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My Money or Our Money: Navigating Finances in an Intercultural Marriage

My Money or Our Money: Navigating Finances in an Intercultural Marriage

Well what  a surprise! I really wasn’t sure how this new thread of conversations on relationships would go but after the response last week I can say I am looking forward to sharing a lot more. Today’s subject is touchy, it might rattle nerves and I’m guessing several of you might disagree with me.

It wasn’t until recently that MarocBaba and I have been able to look back at the beginning of our marriage and laugh at some things and apologize to each other for mistakes we know we made.

We were really both kids, just barely adults when we got married. When he landed in the US we literally had about $250 between us. I know what you’re thinking,

“how irresponsible, how could you even think of marriage when you weren’t in a secure financial position…”

Here’s the thing, there’s a million reasons why people will say you should wait to get married, or wait to have a baby, or wait to buy a house, or move overseas. You get my point. The truth is there is no “right time.” We get so stuck waiting for the “right time” that time blows past and before you know it you’re 65 years old looking back at your life and wondering what if you would have taken that chance, what if you would have just gone with it? Would things have been easier if I would have been done with university, in a stable job and he came with a loaded bank account? Of course! Do I wish we would have waited for that point, no way!

I am a just go with it person. I believe if things are meant to work out they will. If they’re not, they won’t and then I’ll figure out a different plan. So we went for it head first and were determined we would figure out a way.

I don’t regret that for a second.

Chances are whether you’re the immigrating spouse or your partner is, one of you won’t be able to work for awhile. This can cause some serious friction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard couples in this situation exclaim in an exasperated tone, “but it’s my money! I’m the one working, I’m not going to buy that for him!” Or vice versa “really why does she need to spend all MY money buying that crap?” If this is your mindset you need to stop right now and put your nuptials on hold.

We made plenty of mistakes but one thing we never did was claim any money was mine or his.

It was ours.

When we were eating lentils for dinner three nights a week because we were broke and had to make our rent payment we were both eating the lentils. When we were literally digging through our pockets and couches for coins to take the bus to work, we were both stuck looking.

When we had a bit of extra money it was spent in a way that was most beneficial to both of us (and if I’m being honest most of the time that meant him getting me something I wanted or needed). This was the case when I was the one working, or when he was the one working – because we’ve been in both scenarios.

If you’re marrying a Moroccan man, or a Middle Eastern man he’s going to face an extreme amount of shame when he comes to the US and is legally unable to work until he receives the proper documents. There’s no need for you to make him feel even  worse by rubbing it in his face that it’s “your” money.

Depending on how much experience he has either at home or elsewhere it’s going to be a shock to understand how finances work in his new home. You should sit down as soon as possible after arrival to go over what your monthly expenses are and what income is coming in. This is also the time when you need to talk about sending money home to his family.

I know you’re shrugging that off saying, “no way we’re stretched as thin as possible, I refuse to send MY money there!” (see there it is again!) Whether you like it or not this is going to be a part of your relationship forever unless you’ve managed to snag a Saudi prince. You’re not marrying the man, you’re marrying the family.

I’m not saying to automatically agree to whatever sum comes up, but what I am saying is you need to figure out a way to help him meet his obligations to the family he was born to as well as the family he chooses to create. Maybe it’s sending a little bit monthly, or saving to send a lump sum at holidays but 9.5 out of 10 times some money will be expected to be sent home.

Do not shy away from these conversations because it will help avoid a lot of misunderstanding and stress down the line. 

Money is a very sensitive subject in every relationship. Couple that with cultural differences, possibly limited language abilities and the challenges that come with adjusting to a new country and there are bound to be even more challenges. But, if you know what to expect it can make things easier. If you’re thinking this is just all too much, then you should step back and consider your relationship because there isn’t enough love in the world to make these issues disappear. 

Struggling with a cross cultural relationship? I created this digital guide to walk through some of the red flags to look for early in relationships, questions to ask yourself, and conversations to have with your partner as you navigating this type of relationship.

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