The majority of arguments during the first three years of a marriage is about money according to a study by Business Insider.  To add to that, an AMEX survey, 33% of respondents claim that money is their biggest stress in their relationship.

Why does money cause so much friction between a couple? As a couple, many of our expenses become shared as we live under the same roof, drive often the same car and to top it off the kids need to be taken care of.   But how do your finances change as you change from being single to married?  Cultures differ enormously on this topic but the most asked questions include: who is going to pay rent, who pays for holidays, who pays for school expenses amongst others.

Before opening our wallet as much as our heart, here are a few important questions to ask before pooling your money with a partner. Should we share our entire income? Who should take control of managing the finances? What will happen in case of separation or death?

Below takes a look at a few things partners should consider about their combined finances and the opinions of UAE couples on money matters.

View all bank accounts in the UAE

What is mine is yours?

How honest should you be about your spending habits, your earnings or debt? Besides sharing the total household income, couples also end up sharing each other’s debt. It can cause arguments especially if one spouse has more debt than the other.

Mirza a Dubai resident comments:

“You should always be honest with your partner about your finances. Entering into a long-term commitment with someone means more than just spending time together. Having visibility of your partner’s financial situation allows you to make better informed decisions, and to support each other when required.”

Besides honesty, roles in relationship might also change based on a partner’s financial contribution. Rebecca, who’s been married for five years adds:

“During my marriage I have been a housewife and a working partner. But when you’re a housewife, there’s indirect pressure to be more financially responsible. I always experienced a nagging guilt when spending my husband’s money. Now that I’m working, I choose to spend my salary the way I see fit, and though I keep my husband updated on my bigger purchases, he chooses not to have any say in how I manage my personal finances.”

Joint account and expenses

If you have a joint account in the UAE, things can get a little complicated in case of a death or divorce. Based on the UAE law, all accounts are frozen when someone dies. This is to ensure that if the couple has a debt, it gets paid off. The accounts remain frozen until the court passes a ruling on who should inherit the money.

Be aware that even if you have a joint account, you will not be able to access the funds in your account until the court gives its ruling.   However, not all couples choose to have a joint account. Instead they divide the financial responsibility amongst them. As Ayesha explains:

“Our accounts are separate, but we use money from my husband’s account for basic household expenditures, house rent, and insurance premiums, our home loan payments and credit card bills. I use my account for more frilly expenditures – my own expenses, movies, dinners, recreational stuff.”

Find out more about joint accounts in the UAE?

You earn more, you pay more

While some couples may be clear about which expenses they contribute towards, others divide up their financial responsibilities based on spending power.

“When you’re living together, it’s not easy to keep expenses separate. And if one spouse is earning significantly more than the other, he/she would automatically end up paying for a bigger share of their common expenses”, says James.

What do you mean who is paying?

We also found out that respondents answers varied significantly between the different cultures.  We had alien looking facial expression at the question of who pays for what.

Amrita says “I am a little shocked that you are even asking me who pays for my holidays.  It is not a question I have ever really thought about – in my culture, it is a given.  The husband supports the family on all its expenses and whatever income I make is pretty much my own to use.”

On a different note, other cultures have put a lot of thought through the question of who pays for what.  Many couples actually sit and discuss their financial situation and commitments even before their marriage.  The discussions revolve around how to build up their wealth as a couple, whose income should go into savings and what happens in the case of a divorce.

James, resident of Abu Dhabi says “It is very simple, as a couple we want to retire early and we have a plan in place.   My wife, Anna’s income all goes into our savings account and we do not touch any of it.  All our expenses gets paid through my income. This way we ensure we do not get tempted to spend but forces us to save as we do not even consider her income as disposable income.”

Living the independent single life, we all choose to deal with our personal finances in our own way. But when you’re married and living with your spouse under the same roof, your joint finances must be handled with more care and maturity. The way you deal with money may not be the same as your spouse. To avoid arguments regarding financial issues which can strain any relationship, it is important for couples to be honest and upfront about money matters with each other.