In today’s Washington Post, Michelle Singletary has written a good piece on the wisdom (or not) of becoming financially committed to someone before deciding on marriage. In her column, The Color of Money, Ms. Singletary clearly states that she is not trying to make a judgment about the morality of living together before marriage—her concern is that you don’t share your finances before saying I do. She understands how it happens—folks think, two can live cheaper than one, why don’t we just combine our money in a joint bank account since we spend it together, let’s not waste money on rent, let’s buy something together, etc. After all, they are in love, so what could possibly go wrong? For starters, the relationship could end, and it could end badly. Ms. Singletary fears that folks are “sliding into a relationship” not realizing how tough it could be to separate their finances if they want out.
Turns out Ms. Singletary’s concerns are backed by hard data. Scott Stanley, PhD, Howard Markman, PhD, and a few other colleagues at the University of Denver have been studying and discussing this issue for some time. They are the founders of PREP, the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, and every year they meet to discuss research, policy and programs that contribute to healthy relationships and marriages.
Ms. Singletary attended a conference in Oklahoma where they watched a 4 minute video from PREP that makes a good case for why couples should slow down and think about the consequences of moving too fast into cohabitation and mingled finances. Ms. Singletary gave it an A+ and thinks it should be played in every program working with couples. The film is based on extensive research that has found that people slide through major life transitions without really looking ahead as they do so. By the time they figure it out, they are so far in, there are many reasons to stay in a dysfunctional or unsatisfying relationship. Suddenly breaking up means taking a big financial hit, which people are often reluctant to do.
Therefore the recommendation is to slow down, enjoy and get to know one another well, and don’t let yourself slide into anything. Thinking choices only please. Ms. Singletary says that the video‘s bottom line is all about avoiding a DUI—decisions under the influence. Want to read more? Click here