The Pre-Marriage Money Talk

When traditional roles and responsibilities look like they’ll be shuffled, it’s time to talk.

There is a guy at my gym who loves to talk about his girlfriend. I love to listen. His problems are unique and his perception on how he might fix them so utterly disastrous that any insight would be helpful.

He’s been dating the same woman for almost two years, and since they are both in their early-30s, the idea of marriage (or at least the possibility that at some point it could happen) has been thrown around. The catch is my buddy is a golf pro and his wife is a very successful lawyer in the city where we live. Right now he spends a good portion of his income on their shared costs (food, travel, entertainment) but he is wondering if money, and how it impacts child-rearing, should even be discussed before he pops the question.

Yes, Golf Pro.

The biggest mistake he could make would be to assume she has one role for him, while in fact he has another. For example, she might want to quit her job making several hundred thousands of dollars a year to stay at home with the kids. She may also want to work and expects him to stay home. When you are discussing the possibility of children and a marriage that (should) last forever, there is no other option but to discuss how the household would function.

My sister had the conversation with her husband about six months before they got engaged and came to a unique solution. She made more money, but he has the potential in the very near future to match, or exceed her income. It was a risk, but they decided to both work right up until the baby was born and even though she could have gone back to work and made more than him (they needed the money) they took a gamble that he’d make more money soon. They’d also discussed the possibility and she’d voiced a desire to stay at home with the kids. In the end he got the raise and they had another kid.

The Golf Pro needs to do the same. The new dynamic is that a relationship revolves around making good decisions for your children and for your lifestyle. If one partner, like his girlfriend, has the intention to work, then he needs to contemplate picking up the diaper bag full-time, or at least part-time. If he’s unwilling to quit his job, but she wants a parent around the house, their situation might become untenable.

He’s working up the courage to chat with her about the future, and as much as I tell him not to worry—that if she loves him it’ll be easy—he still frets. The biggest concern is that it has made him truly consider what it is he wants to do with his life, and potentially what kind of husband and father he’ll be to his children. And when you’re thinking of bringing a child into the world, further contemplation is always welcomed.

Gender roles at work and in the home are no longer defined by antiquated notions of last century. When the time comes to make a long-term commitment, be sure to have the conversation and be honest. No matter the answers you get, they’ll always be preferable to assumptions and silence.

After spending his post-collegiate years living like a bachelor in NYC, Jake Albright spent his late-20s in L.A. in a loving and committed relationship. Now bi-coastal, and once-again single, Jake has used his experiences to become the lead writer for A former college athlete, he now spends his extra time traveling to visit friends and take new adventures.

Related Links: