- Money has a way of inciting fear and anxiety in pretty much everyone.
- Approach the discussion as a chance to learn more about each other and how your upbringings shaped your views about money.
- Instead of assuming your partner won’t be able to contribute to your shared finances, explain to her why you have anxiety about paying rent on time.
- Make this one of many conversations about money and other uncomfortable topics that will only get easier to discuss with practice.
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My partner and I have been dating for about five years and we’re considering moving in together when we both move to the city within the next year or so.
I think it makes sense financially, plus I genuinely believe we would work well together living together because we are great at giving each other space and spending a lot of time together in a healthy, happy way.
But: We have different financial styles. I’m a saver who is strict with money and who already has retirement accounts set up, while she is prone to splurging and not saving because it’s important to “live in the moment.” She shops online often and loves to dine out, but I’m not always the same way.
I know money can cause a lot of conflict, especially when rent is involved.
I’m also worried I might get angry or annoyed if she’s making purchases that I don’t necessarily agree with.
How do I approach this without making it seem like I’m right and she’s wrong? And how do we meet in the middle going forward?
– New Jersey
Dear New Jersey,
Money has a way of inciting fear and anxiety in pretty much everyone. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never been in an argument with someone about the green stuff, so I understand your trepidation.
There are, however, ways to quell that anxiety and prevent money-related fights if you and your girlfriend are interested in taking the next step in your relationship. (Which, by the way, I support, if financial worries are the only thing stopping you.)
But first, let’s get one thing straight: You and your girlfriend will never see everything eye-to-eye, including money matters, and that’s ok. Relationships aren’t about harping on your significant other until they break down and agree to do what you want. (But if my boyfriend is reading this: Do what I want!)
Relationships are, however, about growing from difficult conversations, so you might as well start with this necessary one. It’s important you both acknowledge your divergent financial strategies if you want to avoid future pent-up feelings that could end your relationship.
Approach the discussion as a chance to get know each other better
Before you even start the conversation, shift how you’re thinking about it. Rather than a battle, view it as a way to learn more about each other and what makes you tick, Tribeca Therapy founder Matt Lundquist, told me.
“Think of it as building infrastructure for talking about hard things,” Lundquist said. “People who can talk about money in uncomfortable ways can also do the same about sex or other [touchy] topics.”
He added that often, couples who discuss these awkward topics come away learning more about their partners than they assumed they would. Maybe you’ll learn your girlfriend is always online shopping because she almost never shops at brick-and-mortars, or that she goes out to eat a lot because no one taught her how to cook.
“Be more curious versus having a mindset of ‘I can’t live the way you do,'” Lundquist said.
Begin with a talk about your upbringing
Your initial money chat should focus on getting to know more about your individual backgrounds as they pertain to money. See, it’s impossible to separate how you were raised and how you saw your parents treat money from your own financial hangups. Taking a deep dive into that subject can help you understand your girlfriend’s live-in-the-moment attitude toward spending and she can understand your more frugal approach.
When you’re having this chat, make sure you let each other speak without interrupting the other, since this conversation isn’t about proving your money moves are the right ones. In fact, before you even approach your girlfriend, I suggest you think about why it bothers you that she spends money on clothes and dining out.
Rawpixel.com/ShutterstockYour girlfriend may not be shopping online for what you think she is.
Question your own assumptions
You said you fear her habits could result in her falling short on rent, but how do you know that will happen? From what you’ve told me, it seems you’re ascribing a bit of moral high ground to your own spending habits compared to hers, and that won’t get you anywhere productive relationship-wise.
Instead of assuming your partner won’t be able to contribute to your shared finances, explain to her why you have anxiety about paying rent on time. Maybe you have a family member who was evicted for falling short on rent and you fear that could become you, or your parents harped on you for your entire life about making rent on time and it’s now ingrained in your mind.
“Don’t pass your fear to the other person,” Lundquist said. “Recognise it comes from within you; otherwise it can destroy your relationship because it makes you mad at the other person.”
Make this the first of many chats about money
Lastly, create a mutual understanding that this is an open conversation and each of your views on money may change over time. When that happens, you both have to be open to reevaluating the terms of your unofficial contract and re-learning what money means to each of you.
If you love and trust your girlfriend enough to move in with her, you have to trust she’ll understand the types of financial situations that make you uncomfortable and will do what she can to prevent them because she loves you too. And at the same time, you could let her online shop in peace and indulge in meals out together here and there.
As Insider’s resident sex and relationships reporter,
is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it – no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.
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