Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your queries through our anonymous contact form here.
I’ve been with my s.o. for a year. The more time we spend together, the more I realize he is very tight with money. He often doesn’t want to pay for things even though he has money to spend, or says that things are a waste of money and discourages me from spending my own money on myself—but not on him. He’s preoccupied with “fairness,” but it doesn’t really feel fair. We’re not struggling and even do well financially, but money comes up almost daily, usually in the form of a lecture or berating me. We’ve discussed marriage, but I’m concerned this could be a bigger problem once we combine finances or purchase something large together. I love him, but I don’t want to overlook this and end up a miser with money. Help?
You’re definitely onto something—you need to get on the same page as far as spending and money management goes BEFORE you combine finances. Lots of couples end up blindsided when they realize that their spouse has very different beliefs and goals when it comes to wealth.
A person’s experiences with class and wealth will likely color their views of how available money is and influence their spending habits. One person might be drawn to high-risk investing or even gambling, while another prefers a frugal life. Someone who grew up in comfort will have different survival mechanisms and money management tools than someone who lived in poverty. In short, money is a powerful tool and conversations about it can be totally loaded. That’s why it comes up in premarital counseling along with babies, pets, travel, and boundaries with friends and family.
It may be worth sitting down with a financial planner (and maybe even a therapist) and figuring out what your endgame is with money. It’s important for you to be educated in this arena so you can go in with the big picture in mind. While you’re doing well financially, it never hurts to learn a bit more, and the learning itself can be enjoyable.
The Establishment is a local financial education group dedicated to spreading knowledge on (you guessed it) money management. Their classes range from helpful and insightful, like “Buying Your First Home” to super fun, like “Crafting Cocktails and Financial Plans.” There’s even one called “Couples and Money” to help facilitate the conversations it sounds like you desperately need to have.
While we’re on the subject of important conversations and fantastic and empowering resources, I’m going to go ahead and toot Linda P. Jones’ horn. Linda P. Jones, a self-made millionaire, dedicates her life to empowering women to take hold of their financial power and live the life they want to live. Her podcast is free and accessible on her website, and varies from creating a healthy mindset regarding wealth to the nuts and bolts of investments. Her podcasts also tend to be short and sweet, so you can garner a little nugget of information and then let it sink in.
Once you know what it is you want out of your financial life, it’s easier to have a conversation with your significant other about where it is you want to be and how to get there. And while I would love to end this essay right here on this uplifting note, there are a few red flags in your query that need to be dealt with in order for me to feel good about signing off.
I’m concerned with your partner’s fixation on “fairness” and the tone he takes when speaking to you about money. You report that “fairness” doesn’t really feel fair and that the conversation is not respectful. If he can’t get that under control (and quick!), there lies a lot of potential for financial abuse.
Financial/Economic abuse comes in many forms, but the gist is that one person exerts power and control over another person using money to create dependency. This type of abuse can be a facet of a greater system of domestic violence, or the main presentation of an abusive person. They may never physically hurt their partner, but they’ll ruin their credit score and tie them down with a crapload of debt.
A financial abuser will exert control by either forcing their victim to account for every cent they spend, or, conversely, blow joint resources. You went on vacation with your family when they told you not to? They bought a car with your money. You want to advance your career? They make it impossible for you to finish school and continuously create emergencies so you’re late for work.
Financial abuse is insidious af and has real lasting damage. If a financial abuser tramples all over your credit score, that can affect your housing and access to other financial resources in the future. This is why it’s so important to have a good understanding of money and how it works so you can go into these conversations knowing your worth (literally and metaphorically) and can stand your ground.
If your partner is pressuring you to combine finances and you feel even the tiniest bit uncomfortable, trust your gut. If they’re keeping a ledger of every penny you “owe” them, run for the hills. If they’re not ready and willing to unpack what their own beliefs are about money with you, notice that giant red flag flapping in the breeze and decide how you’re going to safeguard against getting put through the wringer, even if that means leaving them to sit lonely atop their pile of gold.
To paraphrase from Prince, money can’t buy love or happiness, but it sure funds the search. Know your worth.