Marriage has never just been about physical attraction or romantic love — the Harlequin Romance ideal notwithstanding.
Marriage, or whatever you call the (hopefully) lifetime union of two people, is a very pragmatic thing — especially financially. A financial union should create a far stronger whole than each of the individual parts.
Even so, many couples keep their their financial affairs completely separate. I know those who have been together from many years and have kept their finances religiously divided to the point that they don’t know what debts the other has, their income, retirement provisions or even whether or not they are current with their bills.
The main problem with this approach is that neither person can effectively plan their own future, because what one person in a permanent relationship does financially affects the other person.
If one partner, for example, is secretly paying only the minimum on his or her debt, the couple may have difficulty borrowing to consolidate other debts or getting a mortgage to buy a house.
At it’s extreme separate finances can lead to some very unpleasant surprises down the road. In one case I worked on, the husband, supposedly a traveling salesman, was actually a professional gambler.
Result: Divorce and personal bankruptcy for the wife. Husband — off to parts unknown.
The guy was a schmuck and even joint finances wouldn’t change that, but the wife would have likely clued in a whole lot sooner.
On another occasion, the wife, though working at a good job, was secretly using pay day loans each week because she’d fallen so far behind in her credit card payments.
Result: They worked on it and are on the road to solvency, but not without a lot of mutual pain and sacrifice.
Personally, I think at least a limited amount of co-financial management is preferable and should be centered on areas of joint concern including household spending and any loans that affect both partners.
That way you both know what is going on with shared expenses and debt.