This guest article from Psych Central was written by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D.
Talking about one’s financial situation early in a relationship is as important as talking about safe sex. It’s something that needs to be shared just as early and just as deeply. When deciding whether to pursue a relationship, both people deserve to know what they are getting into. They can then see if it’s possible to handle what may be uncomfortably different financial status, differing values about money, or different assumptions about what is and what isn’t each other’s business. As challenging as the “money talk” may be, it is a crucial step in a developing relationship.
As a relationship becomes more serious, the money conversation becomes more serious as well. Being open about money matters and negotiating who pays for what and what each expects from the other regarding how money is used reveals a lot about each other’s values, maturity, and responsibility. As the relationship progresses and the couple begins to think about a future together, differences in attitudes and habits around money become more important. How they work together to resolve those differences is one of the many indicators of how the two of them will handle important and sticky issues as they become a couple.
Avoiding these conversations results in stress for the individuals and uncertainty in the couple. The issue won’t go away. Eventually something will happen that will surface the ways in which money matters for both.
Jason, for example, has been seeing me for several months for help with his intermittent depression. He tends to overthink and ruminate on issues that trouble him, habits that contribute to his generally pessimistic approach to life. He’s been dating Emmy for three months and is starting to feel like this romance might go somewhere. When, he asks, should he tell her that he has a trust fund of a half million dollars? A prior girlfriend started treating him differently once she knew he was loaded. If he tells Emmy, she may look at him in a different way too. If he doesn’t tell her, she may think he was lying to her by omission. “No wonder I’m depressed,” he says. “I can’t win no matter what I do at this point.” I worry that he’s going to create the very breakup he is dreading by withdrawing from the issue – and from Emmy.
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