Imagine this: You meet the guy (or gal!) of your dreams. At first, everything feels perfect. Then, life kicks in. But even when it does, your love—and your relationship—feels strong. When you consider marriage and spending the rest of your life together, you assume that you two align on everything. Moreover, you’re sure that you can make it through anything—including tough financial times. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
I’ve talked to so many women who were sure that they had the same ideals as their partner, only to uncover the hard truth months, or even years, into their long-term relationships. It can be a particularly rude awakening during divorce proceedings, when—for the first time—a woman realizes just how much debt her spouse has accrued and worse: that she is responsible for a portion of it!
That’s just one scenario—there are countless others that can unfold over the course of a relationship. But even though none of us know what life will hold, there is an important step you can take to prevent ugly surprises down the line. Fortunately it’s simple and free: Talk to your partner about your finances.
The reality is if you’re not talking about your finances, chances are you’re not talking about your life together. Avoiding this conversation because you fear it may be uncomfortable or challenging may even serve to mask other issues in your relationship, like who has independence and control. Remember, it’s never just about the money. It’s about what the money represents or forces to the surface: insecurity, unworthiness, secrecy, an inability to be open—any number of very human emotions and traits that are behind markedly different money maxims—and that will inevitably have an impact on your relationship in a multitude of ways.
With the knowledge that they’re essential to successfully navigating your future together, how do you have those uncomfortable money conversations? Consider taking a logical tack. If your relationship is getting more serious, explain that money is one issue so many couples overlook, and that you want to make sure you’re both clear on how you feel about it.
Now, keep in mind that it’s not about what they say, but what they do. Remember not to just listen but to observe (love is a potent cocktail that can skew your perceptions, after all!). For example, how does your new love interest live? What does their spending style seem to be? If you’ve met their family, weigh their lifestyle and interactions as well to get a fuller picture.
The conversation may also arise organically; it doesn’t have to feel staged. If money comes up as you’re talking about other things—your childhoods, your dreams, your goals—embrace the opportunity to have a candid discussion about it. Ultimately, if you’re looking for answers and insight, you’ll probably find them—and knowing the truth will benefit you both.