Finances and budgets can be touchy subjects, so it may seem completely counter-intuitive to discuss money-related issues early on in a relationship, but this is exactly when it needs to happen. I’m not suggesting you ask for a breakdown of the other person’s assets or that you inquire as to how much they make. And I’m not setting forth the idea that you lead your first date with questions about finances, bills, debt, etc. You need somewhat of a foundation to a relationship before you start discussing some of these tougher subjects.
Are You Comfortable With Talking About Money?
In some ways, this financial discussion has gotten a bit easier as we as a society have become somwhat more comfortable talking about money overall. More people talk about how much their rent or mortgage payments are. More people discuss bonuses at work, the great travel deals they got, or how much they paid to repair their car. It’s not taboo anymore and this is good news for introducing these topics into a relationship. You might be able to learn quite a bit about your significant other’s financial situation just through the routine of normal conversation. Certain topics aren’t considered prying, and don’t feel like you’re being nosy – finding out some basic details about your potential partner’s financial situation should be as important as finding out if you’re emotionally compatible (I discuss both these types of compatibility in my book, Financial Infidelity).
What About When?
So, back to the “when” question. There’s no point in delineating the finer points of relationship finances if there’s no future to the relationship. It usually takes some time to figure this out, so I can’t answer the question of exactly when for you. I can say that there comes a point when you’re comfortable enough with each other to talk about more difficult subjects. But don’t use your comfortability as an excuse to put it off. You only need to figure out basics in the beginning, and you likely won’t be completely at ease as money can still have somewhat of a stigma attached to it. Here are some guidelines for generalities you should know early on in the relationship:
-Ask questions about how money has been used in their family: worries, abandonment, shame, blame around money.
-Asking questions like this will eliminate any problems or irreconcilable differences, and is a way to see who is flexible and who is not, in reference to money and power, and struggles over money.
-Do a budget for yourself (if you don’t already have one) to help answer some of these questions for yourself.
As you move forward in your relationship, have money talks weekly to minimize financial infidelity.