Money, Too, Can Ruin Your Relationship — Especially If You Don’t Have Any


Today in the plight of the single lady: The New York Times takes on a topic that most early daters conspicuously avoid — money. Yep, turns out that having debt, most especially, a whole lot of debt, can ruin your relationship. (And we thought breakups were all about commitment phobias and not putting down the toilet seat!).

Poor Allison Eastman faced this very problem when her fiancé found out what she owed in student loans and broke up with her in a cursory three days. (She’d told him early on, she said, that she had more than $100K in debt, but she didn’t even really know, as she was focused on dealing with just the minimum. Been there!) So when it turned out the real amount was $170,000, the proverbial shit hit the not-even-paid-for fan.

Money, sex, children: The big questions in any relationship. And yet, we often avoid talking about money because it’s “rude” — most people don’t want to feel like they’re the target of a gold-digger, or bottom-lining anyone else — or because we really are embarrassed or in denial about our finances, but don’t necessarily see them as part of our relationship.

There’s a thing about single New York women, including New York City women who have ever been single. Not all, but many of us, are in debt in some way, shape, or form. Recently this very blogger was at a dinner with a group of successful, working women who each carried credit card debt in the 5 figures. (Don’t tell our parents.) In a city where “having something cute to go out in” and going out a lot is pretty vital to the single lady lifestyle, the money gets spent. Maybe it’s that New York attracts people who incessantly are on the quest to do more/see more/be more, and that those people use credit cards. Maybe it’s that New York is freakin’ expensive. Or maybe we just lack self-control.

The Times article brings up some interesting questions:

When, exactly, are you supposed to reveal a debt of this size during the courtship? Earlier than you’d disclose, say, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis or that you have the gene for Huntington’s disease?

At what point do you have a moral obligation to disclose your indebtedness during courtship? On the eighth date? When you get to third base? In your eHarmony online dating profile?

And, if you do disclose: Is the relationship automatically unequal? Also, what about the reverse of this, in which the guy carries the most debt?

Yet how many relationships are “equal” anyway? The financial planner/couples counselor in the piece finds “About half the people she sees are both bringing significant debt to the relationship, and about a quarter of the others have one person who has a pile of student loans.” Which complicates other things you do as couples, like buying houses, having kids, and sharing bank accounts.

Beyond financial inequalities there are endless other things which can — will — be imbalanced. Who’s the neat freak? Who is the better cook? Who ends up having to take care of the other, and who is the boss? We’d always heard that the goal was to make sure the “overall balance,” if such a thing exists, was there, mostly, and not worry about each little checkpoint. Because that could drive a person crazy, crazy being, apparently, not good for coupledom.

Adding to the disturbing, in a reverse twist: Remember the study that said that women who made more money than their significant others were more likely to be cheated on? Ugh, way to make relationships unsexy, money.