This post is the fifth in a series of guest posts that focus on getting the most from your money life when it intersects with your love life.
I had a boyfriend once who was angry with me because he wasn’t the first man I had sexual relations with. And through the course of a 5 year on-and-off again relationship, the topic came up several times. Each time felt a little more soul crushing, because my sexual past was something I had no power to change.
Since I had a mother who would always financially bail me out, until she passed away, I also found it easy to commit money mistake after money mistake. So although smart, driven, and adventurous, I was a phenomenally hot mess in 2 very important areas of my life for a long, long time: love and money.
In fact, I spent an insane amount of time being apologetic for these two things in my relationships. And in fact, I spent years having crappy relationship after crappy relationship. Coincidence? Hardly.
Fast forward to 2014, and you’ll find me working with single professional women, teaching them to be unapologetically romantic and how to draw incredible men into their lives. I do this because I developed a magical method to work out the love portion of my hot mess. Yet, while being good at the love portion obviously didn’t make me a money genius, I did find out through my incredible dating experiences what I needed to know for the next step. In 2006, I met my current beau, arriving to this relationship with financial instability and a multitude of financial missteps in tow. I learned firsthand what it takes to approach a new relationship with confidence when you have made money mistakes – or any mistakes for that matter.
(Side note: if you are currently single with money mistakes, I actually recommend you tend to getting your financial life in order first, so you have some mental space to follow your romantic whims. Unfortunately, all too often I see women who can’t relax and have a great time dating because they are worried about finances. That can really mess with your mojo, plus it can make it easier for you to attract someone who is also messy with money.)
So what does it take Jenn?
3 steps really. Conceptually it is easy-peasy. Putting it in action might take some courage, but is oh-so worth the results.
1. Make a huge stride towards righting your money wrongs first.
This first step will make the rest of this approach more emotionally manageable for you. It will definitely boost your courage with this topic, help you get a clear picture of where you stand, and see exactly what steps to take next. Plus, it frees up mental room to pursue your romantic whims with your significant other.
Part of this will be a financial conversation. You should practice this financial conversation with a financial professional first and get a game plan. (I’m thinking Mindy. Wink, Wink.) Mindy will be a safe place for you to air out your dirty financial laundry. She will show you how to rectify your financial woes and be an excellent accountability partner. Plus, if you truly want a financially stable and prospering relationship, you have to start with yourself.
2. It’s a financial conversation, not confession.
So I said there will be a financial conversation, and I wasn’t joking. Again, going back to that financially stable and prospering relationship, this conversation will kickstart and nurture mutual trust. But before we get to the conversation, I’d like to talk a little bit about timing.
In-depth financial conversations don’t have to happen until you are both considering a life together.
I know, I know… complete blasphemy right? Here’s the thing, this scenario is all too common:
A. Woman meets Man
B. Woman and Man are super smitten and spend lots of time together
C. Woman and man start casually dropping hints about a future together (No concrete plans yet).
D. Woman (or man, but mostly woman) freaks out about the other disappearing if he/she knows the truth. So she/he discloses her/his entire past leaving out very little so that he/she knows exactly what they are getting into.
Actually Jenn, that sounds reasonable.
Yes, it does on computer screen, but in real life it’s a byproduct of fear. It is riddled with desperation, and almost never comes from a place of love. It’s a great way to ambush and overwhelm your partner with your insecurities and push them away. It’s not truly a financial conversation; it’s more of you in confession begging for forgiveness with your partner.
Try my method instead:
- Feel free to wait to have your financial conversation until you discuss making concrete future plans together where finances are going to be shared. During this time, keep working on getting your financial life in order and feeling good about your financial progress.
- As the first conversation comes up about concrete shared financial plans–like moving in together or “Will you marry me?”–now is the time to introduce the financial conversation. (Not necessarily in that precise moment of course, but over the next week or so.)
- In order to ask for the financial conversation, take and tweak the following.
Hey (insert a fun or playful nickname, I personally like using Mr. Lastname),
I just want you to know that I am really excited/happy about (insert activity) with you.
(Let them respond)
One of the things that is super important to me is financial clarity. Would you be willing to have a wine date to chat about shared finances, so we both can have a better understanding of where each of us is coming from?
When he/she says Yes…
Awesome. Can you do (insert 2 of your available days) at my place?
Be sure to schedule the date, instead of leaving it to sometime in the future.
- Finally, on your date, keep the focus of your financial conversation on the information that is important to your relationship and financial future together.
If a piece of information has no true relevance or effect on this relationship, or is not who you are anymore with money, you don’t have to talk about it now. It is okay to wait or never bring it up. (Of course, barring any major crimes committed.)
You can disclose where you are at financially, you can disclose debt you are paying on, you can mention mistakes you’ve made and learned from in the past…
3. Being overly apologetic for who you have been in the past is a huge turn off.
Everyone makes mistakes. That is life. It’s part of who we are. It’s how we grow. My mistakes with relationships and men have made me an incredible asset to single women around the world. My financial mistakes have given me a deep appreciation for money. Your mistakes have gifts for you as well.
We teach our partners how to treat us, just like I taught my ex it was acceptable to make me feel bad for my sexual past. I did this by being overly apologetic instead of letting him know I wasn’t okay with his remarks and if he continued to speak about it we would have to separate.
It is true in some cases, your partner might initially have concerns about what you disclose in your financial conversation.
It is true that they may pull away saying they need some time to think about what you have said.
Give them that space. Honor them by telling them: I get it, you need some time to think. Let me know if you have any questions. And just know that I really care about you and can’t think of anything more exciting than marrying you (moving in with you, etc.).
Most of the time they don’t pull away, and in fact are very loving about where you are at financially (as happened with my current beau). But I want you to know it’s more important for you to give a person the space to process than it is for you to try and prove your worthiness by being overly apologetic. And if they do walk away permanently, it means they aren’t capable of being a true committed partner to you at this time.
It’s okay for you to be okay with your financial past even though you choose not to repeat it.
In fact the more okay you become, the easier it is to approach a new relationship with confidence.
Jenn Burton is a Romantic Fairy Godmother at HaveHimYourWay.com She helps Strong Single Successful Women remove the stumbling blocks that are keeping them from adventurous romance, and shows women how to draw in stable, fun, witty, loving men that she will be insanely attracted to. Magic included, no evil step sisters required.
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