I started dating Shawn three years ago. Following a lot of your advice for the last five years, I was very clear of what I wanted in this relationship, and of what I didn’t want. After about six months of dating I moved in with him, but before I made it very clear that my moving in was a first step to a further commitment on his part; I made sure he understood I wanted marriage after some time living together, and he agreed. A year and a half later he finally proposed, and we picked our wedding date to happen a year later. Now we are only one month away from our wedding, invitations sent and all arrangements already finalized, and we are very excited. But now I am concerned about something we never talked about before: money.

We keep our finances separate, and that is fine for me, but he does not want to share with me any information regarding his income or how much he is bringing to our marriage. I know he has some investments, and some money he has received from his wealthy mom, but I have no idea how much. He says he is not comfortable about sharing that information because he has never done it before (he has been single forever). Although I told him my intention is not to get any of his money or even access to his accounts, I just want for us to share all our information, he still insists he doesn’t feel comfortable about it. I have told him that I will not enter marriage if there are secrets between the two of us, with no change in his response. I have also argued that monogamy and the sharing of assets are the only two aspects that we can promise in an objective way, and how I do not need the money but the sharing of information, but still same answer.

What is your opinion? Should I just not worry about this and let him do it whenever he feels comfortable (if he ever does)? On the other hand, the fact that he so adamantly refuses to disclose that information makes me feel very uncomfortable; I know he is in a well-to-do financial situation, but at the same time I think that there are some legal implications about marriage that could affect us in the future. What if something happens to him? I wouldn’t even know what to do from a financial point of view, since I do not know what he has or where. So far the best I have from him is he will think about it, but that usually means he will persist in his position until I drop it. I have threatened to call off the wedding unless there is complete transparency between the two of us. Is this too much?

I would really appreciate your advice on this. Your opinions have always been extremely useful for me, both before this relationship and also after my engagement. Many of your advice has helped me understand Shawn better, and I hope this time you will help me deal with this. Just the thought of not marrying him is making me sooo sad…

In gratitude,
Esther

Dear Esther,

Two true relevant stories about money.

  1. Thirtysomething Jason got engaged to Vanessa after two years together. After the engagement, they discussed money for the first time. Turns out that Jason wanted Vanessa to continue to contribute to the household after they had kids, but Vanessa had her heart set on being a stay-at-home mom. They couldn’t come to terms and broke up.
  2. Sixtysomething Eleanor married William after a short, intense courtship. He lavished her in gifts, bought her a nicer car, and proposed to her on a trip to Europe. Eleanor assumed he was financially secure for their retirement. Turns out William had less than $50,000 in the bank and Eleanor had to support him. The marriage lasted for less than two years.

I’m sure there are some other anecdotes that I don’t know about where the wife has no idea what the husband makes and everything works out just fine. I just don’t know any.

I’m not going to get into the rule of law and the nuances of the NSA, but I would only say this to anyone who is private: if you have nothing to hide, what difference does it make?

Listen, you’ve already thought this through and you’ve come to largely the same conclusion that I would.

You acknowledged that you should have talked about money earlier.

You’ve stated that he doesn’t want to share any financial information with you whatsoever.

You’ve told him that you will not enter marriage with any secrets between you.

You’ve threatened to call off the wedding unless there is complete transparency.

Yep, that’s about right. The question is whether you have the guts to break things off. From the outside, I’d say you should, but that’s because I’m an objective third party and I haven’t sunk two years and a ton of time, energy, money and emotion into your relationship.

I’ll acknowledge one thing up front: I don’t understand secretive people. I don’t understand people who worry about cameras on the street, or even the government reading my emails. I’m not going to get into the rule of law and the nuances of the NSA, but I would only say this to anyone who is private: if you have nothing to hide, what difference does it make?

Transparency is the foundation of a relationship – the ability to be 100% yourself and be accepted for your flaws.

I’m sure you’ve already brought this up to Sean. The fact that he is not being transparent about this does not portend a healthy future for you at all. Transparency is the foundation of a relationship – the ability to be 100% yourself and be accepted for your flaws. I guess one could spin this by saying that you should “accept” him for his secrecy, but that’s like accepting him when he stays out all night and doesn’t tell you where he’s been.

So, from the outside, I would support you walking away from this relationship. You may have a quality man whom you love, but it’s his responsibility to make you feel safe. And you can’t feel safe in a relationship where he’s keeping these kinds of important secrets. To clarify – I don’t think you have to blurt out everything you’ve ever done to your partner – if he was in prison for drug dealing in college and he wanted to keep it a secret, he could. If you had an abortion as a teenager and you didn’t want him to know, that’s your right. The past is the past. But this is the present. His money situation affects every aspect of a marriage and you have the right to know everything. Don’t let him bully you into thinking otherwise. That’s not an understanding husband.