Question: My income is much smaller than my atheist husband's, but it helps our family afford vacations, dinners out, and private tutoring for our daughter. My husband is rather controlling and gives me a hard time about every penny I spend, especially costs like donations to the Church. I've been thinking of opening my own account that I will prayerfully manage according to my own conscience. What do you think? – Roberta B.
Answer: Marriage is all about two becoming one, but sharing control over finances is a problem area for many spouses. In dual-career couples, both the husband and wife are used to managing their own bank accounts and making their own financial decisions with the money that they’ve earned. Money represents safety, security and stability to many people, and letting someone else – even their spouse – share financial control requires trust and a certain degree of vulnerability.
We normally recommend having one joint bank account, because it helps couples to think of money as “our money” rather than “my money” and “your money.” The end goal is for spouses to make financial decisions together for the good of the whole family. That way, the family can mirror the life of the early Christians described in the Acts of the Apostles: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 4:32).
You have a special situation, however. Since your husband is an atheist and you are a Catholic, there is an underlying disunity in your faith life. It’s extremely admirable that you want to continue donating to the Church, but it’s understandable that your husband doesn’t consider tithing to be a financial priority. In a sense, you’re between a rock and a hard place -- torn between your loyalty to the Church and your husband.
In your situation, it’s okay to accept that marital unity on many fronts is a long-term goal. It doesn’t have to be achieved tomorrow. Setting up your own bank account for expenses like charitable donations might reduce conflict in the short-term. We encourage you and your husband to talk over the possibility of whether it would help and then make the decision together.
But don’t lose sight of unity as a goal for the future – both financial unity and spiritual unity. Pray for your husband’s conversion. Maybe your steadfast witness of using your own money faithfully to contribute to the Church will be one of the things that eventually brings him to the faith!
May God bless you and your marriage.
Catholic Moms and Dads, have you ever struggled with the issue of separate bank accounts? What strategies worked best for you? Please comment below. And if you have questions or ideas for a future column, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Copyright 2015 Dr. Manny and Karee Santos
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