the financial information. I could see a scenario, when finances are separate, where one spouse could try to hide something from the other. That could still happen if they are combined but would be much harder to do.

  7. These words “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” also became a song that became very popular at wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions. I completely agree with you! A marriage is a partnership from beginning to end that encompasses all aspects of our lives. Our finances, goals, dreams, business, home, are all shared equally, no matter what.

  8. Mackenzie Randompath says:

    I completely agree Brian. I believe once you are married, everything is “ours”, not “yours” and “mine”. If you go into a marriage believing everything should be separate or having contingency plans just in case it doesn’t work out, one shouldn’t really be getting married in the first place.

    • I would tend to agree with you Mackenzie. The only time I might consider a contingency plan (like a prenup) might be in the case of a blended family situation (to protect my naturally born kid’s inheritance and legal rights) or if I had a great amount of assets (millions of dollars). I think it might be prudent to think those types of scenarios through. Even then, once we were married, I would still consider everything “ours” like you said.

  9. Financial Black Sheep says:

    Great post! In the beginning Mr. FBS and I combined everything, including credit cards. It was easier to do that since I was it was easier to have combined dreams that way (we were poor and putting our finances together meant we could enjoy life more.) Now we have separate credit cards, just because we applied for some that the other does not need. I don’t see a problem either way, but when I became married I was ready to share everything including debt problems. (On a side-note I did work with him before we dated, so I knew everything about his income, credit, etc.)

    • You bring out a great point FBS in that you knew ahead of time your husband’s financial picture. So many people don’t discuss their view of finances before marriage. No wonder money related issues is the #1 cause of divorce in our country. When I heard that statistic, my wife and I decided to give Dave Ramsey’s FPU class as a wedding present to every couple who invited us to their wedding from here on out.

  10. Well put Brian. Thanks for the mention about my article. One thing I should note is that I came into the marriage with a lot of credit card debt and I didn’t feel it appropriate to ask my wife for help paying it down. What I did ask for was support and that is exactly what she provided me. Her encouragement was exactly what I needed. It became more useful than the money.

    • Thanks Grayson. I think your desire to take care of your debt burden yourself is admirable. Says a lot about your character and integrity. And you are 100% right…nothing is more valuable than the encouragement and support of a loving spouse.

  11. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Good post Brian! I completely agree and my wife and I have all our finances combined and did so once we got married. That said, you’re right on when you say that finances are personal. If someone has no problems with their finances then that’s what matters in my opinion.

    • I agree John. On a great many issues, personal finance is not black and white. It is sad however, that many people feel like they have no problems with their finances when in reality – if they were doing an honest assessment of them – they really do. That being said, I wouldn’t butt in and tell them they had a problem…they would have to ask me or find that out on their own the hard way.

  12. Great post, Brian!! We too, have everything combined. Being on the same page is so important in marriage, especially where finances are concerned. We’ve been on separate pages, and on the same page, and combining and having the same financial goals has been wonderful for our marriage!

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