I’ve been lucky enough to fall completely, madly in love. I remember my first love and how the world revolved around that person. I would do almost anything to make him happy, even if I didn’t agree with his choices. Now that I’m older, I often look back at some of those hasty and irrational decisions, and wonder how I ever did such things.
When I counsel couples about financial responsibility, I find that many have made some of the same rash decisions, which has often led them down the path of financial hardship.
So here’s the hard question for all of us in love: How do you say ‘no’ to that special someone when their request will certainly cause financial harm to one, and possibly both people? For example, if your partner wants to start a business, but has little business experience and even less cash to invest, it may lead to repeated arguments and possible separation. Numerous studies show that disagreements about finances continue to be a leading cause of divorce, especially among couples that haven’t discussed these issues, or their financial expectations, before they get married.
Instead of fighting about money, I urge couples to negotiate and compromise. One way that a couple can accomplish their goals is for each person to discuss their goals, and then make sacrifices to help the other achieve their goals. If only one person is constantly being asked to borrow money or work extra hours, that person may eventually come to resent their partner. They may begin to take actions that undermine the relationship, such as making purchases and hiding receipts without their partner’s knowledge.
Even though it can be difficult, open communication is critical. The best possible scenario is for couples to discuss their money issues while they are dating. If you can learn about your mate’s financial situation, their views on money and their financial goals, it will help build a solid foundation for your marriage. If you feel uncomfortable raising money issues during this stage of a relationship, begin by listening carefully to the desires and goals of your partner without making judgments or openly disagreeing. The purpose of this exercise is to gather information and learn. And, when appropriate, ask them how they plan to pay to achieve these goals, whether it’s going back to school or buying their first home.
Another strategy is to find out if your new love is willing to date without spending a lot of money. Instead of going to restaurants, movies and clubs where one or both of you may spend a substantial amount of cash, suggest other, less costly ways to spend time together, such as “taste of the city” events and parties thrown by family and friends.
By attending events where money isn’t needed, you will get to meet each other’s friends and associates. You’ll also be able to determine if your mate is comfortable in these situations or would prefer wining and dining you. If he or she would prefer the latter, it will provide you with some additional insight into their spending and savings habits. If they would rather go out on the town, week after week, it’s likely that they prefer to spend instead of save money.
I think you will find that this approach to love and money will help kindle your love while putting you on a path to financial security.