Money, religion and politics: the three big no-no topics your mother taught you to never bring up at the dinner table. Ironically, when getting into a potentially lengthy relationship, these are just the issues you want to talk about most. Knowing where a potential partner stands on these issues can make or break the deal. We’re here to offer some advice on how to approach one of these areas: money. Bethany Palmer and her husband just co-wrote a book called, First Comes Love, Then Comes Money. The book covers what to look for, when to start looking for it, and how to approach your significant other about money matters; here are some of their tips:
1. To start, silently observe spending habits.
When you go on the first couple of dates, take note of how he orders. Does he splurge and go for a more expensive appetizer and dessert? Or did he pick the venue because the expiration date is coming up on a coupon he has for dinner? Proceed with caution in either case, but especially with the first scenario. Lavish dinners and unexpected bouquets of flowers are impressive and charming, but don’t assume it’s all paid for in cash. Credit card debt and poor money-management skills can take more time to surface. Palmer believes there is no comparing good to bad spending habits—it’s a matter of seeing how they spend money that can indicate compatibility, how they prioritize expenditures and to some extent their life.
2. Ask Questions! Avoid Assumptions.
Again, take caution when making assumptions based on the amount of cash he flashes. A high paying salary and lots of cash doesn’t equal automatic financial stability—a whole mountain of debt can also be behind that person. Or someone who is financially stable may have trouble remembering to pay the bills on time. When the relationship seems to be heading in a serious direction, ask your partner about his financial goals for the future. Be sure not to judge quickly. If there is debt that needs to be taken care of, see if he has a plan to do just that.
3. Timing, timing, timing!
Use your head; this is a very sensitive topic, no matter how deep you are into the relationship. The nature of the conversation is highly personal, so do your best to keep it light and nonjudgmental. Talk about your own financial goals and aspirations, and be on the lookout for red flags. Some of the most important deal breakers can come out in early conversations—make sure you don’t brush them off as misspeaks or exaggerations. Play it smart!
4. Focus on his reaction.
If your partner is extremely hesitant to talk with you about financial matters and refuses to open up, this could be a red flag. If he would prefer to wait a couple months to see how the relationship develops, that’s fine—just make sure the conversation isn’t also pushed off the table. It may help to let your partner know that you’re looking for transparency and trust in the relationship.
These tips should help you feel more comfortable opening up the money talk in a stress-free, nonjudgmental way. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but a lack of it sure can crush any chance at being happy. So play the field with your game face on, and keep your eye out for cheaters and smooth talkers. You have the tools!