For Batswana couples, the difference between “till death do us part” and “it’s over” is usually money.
Kgatleng assistant District Commissioner, Lydia Keatlholetswe, told a workshop co-organised by Re A Nyalana and Men’s Sector that financial squabbles were the most common source of marital conflicts. “Most couples argue over bills, debt, spending and other financial issues,” she said. And this is a no brainer. Records from Botswana’s divorce courts reveal that most newly weds never truly know each other until money is involved, or how they view money. For one partner money may mean security, while for the other it means adventure, turning their marriage into a union of strange bedfellows – literally. Often times, tying the knot means more than just merging two lives–it’s also a meeting of financial minds. One of the most important questions to consider is how household finances will be handled when one hand pulls this way and another that way.
Kgomotso Jongman, psychologist and owner of Jo’Speaks in Gaborone says, “When a couple commits to a life together, merging your money is often the biggest hurdle to achieving marital bliss. It’s easy to see why: combining debts and assets can be complicated and messy, and it’s not uncommon for one spouse to have a vastly different financial philosophy from the other. I think we need to understand that marriage isn’t universally the same; you can’t define your relationship based on another person’s marriage. There are married couples who have joint accounts and it works for them and others operate on separate bank accounts. It all boils down on to how both of you define the parameters of your marriage; a couple decides what works for their marriage. There are a few misconceptions about separate bank accounts in marriage, how it is a sign of mistrust in the marriage, disrespectful, no access etc. Having a separate bank account doesn’t necessarily mean your partner won’t have access to it, at the end of the day you guys are in a marriage which has to have effective communication. It’s important to know exactly what’s happening with your money as a couple, so discuss your finances with your partner regularly and openly. This will help you stay involved with household finances, manage your money responsibly and deal with any issues together.:
A joint bank account has, traditionally, been a sign of commitment. As newlyweds start their lives together, it is perhaps the clearest way for them to say, to each other and to the world, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.” But these days, some young couples are skeptical. Cross-culturally, more people are keeping money separate. Millennial married and cohabitating couples tend to hold separate accounts than previous generations were. This is particularly pronounced among low-income couples, who are likelier to value access to their own earnings over the show of commitment and loyalty that comes with the decision to merge finances, a quality often prioritized by higher-earners. Compared to previous generations, millennials get married later in life, and thus significantly more of them live together before marriage. Because cohabiting couples are far more likely than married couples to keep finances separate, a certain inertia develops. When today’s young adults do decide to get married, many of them are further along in their careers, with a better sense of who they are and what they contribute to their workplace. For example, a person who believes one’s bank account offers a clear reflection of their work ethic or success, it can be hard to give up control. It’s about wanting to maintain one’s sense of identity, individuality, and autonomy. Similarly, many women getting married for the first time nowadays are keenly aware of how easily wives can lose control of their own finances. Many women grew up in homes where their parents shared a joint account, which meant that their fathers handled all the money. When couples maintain their accounts separately, it is said to be a sign of lack of trust, and a lack of commitment. Many couples hide money from each other. That secret stash you keep in your underwear drawer or in a hidden account gives you a sense of security in a worst-case scenario. Several – if not most – of the married couples who keep separate finances have at least one member of the partnership who is divorced. And nothing says “We’re in this for the long haul” less than having a backup plan just in case things don’t work out. Essentially, you’re saying “I mostly trust you, but not with my money.”
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology at the University of Botswana says, “It really depends on your dynamics as a duo. You have couples who believe that having a separate bank account in marriage gives them a sense of financial independence, self-identity and empowerment. Separate is not always about trust for some people. People choose to have separate bank accounts for all sorts of reasons and sometimes it just makes life easier for them.Separate bank accounts are simply a means to an end. There are hundreds of different ways to manage your finances efficiently and if pulling your money from one account that you have together worked for you, then that’s great. But for many, the lack of structure in their finances is exactly what keeps them struggling. The lack of respect comes in to play when your communication skills falter. Your finances shouldn’t be set up as a means of controlling the other person. That’s the type of problem that will have you in divorce court. As long as you’re both clear and have discussed the expected uses of the money in your individual accounts, it’s all good and don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise. Having access to each other’s account is where trust and basic mutual respect comes into play. Even though you have access to the account, you need to respect your spouse enough not to take some of his discretionary funds just because you blew through your money.”