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Monday, April 2, 2012

Question 8

Dear Dr. T
    I loved the advice in your book and it has helped me examine my life and my life with my boyfriend. We have been living together for a little under 2 years now but we don't talk that much about money. He racked up a bit of debt to his family members in a short period of unemployment and now has a well paying job, but is still struggling to pay his family members back. How can I approach him in conversation about being better at managing his money and controlling spending habits? I don't want to come off as a nagging girlfriend, but I know if we are going to be together in the long run, we need to have more open discussion about money and I'm just not sure how to engage in said conversation.


Concerned Girlfriend

Dear Concerned Girlfriend,
    Money is still a taboo subject in this country, so you and your boyfriend are typical in that you don't talk much about money. Many people think talking about it is unromantic and get married without having had a serious discussion about it. The result can be a nasty surprise later on. You don't have to be a nagging girlfriend to want to understand your own and your boyfriend's way of relating to money, so that you can both think about whether what you want out of your future relationship will fit with your money styles, your hopes and expectations. The conversation about money should occur when you are ready to talk about the future of your relationship. You are thinking about whether you should stay together for the long run, so this is probably a good time to open up this area of discussion. Your question implies that it is not just the temporary debt your boyfriend accumulated while unemployed but something about the way he manages money and his spending habits which makes you worried about the long term. First, without mentioning money, you should tell him that you are thinking about what kind of future the two of you might have together and ask what he thinks. I would stop there – not yet mentioning money- and let him say what he is thinking about the future. If he does say he wants to make a life together with you, you could then say that you want that too, but you do have some concerns when it come to how he handles money. Don't criticize but use "I" messages such as "It worries me that if you can't pay off your debts now, we could end up in debt later on."
Dr. T.

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