I never expected the Globe & Mail to promote such unbelievably bad relationship and financial advice under the guise of male freedom, which they did in the recent article titled, There’s our money and there’s my money, by Micah Toub. The author claims that it is actually healthy for men (and women) to keep secret bank accounts for activities like gambling and attending strip clubs. No, I’m not exaggerating, the author actually condones such behaviour. Toub argues that it is healthy for men to “reclaim a space in their hearts and minds where their significant other has no access” and that such a space can be occupied through secret spending habits.
I don’t disagree that spouses who have different interests should have the freedom to spend some of their money on pursuits that interest them, even if they don’t interest their spouse. I don’t expect my fascination with antique tea cups to be reciprocated by my partner, and I have eventually come to accept that his spending on video games has merit, too. Each spouse should have an opportunity to pursue their own passions and their own desire for fun and relaxation.
Many couples choose to deal with their separate interests by allocating a certain amount of money to personal spending. This option gives each spouse the freedom of the secret bank account, minus the secrecy.
The very need for the secret bank account suggests to me, that one of two things is going on in the relationship:
- One, the relationship is governed by a controlling spouse who is so strict that the other partner has no freedom. Ideally, we should find ourselves in relationships where each spouse is willing to understand each others’ interests and makes compromises so that each feels satisfied with the budget and spending decisions. In abusive or controlling situations, I can see the need for secret bank accounts, but not because this is inherently healthy or ideal plan.
- Two, perhaps the spouse is spending money on things they really shouldn’t be buying – perhaps they are spending money they haven’t yet earned, or are purchasing items they really can’t afford, or are spending money the family had earmarked for another purchase. Or, perhaps they are spending money on something that has the potential to hurt the other person.
Two examples are provided in the article. Example one:
“I play reasonably high-stakes poker and I could easily lose $2,500 in a night,” Dr. Kelly says. After one particularly bad loss, she came home and told her husband. He became judgmental, telling her to “think of all the people we could have helped with that money.” But poker is something that brings Dr. Kelly personal enjoyment, and she always comes out ahead over time. Once he’d calmed down, they agreed it would be better if he didn’t hear the ongoing details of her gambling, but would just be told the final tally once the year was over.
I can’t believe that secretly gambling as much as $2500 a night is justified. If gambling is so important, than why not mutually agree on a limit that can be planned and budgeted for? Furthermore, it’s worth questioning whether this spending is even valid. Is Dr.Kelly’s “personal enjoyment” or a secret gambling addiction we’re talking about? And is this “personal enjoyment” really the best form of stress relief, one that is worth risking the relationship, not to mention the family’s bank account for? I believe that financial decisions, especially ones that involve high stakes, should be made together.
Excited by this idea of delayed confession, I told her about an old friend who uses unmonitored cash from a private bank account to visit strip clubs, a salve to his wandering eye. “It’s saving my relationship,” he told me recently. Certainly it’s not a permanent solution, but the strip club – and the account from which the bills placed in a G-string are withdrawn – represents the temporary workshop space for his brain to sort out commitment issues.
Saving the relationship? Sorting out commitment issues by secretly stuffing bills into a woman’s G-string? Forgive me, but I can’t see how perpetual secrecy, accompanied by naked women, can do any more than delay addressing problems in the relationship. It’s self-delusion with a capital (B)S.
While I believe that healthy relationships promote privacy and freedom, secrecy is not healthy no matter how you slice it, and is most certainly the undoing, not the gateway to, financial stability.
Do you believe it is healthy to keep secret bank accounts?