My last two articles discussed how to talk about money in a new long distance relationship and how to talk about money in a committed long distance relationship.
We covered important questions to go over with a long distance lover to avoid conflicts about money as you get to know each other and as the relationship becomes more serious. We also mentioned how important it is not to send money to someone you do not know well in order to avoid falling for online scams. We talked about how it can be difficult and awkward to discuss money, but it’s essential for building trust and understanding your partner.
Now it’s time for the questions to ask if it’s starting to look like your relationship will be permanent. You should know the answers to these questions before you get engaged or make serious plans to be together in the future. Whenever you talk about money, make sure both parties are well-rested and the internet/phone connection is good–and don’t rush it.
If you haven’t done it already, make sure you’ve also talked about our questions for people in a committed long distance relationship (link). It’s especially important to know about your partner’s debts, saving and spending habits, and career goals before you get married. Then, you can ask:
How much money do you make?
This one isn’t necessarily fun to talk about, and you probably don’t need to bring it up when the relationship is too new. But if you are using words like forever, marriage and future, you need to be able to talk frankly about numbers.
Do you help to support anyone else, such as elderly parents or a child?
Is this a long-term arrangement or temporary assistance? Are there cultural obligations involved? Would you expect your spouse to help with these contributions? (I have seen marriages end over this issue; make sure you know what the expectations are when it comes to giving money to family members.)
How do you feel about income imbalances?
What happens if one party makes significantly more money than the other? What if those roles flip? Will one partner stop working if you have children? For how long? Have you ever been unemployed, and how did you handle it? Chances are fairly good that one or both of you will be unemployed at some point. It will help if you know what to expect from previous periods of unemployment, so talk about it now.
How do you handle giving to charity and supporting causes?
Do you set up regular payments to your causes of choice? Do you donate sporadically as opportunities arise? Do you and your partner need to agree on the causes you support financially? If one partner does not want to give to charity, is that an issue for the other?
How do you handle household expenses?
Do you set a monthly budget for rent, food, and living expenses? What is it? How will you divide household expenses when you get married or move in together? Will you combine your bank accounts and/or set up a joint account?
Presumably, you’ll already be talking about where to live, jobs, kids, etc. In what circumstances do you think it’s worth paying more for your household? (E.g., living closer to work, having a bigger home/yard, owning vs. renting.) Do you want to buy high quality items for your home or hunt for bargains? What about groceries? Who is responsible for shopping?
There are not necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions, but if you are preparing to marry someone you need to look at whether any of your answers are incompatible with theirs. Take time to figure out where you’ll need to compromise and what steps you’ll need to take when it comes to money.
You can’t predict what will happen over the course of a marriage. You may face financial hardship or unexpected bounty. The important thing for you to do right now is to build up excellent communication habits so you can deal with the difficult topic of money no matter what life throws your way. When distance is in the mix, it’s all the more important to make sure you can talk about these things both when you’re together and when you’re apart.
So there you have it. We’ve offered some questions you can use to talk about money at the three main stages of a long distance relationship: a new romance, a committed relationship, and a relationship headed for marriage.
What did we miss?
Do you have any other questions that are important for long distance couples to discuss? Do you have any advice for making these conversations easier? Do you have any warnings or success stories you’d like to share with other long distance couples? Leave a comment below!