It’s tough to talk openly and honestly about money in any relationship, but when you’re in a long distance relationship it is a topic worth tackling. Money (or more often, a lack of money) can become a major source of resentment and conflict, especially if finances are keeping you apart in the first place, traveling to see each other is expensive, and/or one partner has to spend a lot more money than the other in order to keep the relationship going.
The best way to avoid false assumptions and misunderstandings about money is to talk about your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Openness and honesty on this topic can short-circuit a great deal of frustration and conflict.
We’re going to talk about some questions that you can use to kick off this discussion. Some of these questions require trust built up over time, so they are divided into three categories. This week we’ll start with questions for those in a new relationship. In our next post on this topic, we’ll look at questions for those in an exclusive dating relationship, and then those considering marriage.
Before we get started, however, a word about safety. In her latest book, From Stranger To Lover: 16 Strategies For Building A Great Relationship Long Distance, Lisa McKay puts it this way:
“If anyone you’ve only recently met asks you for money, for any reason, it should give you serious pause. This might sound obvious, but it needs to be said. It happens more than you might think, especially in online and long distance dating scenarios.
So, why should you be concerned?
For starters, if someone you’ve only recently met online needs to turn to you for financial help then they (a) aren’t very good at managing their personal finances; and (b) don’t have a good, supportive network of friends and family who can help them out during a crisis. Both of these things should independently make you question whether or not you really want to be in a relationship with this person.
However, the situation may be even more complicated than it appears. If someone you’re dating online asks you for money, it’s entirely possible that the person you think you’re dating doesn’t even exist and that you’re being scammed.
In one common online dating/LDR scam, the scammer pretends to be a businessman with an international construction company, or an aid worker. During the course of developing an intense online relationship, he or she is posted to Africa. They subsequently experience a life-threatening crisis that requires a sudden infusion of money.
You might think you’d be too smart to fall for that, but don’t underestimate how plausible these scenarios can be made to sound when they unfold step by step and when your emotions are involved. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the online dating scams they studied (including the one I summarized above) “had a conversion rate of more than 50 per cent, which meant that more than half of people targeted on romance websites end up losing money, often to international syndicates.”
I strongly recommend never sending money to anyone you don’t know well. However, if you do send someone money, don’t send it by wire transfer. This is essentially the same as sending cash. It’s difficult to trace and virtually impossible to reverse the transaction.”
So, now we have the “be careful” speech out of the way, we’ll go over some discussion questions about money for those of you in a new long distance romance. But first, some tips on talking about money…
Especially for those of us raised in Western cultures, talking about money can be incredibly awkward—even more so in a new relationship. So here are some general tips on talking about money that might help ease any tension:
- Ask about these things in a friendly, laid-back way—don’t grill your date. If they’re very uncomfortable, pay attention and ease off. You can always come back to the topic later (although if they’re not willing to discuss anything to do with money after another month or two of dating, take note).
- If you still feel weird asking the questions below, consider reassuring your partner that you’re not trying to scope out the size of their bank account. Explain why you’re asking (i.e., that money is one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships and you’re trying to better understand their general attitude toward money and spending).
- Oh, and be prepared to share your own answers.
Let’s talk about money (and family)
When you’re in a new relationship it’s probably not appropriate to ask questions that are too detailed or personal about money. You might, however, want to ask them about how their family handled money when they were growing up.
Even if your new sweetheart’s financial circumstances are different from their parents’, understanding how they were raised can really help you understand their attitudes towards money now. These questions can also help you understand your own expectations and attitudes towards money.
- Did your family have enough money while you were growing up?
- Did you ever think about the cost of food, clothing, or toys when you were a child, or did you take money for granted?
- Did money feel tight, or even scarce while you were growing up? Did you feel guilty spending too much?
- Did your parents tend to buy top quality items or hunt for bargains?
- Who earned the money in your family?
- Who made most of the decisions about spending money in your family?
- Did your parents argue or worry about money while you were growing up?
- Were you given an allowance as a child? How much was it?
- Did you work to earn extra money while you were growing up?
- What did you spend your own money on when you were a teenager?
- How do people treat and talk about money in your family now? Does your family loan or give others money easily? Are your parents or siblings reckless, generous, careful, or downright stingy with their money?
Who should pay for dates?
Next, you might want to ask them about how they generally approach money on a date. For example, does your partner believe that the person who makes the most money should pay for everything/most things? Should the man pay for everything? Should couples split the bill? Should they trade dates?
If you’re in a long distance relationship, you might not be going out to dinner and a movie on a regular basis, but discussing this issue can give you a good indication of your partner’s attitude about less conventional expenses.
What did I miss?
Money is a difficult topic to discuss, and even more so in a new relationship. We’ve mentioned two ways you can bring up this topic in a new long distance relationship, but do you have other questions that are good to discuss?
Leave a comment and add them below. And don’t forget to join us next time for questions for committed couples about money.