He Said, She Said: When is the Right Time to Talk About Money in a Relationship?
What role does money play in your love life?Although we generally do everything in our power to avoid talking about it, money really does play a crucial role in relationships. Whether you care a whole lot about money or not, the amount of green you and your partner have in your bank accounts can greatly influence your love life.
We think we live in an era where “gold digging” is taboo and relationships are based on so much more than just money. But is that true? How do our incomes factor into the modern day dating scene? And, when is the right time to talk about money in a relationship? Obviously sharing salaries on a first date doesn’t fly, and every relationship expert will tell you that leaving the “money talk” till after you’ve walked down the aisle is too late.
We asked YourTango.com contributor Amanda Green and YourTango’s Tomfoolery blogger, Tom Miller-two savvy, urban daters-to sound in on the role of money in their relationships and when it makes sense to talk green. Here’s what they had to say:
I’m a feminist, but a man can buy me a drink. In fact, he can buy me dinner.
I’ve been financially independent since I graduated college, and I can confidently say that I’m pretty good with money. I’m not a financial guru, but I don’t have any debt outside of student loans. I have well over a year’s worth of rent saved up. Beyond a few expensive habits-Frye boots, concerts, and well, living in NYC-I’m pretty frugal.
But there’s another reason I’ve been able to save as much as I have: I’ve dated some very generous guys. They never paid my rent or daily living expenses, but when we went out, they’d treat me the majority of the time. That makes a huge difference. I know all those expenses add up, especially because I was single for most of the last few years.
I know I’ve been fortunate to date men who are willing and able to spend money on me. Chivalry may be endangered, but it’s not dead. And it’s still kicking, because it benefits both parties. My wallet’s reaping the rewards of comped meals and movies; and the guys I’ve dated enjoy feeling like they’ve provided for me. And no, I’ve never gone out with someone who later said I owed him sexual favors or housecleaning or anything like that.
Despite my privileged dating past, I’d have no problem dating a guy who expected me to pick up the tab more often. It’s not like I date men based on their finances. In my current relationship, I pay for pricier outings that are all my idea, like concert and theater tickets. I split travel expenses. Occasionally, I insist on picking up the check. And I’m the girlfriend who sporadically surprises her guy with shoes, books, and other nice presents just because. I always assume if the guy I’m dating needs me to cover more, he’ll ask. I assume he or I will bring up money if and when it becomes an issue.
But here’s a curious thing to note: The older I get, the less find myself talking about finances with men I date. My first serious boyfriend in NYC told me his salary-and asked about mine-on our third date. I distinctly remember him saying, “Can you get this? I’m not made of money.” I agreed… and continued dating him for almost two years.
As uncouth as it sounds, I wasn’t offended by his candor. We were both working our first full-time jobs, so there was a sense of being on a level playing field. But the rest of my adulthood has been in the shadow of a recession. Most people aren’t where they thought they’d be career-wise and thus, financially. I’ve also switched paths a few times-from teaching to marketing to freelance writing. Money’s more complicated now. It’s new and exciting to discuss when you’re 22, but it feels very private and competitive once you’re 28.
While it feels invasive to ask someone about his finances, I can’t move in with or marry someone with no knowledge of his finances, and I couldn’t expect him to do that, either. But when is the right time to have that talk? When we were 22, the third date was OK. Money felt less personal then. But am I waiting too long? Should I be pushing to have this conversation sooner than the point where we discuss moving in together-when excitement about that future step could push a sticky convo about money to the side?
He (YourTango’s Tomfoolery blogger Thomas Miller) says:
We live in a culture where much personal value is placed on material wealth. Whether it’s gold bars, heads of cattle or small, green pieces of linen emblazoned with the likeness of a dead politician, you’re a better person for having more of them. Unless you’re a hippie of some ilk, money is a pretty gosh darn big deal when it comes to dating, mating and procreating. Although I give off a pheromone that screams my career plan is to eventually let a strong gust of adventure to push me a$$ backwards into a pile of money, I still do the “money is no issue” dance at the top of any relationship.
While I’ve heard of dudes insisting on paying Amsterdam-style on their first date, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a guy who wasn’t willing to pick up the check date number one. After an initial period of ostentation (“no, all of your friends can super size dinner”), the smart choice is to get very honest about finances. But attraction, love, smarts and honesty hang out about as often as feminist slam poetry, NASCAR and the Easter bunny do.
Most dudes acutely feel the societal imperative to be able to provide. Plus it’s been psychically ingrained that attractive, worthwhile women are expensive. It’s rare you see a nice-looking lady with a guy whose day job involves picking coke cans out of garbage cans. Because of this, guys have a tendency to spend recklessly early in a relationship. For Christ’s sake, why do you think companies rent Ferraris?
The logic for fellas fake ballin’ breaks into two primary vectors: 1) after my apparent Rick James lifestyle impresses her, we will have sex and I don’t have to talk to her again; or 2) my phony Rick Ross lifestyle will impress her so much that she falls in love with me and it won’t matter when she figures out that I’m a middle-class guy who “says” he can really taste the difference between Dom and Veuve.
And I don’t blame women for not pumping the brakes on this conspicuous-est of consumption. Who intentionally derails a sweet gravy train? New York mayor Mike Bloomberg might but everyone else loves gravy. However, it’s incumbent upon guys-I don’t think women spend beyond their means to attract men-to come clean financially after this spendthrift courtship phase. Right around the time the “honeymoon phase” gets deep-sixed is probably the right time for the money talk to happen.
This is a lesson I’ve barely incorporated into my own life. The last few women I’ve dated have out-earned me from slightly to substantially. However, that did not stop me from paying for the first date and being ready to pony up thereafter, without ever directly discussing it.
One of these “relationships” was with a hedge fund analyst who never actually offered to pay for anything. I didn’t resent it; I actually only even noticed it in the post-getting dumped analysis, and it served as a call action for me to continue to be generous but also less fiscally macho. Now, it’ll probably take about four glasses of scotch before I can blurt out, “Hey, you know that tiny, mediocre apartment I live in? Yeah, that’s more in line with my income. Still want to hook up n’ stuff?” But, still, it’ll be better having that out there. I’ll let you know how it goes.