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biracial couple in a new relationship having a conversation about money

Being in a new relationship is exciting! It’s fascinating to learn about your new partner, their life and what’s important to them. But one topic often gets overlooked because people aren’t comfortable talking about it — money. Unfortunately, that’s also the subject that ultimately derails many relationships. A lack of honesty about your respective financial situations can keep you from having the open, meaningful relationships we all strive for. Let’s look at some ways to talk about money in a new relationship.

Listen and Observe

While you probably don’t want to ask probing questions about money on the first few dates, you can start learning about someone’s financial habits just by listening and observing their behavior. For example, frequent mentions of counting the days until payday or putting off plans until they get paid could mean they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. Conversely, regularly showering you with lavish gifts or making extravagant plans could indicate overspending issues. While you don’t want to jump to conclusions, be aware of behavior patterns and don’t ignore potential problems.

Start with Something Positive

When you feel like you’re ready to bring up money, frame the conversation around a positive topic. Something like planning the budget for your first weekend getaway or how much to spend on a mutual friend’s wedding gift are good opportunities to open the conversation around money and your respective attitudes about it. Finding out you have similar financial philosophies would be a welcome relief. But if you find out one of you is a spender and the other a saver, or if there are high debt loads on either (or both) sides, you’ll know you need to address those issues moving forward.

Talk About Your Values

People’s attitudes about money aren’t formed in a vacuum. Our families, upbringing and personal experiences with money all shape our spending and saving habits. Talk with your significant other about what you value financially and ask them to share the same. You may find more common ground than expected on topics like saving for the future, making large purchases or charitable giving. Having values-based conversations will bring your understanding of each other to a deeper level and make it about more than just dollars and cents.

Don’t Wait for a Crisis

The longer you avoid the topic of money in a new relationship, the more volatile it’s likely to be when it finally comes up. Don’t wait for a fight about money to talk about money. It won’t be productive and could damage your developing relationship. Talking about finances more generally on an ongoing basis will help you both keep your cool when you run into a disagreement over it.

Always Be Honest

It should go without saying but lying about money in your relationship won’t lead to anything positive. While being honest about past, or even ongoing, financial challenges isn’t easy; it’s essential to avoid feelings of betrayal. At the same time, don’t punish your partner for being honest about their own financial situation. Approaching financial topics with honesty, empathy and a shared sense of purpose can help you stay on the right track.

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