Surveys designed to reveal the top sources of stress in troubled marriages consistently identify one thing that rises above the rest. You might expect some issue related to sex, infidelity, in-laws, or child rearing. But you’d be wrong. The consistent “winner” is money — conflict over earning it, prioritizing its relative importance in life, judging what is enough, and, above all, deciding how to spend it…or not spend it.
In dating, this fact is doubly difficult because the subject of money is generally viewed as taboo and off-limits in polite company. As a result, we easily get the idea we shouldn’t consider money matters at all when assessing a new partnership’s long-term potential. Not so!
Nearly all women appreciate men who are careful and conscientious about money. No one wants a guy who is reckless and irresponsible in financial matters. But some men are so tightfisted and stingy that problems arise on the other side of the equation. If you are dating someone who seems excessively frugal, it is worth your time and within your rights to assess how that fact impacts your relationship. Here are five key questions to get you started:
1. Are you excessively free with YOUR spending? In any conflict, it never hurts to begin by examining yourself. It could be that your partner’s attitudes about money bother you because he represents an uncomfortable contrast to your own imbalanced approach to the subject. Being frank with yourself will not only offer you an opportunity for self-improvement (if needed), it may also increase the chances of meeting your partner in the middle, diffusing tension before it arises.
2. Is money already a frequent source of conflict between you? The truth is, fighting over money early on in a relationship probably signifies basic incompatibility and portends more strife down the road. It may be that neither of you are truly “excessive” in your views — just different and deserving of the chance to be with someone who thinks more like you do. This is what dating is for — to identify your personal “must haves” and “can’t stands” and determine whether your present partner meets those needs. If the answer appears to be “no” on the subject of money, do yourself a favor and make a decisive to move on sooner rather than later.
3. Does your partner allow room for differences, or is he determined to change your views to match his own? Your conflict over money may, in fact, be a symptom of a larger issue at work: control. Because money is such a psychologically and emotionally charged topic for most people, it often becomes a potent weapon in a control freak’s arsenal. If your conflict on the subject always boils down to judgments of “right and wrong” — with you typically cast in the wrong — there’s likely more going on than a simple difference of opinion.
To be sure, take a closer look at other areas of your relationship, to see if there are polarizing issues at work besides money: your choice of friends, how you spend your free time, your taste in entertainment, your political views, and so on. If you rarely seem to find common ground, it is probably time to start looking for the exit.
4. Does your partner’s frugality reflect a general lack of generosity? The way a man uses money offers clues about his personality, deep-down beliefs, and outlook on life. Someone who is excessively reluctant to part with their money may also find it difficult to give of his time, praise and encouragement, or reassurances when comfort is needed. You might decide you can tolerate your partner’s penny-pinching ways, but can you live with a romantic miser? Someone who begrudges your basic emotional needs? Frank answers now could save you a lot of heartache in the years to come.
5. Visualize a future time when your lives are intertwined by marriage or committed cohabitation. Do you picture financial cooperation or probable conflict? Here’s the point: Presumably your present uncertainty over possible financial incompatibility exists even before you’ve combined households, taken on shared obligations, and formed common goals. Imagine sharing a joint checking account with a man who has tightwad tendencies. Does the thought cause you to cringe? Do you trust in his willingness and ability to make joint decisions as well? If you cannot honestly answer yes, then think long and hard before committing yourself further.
Money need not be a barrier to lasting romance…but, sadly, it sometimes is. Make sure of your common financial footing before moving forward.