Financial Entwinement

Before we get deep into poly finances, I want to take a minute to discuss entwinement and specifically financial entwinement.

Polyamorous relationships exist on at least three spectrums: emotional, sexual, and entwinement.

Emotional: ranging from affection to love
Sexual: ranging from “none” to…well, whatever you can imagine
Entwinement: ranging from keeping separate lives to joint everything (mortgage, kids, bank account, will…)

Entwinement is tying your life to some else’s. We twine our lives together, or become entwined, when we move in together, budget together, commit to supporting each other emotionally/socially/financially, and in many other ways. Everything from sharing meals regularly to having a family Netflix account can be a form of entwinement.

You can be barely entwined with someone and still love them. You can love them and not have sex. You can be fully entwined, have only occasional sex, and feel strong affection.

The monogamous ideal is the extreme of all three spectrums: fully entwined, deeply in love and all the sex you’d ever want, with one other person. Some poly folk want the same thing with multiple people. This trifecta gets more challenging to both find and keep functioning the more people you add, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or doesn’t happen.

Other people prefer relationships to develop naturally into the level of emotional, sexual and entwinement that suits the people involved.

Okay, so that’s entwinement and how it fits in with polyamory. Couples and groups who live together are pretty high on the entwinement scale. So are people raising children together whether or not they live together. Most solo poly folk I’ve spoken with prefer to keep their relationships low entwinement, but that’s not a universal.

financial entwinement is entwinement that specifically involves money:

  • joint bank accounts
  • shared budget
  • shared bills
  • joint lease or mortgage
  • shared retirement plan
  • shared financial assets
  • etc

For some poly folk, moving in together means complete financial entwinement. All income and all bills go into a family pot and (at least in theory) are handled jointly. How this works in the real world varies. For other poly folk, moving in together can be more like being roommates-with-benefits. Everyone has their share of the rent and utilities, buys their own food, and has their own individual expenses. Of course, there’s every option in between.

You can also have entwined finances when you don’t live together. You can budget together, share bank accounts, pitch in to pay for major expenses and more, from across town or across the world.

Throughout this series, we’ll be looking at a different options for how poly folk can manage their finance. Some will be pretty high entwinement options, others will be low entwinement options, with more options in the middle. Always go with what works for your and your poly partners.

3 responses to “Financial Entwinement

  1. I’m really excited to see you writing about this.

    My ex-partner and I lived apart for the first 3+ years of our relationship. He had an extended period of unemployment around the same time that my disability was becoming more profound, and we decided that it made sense for both of us to move in together.

    Before he moved in with me, we had a number of talks about how cohabitation would change our relationship (I had some concerns — I really liked being “neighbors,” where we lived a block from each other and each had our own space), and we mutually decided that we’d try to overcome those challenges together (such as each of us having our own bedroom.)

    When he left me, he hurled a lot of accusations at me, and one of them had to do with me having “become hierarchical” and “treating him like a primary partner” (i.e., not a “primary-level” partner, but THE primary partner.)

    I tried to tell him that we had discussed some of these concerns in advance (that living together and financial/day-to-day entwinement do make partners more accountable to each other, particularly in terms of shared finances), but he wasn’t interested in hearing it.

    (He had apparently been sitting on some resentment about it for several years, and it all came out at the end, long after I could have done anything about it — I had been willing to make changes in our relationship, up to and including no longer living together, but it was too late.)

    Among his complaints was that I had been “controlling” about him taking an expensive European trip with his other partner.

    What I had said was that we couldn’t afford it at the time, but I had been totally on board with the two of them saving up for a trip in about a year (because, as noted, he’d been out of work for 18 months.)

    I’d been covering his expenses when unemployment ran out, and I didn’t feel that the household could afford for him to take such a pricey trip when he hadn’t been at his new job for long and we had no savings.

    Financial entwinement wasn’t the only thing that tripped us up, but it was something that I think my partner hadn’t really thought about when we moved in together, and it wound up being one of his unspoken resentments.

    (Generally, we were fine regarding the way we handled our joint finances, but apparently the “expensive vacations with other partner” thing galled him. If he’d talked about it with me, I think we could have handled it better — his other partner made six figures, he and I were struggling financially, and she kept wanting to take extravagant trips with him, but didn’t want to pay more than 50% of the cost, even though she made twice his salary.)

    While there is nothing to be done about my former relationship, it would be wonderful if this discussion could save someone else from dealing with similar pain in the future.

    • Sounds like a painful situation. I’m sorry your relationship end was so rough.

      Would you be interested in writing a guest post on how financial entwinement impacted your relationship? I think it could be helpful for a lot of poly folk who are considering moving in together.

  2. I have found that there can be jealously and envy from those partners who feel that entwinement (mostly from the societal monogamous p.o.v) = commitment, love, and worthiness – individual value as a partner. I struggled with this at at times still do – not being the “nesting partner” and basically having no financial/family entwinements. If we stopped being together today, there would be no untwining to do except the love that bonds us. Took me a really LONG TIME to stop comparing our relationship to his nesting, live in, partners. HOWEVER, it didn’t stop me from wanting to be under the same roof someday (soon I hope) and contributing in all the ways I can.

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