Navigating the dating scene can be difficult enough without adding all the many complicated moving parts of life into the mix. Think about it, you’re out for dinner with basically a complete stranger, asking all kinds of presumably invasive questions of each other in an effort to discover if you could potentially spend the rest of your life with this person. Okay, so it’s probably not that dramatic, but it can be daunting and nerve-wracking, nonetheless. But, what happens when you’ve been promoted from “casual date” status to full fledged girlfriend and boyfriend? When it comes to dating, keeping clear boundaries regarding your personal finances is critical to your future relational success.
Be upfront about your financial situation
The whole point of dating is getting to know someone better. Perhaps even well enough that you fall in love with them, and hopefully get married one day, right? Well, maybe not for everyone, but for an old fashioned girl like myself, that’s the purpose of dating. Part of getting to know someone is learning about their views and behaviours regarding money – a fragile, yet very important aspect of peoples’ lives. Though I don’t recommend talking about money or your personal finances over a latte on your first date, I very much endorse talking about money once you and your partner develop a mature relationship that both individuals agree is leading to a more “permanent status” (a.k.a marriage).
As you grow closer to one another and develop trust, slowly begin to reveal different aspects of your financial situation to the other person. Let me be clear: this isn’t meant to be a free-for-all exposé of all your dirty laundry, but a selfless way of letting your partner really get to know you and what they’re getting themselves into. If you aren’t proud of your financial past, have the courage to be honest; if your partner can’t understand, respect, and still love you despite the mistakes you might have made, this will shed some crucial light on your relationship and future together (or lack thereof).
Set your relationship up for success from the get-go. Do not avoid this conversation. Love each other enough to be transparent with one another about what you’ve done, where you’re at, where you want to be, and how you plan on getting there.
Take advantage of your singleness
There is no better time to get your personal finances in order than when you’re single (ie. unengaged or unmarried). Before getting married, I was laser-focused on paying off my credit card debt, saving up an emergency fund, and being completely self-sufficient. I made financial decisions that I knew were important not just for myself, but for my future marriage. In fact, having that financial stability as a single woman gave me a head start when it came to cash-flowing our wedding last year.
Once you’re married, combining your finances can be a difficult, and (surprisingly) emotional adjustment, which is why it’s imperative that you clear up as much as you can while you’re on your own to make it easier on your newly married life. That means being as aggressive as possible about cash-flowing your life, avoiding further debt like the plague, and saving up an emergency fund for “that awkward moment when”.
Don’t lend each other money
…whatever awkward moment you or your partner find yourself in, do not lend each other money! A little part of me dies inside whenever I hear someone tell me they were, “helping them make rent”, or, “lending them money for their phone bill”, or worse, “helping out with their student loan payments”. I get it, you love and want the best for each other, as you very well should, but something shifts when start lending one another money. You go from getting to know each other and growing closer relationally, to now depending on the other person to make ends meet, so to speak.
If someone’s short a couple dollars, or you want to pick up the bill at dinner every now and then (ladies), if you can swing it, go right ahead! My concern is when someone is unable to manage their own personal responsibilities – important stuff that you as their boyfriend or girlfriend shouldn’t have anything to do with until you’re at least engaged and actively planning a life together. Spending some money on dates and enjoying each others’ company is one thing, taking care of the other person is another thing. If aren’t careful, things can become unhealthy and even abusive, depending on the circumstances.
Remember, money is just a tool. When you’re single, it’s a tool for you to fund your individual ambitions. When you’re married, it’s a collective resource for your goals and dreams as a couple and family. But, when you’re dating, there is no “us” or “ours” yet; clear-cut, transparent boundaries are healthy as you’re growing in a romantic relationship, especially when it comes to your wallet. Dating’s hard enough, folks. Let’s not complicate things further.
Here’s to ladies footing the bill, but NOT on the first date…