Its all about money, honey

If you really think about it, it all boils down to money. Twenty- seven-year-old Sheena Jog, a product designer based in Delhi, says at least two of the last three fights she had with her husband were over their “hard-earned” money.

The couple argued over what the money was being spent on. The third fight was also tangentially about money. “He wanted to buy the iPad but I would rather go on holiday this summer,” she says.

This is clearly a 21st-century problem. Historically, Indian women didn’t have money of their own and certainly not money that they earned. In our patriarchal society, money has always been ‘used’ by men to wield power over women. In almost every Indian family, there is some great-aunt or grandmother still alive with stories about her dependence on men for money. But Sheena Jog is part of a new breed of women — financially independent and conscious of her rights.

This seemingly progressive development has built-in problems. When a woman asserts her financial rights, it creates rifts between couples. Sometimes, the arguments escalate to the point of divorce. Mumbai-based clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Varkha Chulani says money has become one of the major causes of couple trouble, “so much so, that in pre-marital counseling, discussions about attitudes towards money have become really important.” Chulani adds that “the issue of ‘my money’ and ‘your money’ leads to a lot of distrust, which is a complete no-no for a happy relationship.”

Chulani says that marital discord over money can intensify if people marry later in life. “By a certain age, people develop set attitudes about money and these are really hard to change even for the person you love. I think that a couple needs to have some understanding about how they wish to spend their money.” Financial consultant Neha Shukla points to practical ways, other than counseling, for couples to work out their finances. “The first thing a working couple should do after getting married is get a joint account. Not only does this make things easier in terms of paperwork, it also lends transparency to a relationship that needs it.”  But individual accounts are not a no-no, but it’s best for couples to discuss money issues related to each one’s family, especially parents, before the wedding.

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