Love and Money… In Sync or At Odds? GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 48)

As a dating coach, I get many questions about love and money.  Today, I’d like to tackle one of the biggest:

What if my partner spends money differently than I do?

Your approach to finances, if it differs from your partner’s, can put tremendous strain on a relationship.  So whatever your views are on spending money, it’s important that you and your partner are comfortable with the other’s approach.

Are you the type of person who would cut coupons all day to save a few dollars?  Does cable TV just seem so unnecessary when you can watch your favorite shows online a few days later?  Or maybe you order one fewer drink than you want when out with friends for dinner?

On the other hand, perhaps you’re the type of person who likes to take extravagant vacations every year and blow your whole December paycheck?  Is it imperative that you’re walking around with the latest iPhone and iPad?  Maybe you buy new clothes whenever you feel a little sad?

Neither of these methods is wrong, or even mutually exclusive.  But they are different, and that can cause tension in a relationship.

About six years ago, I dated someone for a year and a half who viewed money differently than I did.  He wasn’t Jewish, and I thought that might be the biggest obstacle in our relationship, but when it came down to it, it was our difference in spending habits that led to our demise.  I work hard, and I like to reward myself.  I’m not talking about Tiffany bracelets and Louis Vuitton bags, but small conveniences.  For example, we used to argue all the time over valet parking.  If it’s cold out, and there is no street parking available, I think it’s worth the $10 or $15 for the convenience of walking right into the restaurant.  He, on the other hand, would rather drive around for 20 minutes, make us late, and walk a mile to avoid the cost.  Again, neither belief is right or wrong; they are just different.  But making sure that you’re compatible with your partner’s approach to money can save you from an endless tug-of-war over what’s important and what isn’t.

When it comes down to it, how you decide to spend your hard-earned money is a very personal decision.  Just like your values on politics and religion, your values on money will likely play a large role in your relationship, so it’s best to address these issues before they become overwhelming.  Rather than letting a monetary issue fester, bring it up to your partner before you become resentful of the other’s spending habits.  (In fact, this is a healthy way to handle most large issues that arise in a relationship.)  Some things you’ll be able to compromise on and perhaps overlook, and some you won’t.  For your relationship to go the distance, though, it’s important that you and your partner are on board with the other’s approach to money… and you’re both willing invest yourselves completely!

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  Check out her interview on NPR here. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for JDate.com.