‘My Fiancé Refused to Talk Finances—So I Called It Quits’

Ihundred dollar bills and broken heartn our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one woman shares how her boyfriend’s refusal to talk money ultimately ended their engagement—and made her realize that any future relationships would have to be based on total financial transparency.

As so many couples do these days, Jack* and I met online, about six years ago. I was drawn to him partially because of our shared interests—we both loved to travel, staying fit and having fun in New York City—but I also liked that we seemed to be at similar stages in our lives. When we met we were both in our late 30s, had gone through divorces and were raising teens.

It was nice to have someone who could relate to my experiences as a parent and a busy professional. I was, and still am, an attorney; he was a business consultant. Because we both had good careers it didn’t seem like money would ever be an issue for us. Plus, our hectic schedules made it hard to find time for each other, and it’s not like I needed someone to support me—so why spend that time talking money?

Looking back, though, I wish I had, because over the course of our four-year relationship money grew from a nonissue to one that ultimately split us apart.

The Warning Signs

In the beginning of our relationship, we spent money on dates pretty evenly. I’d grab a check here, he’d grab a check there. There was no weirdness or “oh, I forgot my wallet” moments. And when we’d go on weekend getaways to places like Florida or Montauk, New York, we’d each pay our own way.

As our relationship progressed, however, I realized I didn’t know the basics about his money—not even a ballpark of how much he made. What we did talk about was the fact that his divorce had financially drained him and that it might take a while to rebuild his assets. I also realized that things were not all they seemed at his work. He complained about not making enough, disliked his role at the company and felt that his job was ultimately a dead end.

Whenever I would try to bring up questions about anything money-related—his bills, his salary or even whether he was a spender or a saver—he would suddenly get evasive. Yet I saw a disconnect between what little he said about his finances and what he was actually doing with his money. For example, we started eating in more and more because he’d complain about how dining out was draining his wallet. But then days later, he’d show me a new guitar he’d just bought—not to mention that he had a Porsche sitting in his driveway.

About two years into our relationship, we planned a vacation together to Europe. I booked the full amount on my credit card and then told him how much he owed me for his portion. It took about a month for him to pay me back because he never seemed to have the money whenever I brought it up (and he never seemed to broach the topic himself).

At that point, I’d started feeling a tinge of resentment: Why wasn’t he quicker to foot the bill for our quality time together, yet seemingly perfectly content to spend on clothes and home renovations?

I was even more irked when he started spending four to five nights a week at my house but gave me push-back when I suggested he contribute something to the household bills. His response was, “But you don’t need the money.” It’s true, I didn’t—to me, it was more about fairness. I wanted him to consider my home his home but that included pitching in to cover the costs of living there. Clearly, he felt differently.

Despite these incidents, I always gave him the benefit of the doubt. I chalked them up to him still piecing his finances together post-divorce. Or, I figured, maybe I just wasn’t aware of how large his expenses were. Plus, the one thing I did figure out was that I made more than him, so I never pushed these issues further—until we got engaged three years into our relationship.

RELATED: How My Divorce Set Me Financially Free

  • Claudia

    Excellent article. Congratulations for being such a smart person.

  • kay

    Wow, you likely dodged a bullet, good job! I am divorced and I can tell you that at least for me, it was due to his financial infidelity. I did know what our expenses were and where we had retirement funds etc. but, I could not control his impulse spending, gambling or raiding of said retirement accounts. I had to stop the bleeding and I did. Too bad I didn’t figure this out before marriage, three kids and 25 years.

  • ana

    You did the right thing. Don’t ever doubt your decision. I’m 6 months into a good relationship and I know I need to start figuring this stuff out and discussing it with him in the coming months. Honestly it sounds like your guy was looking for a mommy figure to take care of him. You dodged a bullet for sure.

  • Nancy

    I also had the same experience. My ex (we were married) didn’t tell me anything. Until we tried to buy a house. Then I found out that he claimed bankruptcy in the past. So after about 6 months cleaning his credit we were finally able to get house. We did end up divorcing. (Long story). He did remarry and I found out later he was up to 150,000 CC debt. I never did let him have a free rein with the CC. But his new one did. I guess in the long run it would have happened to me if I turned my back. Now it is one of the dating topics I bring if I am dating some guy for the long haul.

    • kay

      Ha! So true, as I said, for me the divorce was due to his financial infidelity – for him, it may well have been because I wanted him to be responsible and did all I could to ensure our financial well-being. He has a new wife too and I guarantee she has no input in regard to financial decisions.

  • Christine Tarlecki

    this is huge! great article!!

  • Kate Finn

    I empathize, although my situation went differently. If I suggested to my ex we do something that mattered to me, but not to him, then he’d always protest first as to why he didn’t want to do it. Then if that didn’t work, it would suddenly be about the money. To some degree, I understood his argument that he needed to watch his money and also his argument that he “wouldn’t get enough enjoyment out of paying $___ in order to justify him going.” But eventually it just felt like it was a cop-out to get out of anything that he didn’t wanna do. For example, seeing his family because they were close, but not mine. Or saying no to me because of money, and then next week wanting to do something that costs just as much (and sometimes more).

    Also, for a smart guy, he also wouldn’t come to terms that we couldn’t afford to live in a really expensive city (without giving up something else). I was advocating we live somewhere cheaper, so that things wouldn’t be so tight, but he didn’t “want” to move away and shut me down on every location I suggested. He ended up getting engaged to someone else a year after we broke up and admitted to me then that he and his fiance couldn’t afford the house they wanted. At that time, we were still trying to be friends, but I eventually realized that I had lost respect for him (even though in many other ways he was a decent guy).