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The Marital Treasure: Analysis of the Couple Through their Money

Caroline Henchoz

When one questions spouses as to how they go about organizing their finances, their spontaneous answer is “easy – there was nothing to it.” But when you combine the results of research carried out on changes in the use of money (Henchoz, 2008b) and of linen and laundry (Kaufmann,1992) as part of spousal history, you begin to realize the central role played by silence in the structuring of contemporary conjugality. If this process is seen as both natural and spontaneous, this is because it is based more on the representations of contemporary conjugal relations (of which we will examine three dimensions : love, equality and gender expectations) than on a genuine ‘conversation’ between partners (Berger and Kellner, 1988). Couples have found that the most effective instrument for maintaining good spousal relations and to reconcile the antinomic representations of money and conjugality is silence (Hahn, 1991. However, this silence is also due to the fact that there are no words available to characterize the inequalities that result from the application of conjugal ideas such as love, disinterestedness and equality. This means that in constructing their couple, the spouses incorporate a fictitious and rarely questioned understanding rather than a shared vision of reality.