In 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.