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Life and Religion

6 discussions couples should have about money
Economics and finance impact romance
Published Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:10 am
by Patricia Leavy PhD

When dating someone new and things are still fresh and exciting, discussing practical issues like finances can be an awkward bore. However, these are conversations we cannot avoid because finances impact romance. 

When it comes to dating, we like to focus on the fun and sexy parts, especially in the beginning.

When things are still fresh and exciting, dealing with all those boring, practical aspects of a relationship can be a drag. However all that background information like where a person is from and what their family is like is important from the moment we begin considering if they are “the one.”

This is particularly true when it comes to attitudes about money and spending. We’d like to think that it shouldn’t matter how much money a person makes or what they can afford to buy. And maybe it shouldn’t matter, but in reality it does. Economics impact our romantic relationships more than many of us would like to admit. So it’s no wonder that finances are often cited as a top cause of divorce in the United States.

So in a new relationship, what are some of the discussions we should have to help avoid the economic pitfalls of romance? Here are the eight discussions every couple should have about money.

1. Expectations

One party hears “Saturday night date” and thinks about pizza and a movie. The other party thinks five-star dining and live theater. This is a stark difference in expectations that needs to be addressed because these expectations or preferences have economic implications.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your expectations and the cost of different activities because this will continue to come up as the relationship progresses. For instance, there will be shared expenses during holidays and vacations. So take the time to set expectations in beginning.

2. Paying

After discussing the costs of what you do as a couple, the next decision to make is how to pay for what you do. Who is picking up the tab? Some couples believe in splitting everything, and others feel that if one party can afford to more he or she should pay more. It’s best to talk openly about this early in the relationship to avoid awkward moments and feelings of resentment, etc.

3. Insecurities

We are not always paired up with our financial equals, and disparities in economic resources can feed insecurities if you let them. It’s important to remember that your identity isn’t linked to your bank balance and neither is your partner’s. But if one of you has an issue with making less money than the other, this is an issue that needs some attention.

4. Life experiences

If you and your partner grew up in different economic circumstances, then you likely had different childhood experiences, including travel and recreational activities. These life experiences impact your taken-for-granted assumptions as well as your preferences. It’s important to be sensitive to these differences and acknowledge them so they can be addressed.

You may have traveled a lot and been exposed to many different cultures that have introduced you to new ideas and broadened your world perspective. However, you can’t assume that your partner has had similar experiences. So if he or she doesn’t know what some food item is in a French restaurant or some exotic ingredient on an episode of Chopped, tell them nicely. Don’t disparage them. The more important issue is whether or not you’re interested in the experiences the other person has had and the potential for growth and learning in the future.

5. Other people

Friends and relatives love giving their two cents when we’re dating someone new, but be certain to manage the tone of those conversations. If you’re dating someone of a different socio-economic status be careful of falling into stereotyped ways of talking with friends and family, or endorsing it if they resort to inappropriate clichés to describe your partner or relationship.

6. Overcompensating

While it’s important to be aware of how economics come into play when you’re dating, but don’t try to overcompensate for differences. This can happen in a variety of ways including, overspending and making your partner feel like a charity case, being overly frugal in order to disavow differences in economic means or pretending you’ve had life experiences that you haven’t. Just be open and honest about how you feel. Above all else, be your self.

Patricia Leavy is an expert commentator and acclaimed pop-feminist author. Dr. Leavy has appeared on national and local television and is regularly quoted in international, national and local print news publications such as The New York Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, and The Los Angeles Times.  For more information please visit her website: www.patricialeavy.com


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