Following from my despairing comments about male headship and marriage in 42: Intentional Manhood 13: Finances I thought it might be a good idea to write about how I see finances working out in a marriage.
I am going to use my parents as an example, they both passed into glory in 2004 after a long and very happy happy egalitarian marriage. As I reflect on their example I am struck by how different it was to the commonly presented stereotypes of egalitarian marriage that we see described by those in favour of male headship.
First, let me point out what was entirely obvious to everyone who met my parents. Here was a couple who were entirely in love and it showed in every way. I remember an organised sailing holiday from my late teens, at the party night towards the end of the holiday on of the leaders asked me if my parents were always like this. I didn't know what she meant so she explained that she had never seen a couple so clearly in love, she commented on the way they held hands, were relaxed, confident and secure in that love which allowed them to reach out and include others.
Second, I want to comment on the issue of respect. I was interested to read in Complegalitarian: One Egalitarian Muses About Respect that Molly had grown up believing that respect was missing from egalitarian marriages. When I was growing up I just assumed all marriages were like my parents, I never heard either complain about the other, never be less than 110% supportive in public (and within the family). It stuns me to hear that some complementarians believe that egalitarian marriages do not have respect as a key factor. Nowadays I frequently hear complementarians talk of the need to respect your spouse, but to me it keeps sounding as if the respect is needed due to your partners gender – that seems all wrong to me. I don't respect Jane because she is a woman, I respect her for all the infinite number of reasons I love and value her as my wife, lover and as a child of the living God. Reducing respect to something based on gender seems a very backwards step to me (after all there are many other people I respect besides my wife, and lots of them are not women).
Ok, then back to the finance issue. In this as with every other part of their lives my parents appeared of one mind (which as a child could be very annoying, no going to the other for a different view). Financially, they went through a number of different stages in their married life. Some were good, several were terrible. Yet they did it together, the ideas presented in Role Calling: Intentional Manhood 13: Finances would have been wholly alien to them. Thank goodness for that as I cannot see how that method would have withstood some of the difficulties they faced.
For example early on in their married life Dad took over his Father-in-laws building firm (the partner had sadly died) and then soon after had to close it down due to bad financial advice. That ate up my grandparents retirement savings, yet they all worked it out together, without a single cross word (I only learnt about it from my grandpa soon before he died and he said it was one of the things he was most proud of). I can only imagine the conflict between two families that would have come from following the advice in Role Calling: Intentional Manhood 13: Finances. I know that this caused them to sell a lovely house Dad had designed and the firm had built in Wolverhampton to move to a small terraced house in Kingston-upon-Thames so that Dad could join the civil service – all that when I was less than 2 years old.
They started their own business when I was 16 or 17. Just after committing to that their largest client lost a huge contract that was going to give them a lot of work – they worked through that together (for a long time the business was funded by borrowing against the home – I can remember Christmases when we were down to two weeks before the house would have to be put up for sale). They ran that business together each with specific talents, yet working as equal partners (legally as well as in practice). For example Mum was always brought in as the big hitter in financial negotiations. She had a technique of inviting the potential client over for dinner (that she would prepare) and during the meal she would clinch a deal that nobody else thought was possible. For years they had a production staff of up to 15 (including many part-time) working from their home using a shed in the garden plus part of the house. Mum kept that operation going on a daily basis, getting the most from the staff as well as showing great pastoral care for them and their families. Dad was freed to work on the technical aspects of the work (using any and every excuse to buy new Apple computers). He also did all the financial planning and budgeting. Both were entirely essential to that business which they ran for over 20 years.
I want to finish by praying that you will get the most from your marriages, I am totally convinced from personal experience that will only come when you drop artificial roles based on gender and work together to use your different, but God given gifts and personalities in an attitude of mutual submission, support and respect. Essentially it means living out life as one flesh.