I find it alarming how people in second marriages have separate bank accounts, separate credit cards, separate finances, separate expenses, and so on. This system is being promoted, and it is ugly. In my experience dating divorced men, it’s chilling when some openly act cheaply and, in all categories, cannot or do not want to share.
Quite a few divorced men have really liked me and wanted to date and spend time with me. However, when they saw that I do not possess a certain standard of lifestyle / house / travels, they dropped me in no time flat. Several have met and got engaged to divorced women who possess massive settlements of wealth.
It’s not that I’m naïve. It’s just that the degree makes it such that while everyone wants to be perceived as successful. I’m deeply concerned for how this is promoted, because although it’s not verbalized, it may be that this is an actual position among divorced men who simply want a woman to offer everything and more, yet they won’t share, trust, fully financially support, and collaborate.
What do rabbis and matchmakers say when there’s an expectation for the woman to be the full financial provider? To me, this is like looking for a roommate, like friends with benefits. What is the halachah about such things?
This is a topic of great contention, and the answer you receive will depend on who you ask. As a matchmaker, I will not speak for rabbis, as I am not a halachic authority. What you can expect to get from me is the perspective I hear from men and the women they are dating as it relates to finances, specifically in second marriages.
One of the major issues that create shalom bayis havoc is money. The old and perhaps traditional school of thought is that the husband must pay all bills, which include necessities as well as luxuries. Even if the woman has a job and can contribute to the household expenses, that viewpoint still presumes that the wife saves her money while the husband spends his. However, that principle, even if it is mutually agreeable, realistically can usually only work harmoniously in a first marriage where the couple is building their family together.
But if you are referring to a man who has children from a previous marriage, then unless he is super-wealthy, how can he be expected to fully support a second wife? I know that this is not the answer you were hoping to get, but let’s look at it mathematically, and, for the benefit of your future, please try to be objectively practical by taking yourself out of the equation.
When a frum couple gets married for the first time and they raise a family together, even if they earn a great salary, in many cases there is not that much left for savings after sending children to yeshiva and camp and paying the mortgage and never-ending bills and all other expenditures that come with life and a frum lifestyle specifically. When a marriage ends in divorce, the bills the ex-couple can rack up oftentimes leave both parties in tremendous debt. And when they finish paying the lawyers’ fees, people who used to be financially stable are, in many cases, left destitute. Not only that, but sometimes whatever assets they had are also split.
Still, it does not always end there, especially for the spouse who earned a higher income. Let’s not forget alimony or child support payments, and sometimes, even after the divorce, there are various reasons why the divorced couple may continue to battle it out in court, while the legal fees keep accruing. So, I ask you, how can a man in such a position who wants to rebuild his life be expected to fully support a new wife?
Should a woman 100 percent support her husband financially? That depends on personal preference and whether she can ultimately respect such a husband. There are relationships where that arrangement works well, but, realistically, even amongst the most liberal-minded in that area, it can eventually cause resentment. Deep down—and it does not matter how strong and independent she portrays herself to the world—a woman wants to be taken care of to some extent. Not only that, but, unless her husband has taken ill and she is forced to become the sole breadwinner out of necessity, most women do not want a marital union in which they feel they’ve “adopted” a male child. Of course, there are exceptions. If a man is studying towards a career and he not only doesn’t earn money, but also accumulates student debt, and the wife knows about it going into the marriage, that is a situation where she will have to support him. But that is only temporary, because, down the line, after he graduates and finishes paying off loans, at some point it is expected that he will start to pay at least fifty percent of the expenses. Then there is the kollel lifestyle, which is a completely different topic altogether, and not what you had in mind when you wrote to me.
That brings me to talk about sharing expenses in a second marriage. A man who has a family from a previous marriage—regardless of how old his children from that marriage may be, and even if they are already married and seemingly settled—will want to continue assisting them financially, if he is a caring father. And when there are grandchildren, he will want to give gifts to them every now and then, too. If he is in a strong place financially—meaning, that he is willing and able to fully support a new wife—that will certainly be to her benefit if that is what she is looking for in a marriage.
In my opinion, as it relates to a second marriage, it is a healthier situation all around where there is at least some financial contribution from the wife. I am not saying that she should share in the daily typical household expenses, such as groceries, etc., because she may end up resenting her husband for that, and, as you said, it will feel to her like a friends-with-benefits arrangement. But if her husband is overwhelmed with bills and they want to take a vacation together, there is nothing wrong if the woman chips in from her account to help pay for it. Or, if the wife wants some other luxury and her husband is truly unable to finance it, in this circumstance it would be wrong for the wife to place additional burdens of worry on him or to make him feel less than adequate because he cannot satisfy her financial tastes.
The issue that is very important to address is financial protection. Mature people who have had previous marriages and assets need to protect themselves. Talk of money can generate tension, but it needs to be done during the dating period. As unromantic as it may sound, a strong prenuptial agreement needs to be drawn up for both parties to make sure that they each get the financial outcome they were hoping for. Not only that, but once they get the money matters out of the way, they can enjoy each other and the relationship. The added benefit is that if one side is not happy with what is being offered or withheld, then there’s the option to walk away before the wedding bells are ringing.
When I’m asked, my personal advice for second-time-around dating couples who are discussing marriage is that it would be a good idea to keep separate anything acquired prior to the marriage. Yes, that includes separate bank accounts. Retaining exclusive ownership of prior assets can make it easier down the line when children will need to inherit. In such a circumstance, the expression I use when advising one party should say to the other is: “What’s yours is yours, and what’s mine is mine.” No, it is not being selfish. On the contrary, it is protecting one’s children so that they will ultimately inherit what is rightfully theirs.
From what you are saying, it sounds like you prefer to have all your financial needs taken care of, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting that. But there’s also nothing wrong if a man cannot or does not want to do that. As you mentioned, there are divorced men who deliberately seek out wealthy women to marry just so they will not have to support them. As long as the woman in such a union is willing to support, then there is nothing wrong with that.
You are wise to explain early enough in a relationship that you want what you consider the traditional role of being fully taken care of financially. There are certainly men who concur with such a lifestyle, and those are the type of men you should consider dating.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.