12/10/2014 11:23 am ET Updated Feb 09, 2015

My Money and My Marriage: Three Lessons a Trip to DC Taught Me About My Money Issues

My husband and I took a weekend jaunt to D.C. this Presidents' weekend to get away and reconnect with some friends. We pulled into a rest stop and he asked for my credit card to fill the tank.

"How much would that cost?" I asked.

He said, "Around $65.00 or $70.00."

He noticed my discomfort and said, "Look, babes, we are married and I am all in, you gotta stop looking at our money as separate."

I saw his lips moving, but all I could think about was my mother and how my father took advantage of her, left her with two wonderful kids to raise alone, and notoriously swindled many a women out of their hard-earned dollars -- starting with what I imagine was a conversation similar to the one that I was having with my husband.

But on the way to buy some water while my husband used my credit card to fill up his our tank, my 'aha' moments surfaced.

My husband is not my father. I am not my mother.

Does my upbringing impact my thoughts, feelings, and proclivities with respect to the opposite sex, money, and how money and marriage should mix? Absolutely! Am I one of Pavlov's dogs that operate strictly on conditioning -- thus making my past experiences and behaviors an indication of my future moves? Absolutely not!

I firmly believe that you can change anything about yourself, your thinking, or life if you want to. I think it can be extremely seductive and safe to use the stock phrases such as "absentee father," "single-parent household," or "broken home" to win sympathy and be excused from the hard work of being proactive in your self-improvement.

I want to improve my money mindset and I will improve it because our happiness and comfort are at stake.

The merging of finances will be a gradual process and it will be dynamic as our marriage matures.

I reject any formulas, and 'must-dos' that tell newlyweds or partners how to manage their money without understanding the couple personally. Growing a money blueprint will be trial-and-error and will change with the unexpected spills and thrills of life (e.g. a windfall of money, a loss of a job). Currently, we maintain not only the separate bank accounts with which we entered the marriage, but we also created joint checking and savings accounts with yearly targets based on our expenses and incomes. It works for us now, it may; however, change as our marriage grows and I am fine with that.

Be honest from the beginning about your expectations; and if you can't be honest, be brave.

When we started dating, I pushed the idea that expenses should be shared equally amongst partners. But in hindsight, I think what I wanted was for my husband to pay the majority of the entertainment costs and we would tackle household expenses together. Now, it is my responsibility to express my feelings and thoughts about this since he is keeping up with his side of the agreement and my feelings and expectations have changed.

What are your thoughts about money and your man? Have you and your partner discussed how expenses should be taken care of? What models of marriage have influenced how you interact with your money and your man?

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