My tendency to
gave him pause.
For Women & Co. by Lisa Coleman, NA Consumer Digital Marketing, Citi - 04/22/2013
When my fiancé, Dave, and I moved in together a few years ago, we made a promise to always be honest with one another—especially when it came to money. We already knew that we had different financial strategies: he was a saver and I was a spender. But neither of us knew how hard it would be for me to keep that promise.
I grew up in a family that struggled financially. We always had enough to survive, but it was never easy. I spent my college years working as hard as I could to support myself. In young adulthood, I did my best to enjoy my self-sufficiency while simultaneously fearing that it was all going to fall apart around me. Deep down, I knew that I had some issues around money. But it never came to the surface until I actually had to discuss it with someone else.
Knowing that he was a saver, I found myself downplaying my spending to Dave. I never gave him clear numbers on just how much credit card or student loan debt I had. It wasn’t astronomical and I was doing well financially. But I felt defensive every time he asked. When he offered advice on how to pay down debts faster or save more, I reacted terribly. I accused him of being condescending; I told him I didn’t need his help; I shut down the conversation as quickly as possible, but never before shedding some tears. Luckily, we didn’t have any true shared financial responsibilities and we were both in great shape financially. Our bills were getting paid and our savings accounts were growing. This meant that my behavior didn’t impact our relationship too negatively—until about six months ago, when we started to discuss buying a home together.
My tendency to
gave him pause.
After three years of renting, we wanted to make a change. With a strong buyer’s market in play and plenty of savings, we knew there was nothing stopping us from buying a house; nothing but Dave’s hesitance to enter into such a large financial commitment with me. My tendency to withhold information gave him pause. He didn’t understand how I spent my money or know exactly how much debt or savings I had. His nervousness caused our already difficult money conversations to become even more tense.
As we tried to work through these issues, I decided to pull my full credit report. Once we were ready to move forward, I wanted to be sure there were no red flags or mistakes to be found. Sifting through the 12 pages that outlined my entire financial history, I realized that this document was an opportunity for me to finally come clean. With everything down on paper, I wouldn’t have to tell him anything—he could see it all for himself. I walked him through every line of my credit history. I even showed him the spreadsheet I use to document my regular monthly bills, track my spending, and project my next few months’ finances.
The conversation was a bit of a mixed bag. My student loan balances distressed him; he knew I paid them monthly, but didn’t realize the balances were so high. He was impressed by my high credit score and the amount I had been putting into savings. He was happy to see I’d taken his advice and paid off my car entirely, two years earlier than expected. And while he may think I put too much aside for “fun” purchases, he was relieved to finally understand where my money was going.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get defensive or emotional during that conversation. It wasn’t easy for me. But in the end, it came with an incredible sense of freedom. I had fulfilled my promise to be honest with him and despite some differences in how we manage money, he wasn’t running for the hills.
As we continue to look for our first home, we still have the occasional disagreement. We don’t always see eye to eye on how much house we can afford or how much extra we’ll put towards our mortgage payment each month. But now that everything is out on the table, I find these conversations to be easier and far less emotional. It is often said that money is the number one cause of fights among couples and that certainly holds true for our relationship. But after that first completely open and honest conversation, I learned that the more you share with your partner—especially around your finances—the closer and easier your relationship can be.