“Why should it be that my money remains ours and hers remains hers,” a colleague asks as a heated office debate ensues.
People quickly take sides and the debate on marriage and money between couples does not seem to get a balanced opinion.
“Women talk about equality and their right to own in equal measure as men. But when it comes to money issues, they don’t want us to go 50-50. Crazy,” he says before the ladies in the room shout him down.
In today’s world, gender roles have changed. The Kenya National Statistics Bureau released a statistical report showing that more women are taking care of households on their own.
“Invariably, across all the counties, female-headed households with children have a higher proportion in comparison to male-headed households with children.”
Due to this and other changes, there is confusion about whether people should stick to cultural guidelines or evolve with the world.
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Caroline Bongo has been married for 16 years and she and her husband have been blessed with seven children. She says she is one of the few who were lucky to marry their friends since their relationship is more than a marriage, it is also friendship.
“The children go to bed early so that my husband and I can have time for each other. We see each other most of the time and do so many things so we might find ourselves trapped by this and not have time for each other. So, when it comes to intimacy, we have to be deliberate and help detangle each other’s emotions mentally, spiritually, and all,” says Caroline.
“When we realise that we cannot agree on something, we involve a third party. We have people we trust in this area, both family and friends. When they come in, we can see the logic part of it.”
If the issue cannot be solved even after involving a third party, they hold hands and pray to God for a solution. According to the couple, if they face a challenge, they work towards ending the challenge and not the marriage.
“When we got married, his career was not stable. For some time, I was the one who handled the bills and I didn’t see a problem with it,” she says.
Years later, Caroline had to take care of the children meaning she put her career on hold. Her husband took care of everything without complaining.
Just how does the modern couple find a balance between work and family? Who is responsible for taking the bills as well as other chores? In a modern society where women and men are all making money through whatever form of employment, how does a couple make financial decisions that balance their responsibilities?
“Just like what those from the West do, splitting bills is the best way to manage a household with a partner, but we are running away from it. I would provide the majority, but I am advising other people to share the bills amidst these harsh economic times,” says wealth coach Anne Gaitha.
Susan Onyancha, the CEO BF Suma says: “An economically empowered woman is another terrible mistake in the house. If you let a man know what you earn, sooner or later it will be his to budget on. You will come to realize slowly that all the burdens of the house were on you. The moment you want to draw a line, you raise a red flag and the man thinks you want to overpower him.”
“I can tell how the older women have been frustrated. According to them, men still want to control them even though they are making more money. There is also a younger generation that believes in sharing financial roles equally,” says Anne.
“Be careful who you marry because when you are marrying a friend and a partner, you will not talk about fifty-fifty. You will talk about what can we do together.”
Eve asked Kevin Muhoro, husband for six years and father of two, how he and his partner make their marriage work.
“My wife works from home so she does the chores. However, I help her from time to time when I am not very tired from work. I pay all the bills, but she provides food occasionally. When making decisions, we consider both our opinions and go with whichever makes more sense,” says Kevin.
“These days people are sharing the bills, but we are not able to share leadership. I am hearing it is half-half but I feel like that is what is spoiling many families because when a woman feels like she will also be doing half, why should she also not have the authority? Men should take the role of leadership,” says Nicoleta Mungai, a marriage and family therapist.
According to Nicoleta, marriage partners need to understand what their roles are. In as much as ladies are chipping in financially, consider the chores which are part of their roles.
While in a marriage, it is important to have investments, which will provide financial security during tough times. This can be done jointly or separately and from this, the question of which is the best method to use arises.
“When that property is purchased, do not put it down as Mr and Mrs joint ownership, put your full name there. Mrs can be anyone. We see these men coming with any woman and saying that this is my Mrs,” says Mercy.
That is not the only importance of having your full name. Sometimes in Africa when the husband dies, the family turns against the woman and they take everything the husband owned.
On owning a property solo, there was a case that broke the internet of a husband who unknowingly used to pay rent to a property owned by his wife.
When it comes to such cases, Anne advises people to let their partners know which businesses they own. Hiding things from your partner causes tension in the marriage and can lead to a breakup. She adds that if you know your partner is a spender, don’t tell too many details of the investments.
“I tell my clients to always have a joint account for most of what you do as a family. However, each of you should have your own account. You can keep asking for money from your husband all the time and he can’t keep explaining what he is doing with his money,” says Anne.
Getting money from the joint account should involve both the wife and the husband. When someone needs to take money from the account, they should have a sit down with the other person because they have equal rights to use the money.
“Some people come for therapy because someone took a loan and bought something that was not a priority to the family, hence draining them financially. When people don’t agree, they end up fighting,” says Anne.
In case of a financial crisis in a marriage, the partners need to be there for each other. Nicoleta acknowledges that such cases affect men a lot. According to her, a woman can act as a housewife when the instability kicks in but if the situation is reversed, it is difficult for a man to be a househusband.
“I would like to challenge women because I am one of them. When the man is financially stable, she doesn’t tell the world my man does this for me. But when the situation is reversed, even the watchman will know he is a useless man,” she says.
According to James McWhinney, an expert on personal finance and investing, when working together, couples can achieve more than single people. He says if one is committed to a relationship, together with their partner they owe each other a calm, honest conversation about each other’s finances, habits, goals and anxieties.
“Money problems involve discussions in which ego, anxieties about control, and notions of marital roles will have to be checked. Couples who have trouble talking about money can seek out the help of a financial advisor or planner for unbiased advice,” he says in an article contributed to Investopedia.
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