The emotional requirements of a good relationship can be stressful at times, even before money
gets involved. Odds are that if you’re getting serious about wanting to be together with
someone, you’ll end up needing to have a conversation about your finances, and there’s long
been a stigma associated with carrying debt that prevents people from opening up about the
subject. This zone of silence around money can persist even with partners that have lived
together or been married for many years. Whether you’re just starting out down the road to a life
together or have been with your partner for a long time, it’s important to know how to support
them as they work through their financial needs and challenges.
They say that the secret to a healthy relationship is being able to trust one another to
communicate openly and without judgement. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to money
matters. It’s a tough decision to open up to someone and admit that you may have more debt
than you can deal with: be sure to emphasize your respect for your partner’s willingness to be
honest about their situation, and not to criticize their values or past actions that may have led
them into debt.
By the same token, you should be cognizant and respectful of your partner’s boundaries. If
they’re reluctant to share every dollar and cent on their balance sheet with you, don’t push them
out of their comfort zone. Maybe feeling like they have independent control over their finances is
really important to them – but you won’t know unless you communicate effectively with them!
Having The Talk
Sometimes, it feels like there are so many rules of engagement when it comes to dating. When
is it OK to text back? How soon can you admit that you have feelings for someone? How long
should I wait before asking about their credit score? When you’re getting to know someone new,
it may be helpful to have “the talk” about finances sooner than later. It may (ah, probably will) be
awkward and challenging, but it’s a bit of a necessary evil. You needn’t go into the fine details:
just put cards on the table about your main financial priorities for the short to medium term.
Sometimes a Red Flag is Just a Red Flag
Even if your partner has been honest, forthcoming, and good about sharing their financial
situation, you may still want to exercise a measure of caution. Relationships are always two
sided, but sometimes debt problems can stem from just one party. If the person in debt
continues to get even deeper in debt, then the person without debt might end up feeling
resentful and lose respect for their partner. Even worse, one partner might pledge to support the
other financially only to feel like their kindness and support have been taken advantage of.
There are times when you might realize that, despite your best intentions and your partner’s
efforts to improve, you might not feel secure or comfortable with the way they treat their
finances. In this case, you may have to do some long and hard soul searching about whether
they are the right person for you. If you end up coming to the point of this difficult decision, don’t
beat yourself up – keep your own financial and emotional security in mind.
You’re In This Together
If you care for someone, it’s in both of your best interest to plan together, act together and work
together to better each other, both financially and as people. If you really want things to work
out, do the (mutual) legwork, build the trust and find ways to support one another as one or both
of you move from debt to financial health.