No matter what stage of a relationship you’re in, it’s never too early to be thinking about the role money will, can or does play in your interactions. Of course, there are some huge life milestones where money becomes a very important, predominant factor, such as moving in together, getting married or having a kid. But on a day-to-day, dating level it’s just as important to learn about your partner’s money habits, hash out any differences, and take stock of each other’s monetary history.
1. Do know your “Imago.” Financial imago is a term coined by therapist and money/relationship expert Dr. Bonnie Eaker-Weil that literally means “image.” Knowing your financial image involves realizing the ideas about money that you’re carrying around from your parents and from your childhood. They will affect your relationship. It’s also important to learn these things about your partner as well — it can make a huge difference in how you interact. If you’re tuned into these things, you’ll be able to better understand — and deal with — your differences.2. Do determine how to deal with dates. Traditionally, the man was expected to pay for dates, but this can get expensive if you’re in a long term relationship. Plus, nowadays women are increasingly out-earning their partners. Still it doesn’t seem fair to either party to require that one person pay for the things you do as a couple. So as things progress, as you get to know each other better, and go out more, decide how you’ll handle the bill. Will you split it? Will you take turns? I read about one couple who had a “dating” account, which may not be a bad idea if you’re on a tight budget. They decided how much each person would contribute to the account each month, or paycheck, and used that money to pay for their outings. 3. Don’t think “it will work itself out.” This is a good rule of thumb for any source of conflict in a relationship, but particularly pertinent to money, which is blamed for an awful lot of splits! If you see a disparity between how you treat money and how your partner treats it, it’s best to bring it up. For example, you’re careful to pay off your debt, but your partner insists on living beyond their means. Of course, early on in a relationship this can be difficult to do, and you don’t want to sound like you’re judging them. Just being honest about your financial concerns is important. 4. Do talk, talk, talk. Similar to number three above, this one can still be hard because money is still a typically taboo subject. Obviously there are some boundaries (you wouldn’t ask a stranger – or probably even a friend — what their salary was!) but when you’re building a relationship with someone, difficult questions must be asked. Don’t be afraid to voice concerns, talk about your financial upbringing and encourage the other person to do the same!