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Having "The Money Talk"

I’m dating. My kids don’t know yet, but there’s a man in my life now. He stands out among the men I’ve gone out with before. Not just because he’s almost a full foot taller than I am, but because I’ve never had a relationship with anyone who’s treated me with the level of kindness and respect that he does. It feels really good.

As great as he is, there is one thing I just can’t get off my mind: Finances. I don’t know how to talk about them with him. In my family growing up, it was a taboo subject. In my marriage, it tended to lead to arguments. So I don’t exactly have a lot of practice. I believe it’s important though. And I want a relationship in which finances are dealt with in positive and strengthening ways. But how? Especially in a new relationship?

I haven’t dated since I was 19, so I’m fairly certain the rules have changed in the last 14 years. Plus, I’m dating someone who’s more traditional than I’m used to. Neither one of us has a place at the moment where we can comfortably invite the other, so going out is the only option for now. It all makes me wonder about things like: Who pays for the date? When is the cost shared? What are his expectations of me as far as money goes? Will I make him feel as if he’s being taken advantage of if I let him keep paying for everything? That’d make me feel awful!

We’ve been dating just a couple of months. I know it’s not the time yet to really talk about the details, but there are a few things I’m sure he’s figured out. Like the fact that I’m a single mom who’s been laid off and am living with my mom, which probably means I don’t have a large bank account. He knows I’m receiving state assistance too. He also knows I’m looking for work, having interviews, and am going back to school. On the flip side, I know he’s had his job for almost ten years, and that it’s highly specialized. He’s also looking at buying a house. Even without the details, it’s obvious we’re in very different places financially.

He’s a sweetheart. I haven’t felt an ounce of judgment from him and we keep seeing each other, so it must not be scaring him off. Yet, I worry about what it must be like from his perspective. Is he holding back to see if I’ll follow through on all the things I say I’m doing? I’d hate for him to think that I’m just looking for someone to “rescue” me. I’m not, but how do I show him that? And there’s a part of me that wants to pay for the dates – or at least feel as if I have that option. But I can’t – at least not right now. In a way, it’d almost be easier to accept his generosity if I didn’t need to.

I know my current situation is temporary – I have some great things going on that I’m really excited about! I’d love to figure out how to start a financial conversation with him, though. Not about dollar amounts but to find out: 1) if we could talk about finances in a positive and constructive way, 2) to learn whether we hold the same values and perspectives, and 3) to address some of my fears as well as any concerns he might have. But where do I start?

One of the things I’ve had to learn in reshaping my financial life is the ability to face my fears head-on, stop procrastinating, and be willing to stumble until it feels natural. Whether it’s been paying bills, calling the creditors to resolve issues, or honoring my budget, it’s been learning to stretch outside my comfort zone that’s made the difference so far. Maybe learning to talk about finances in this new context is my next stretch.