Money will inevitably come up in any romantic relationship, and communication is your most powerful weapon against any problems it may cause, says Lindsey Metselaar, a millennial dating expert and host of the dating podcast "We Met at Acme."
Here are four tips Metselaar tells Grow can help you keep money from interfering in your relationship.
"Don't be afraid to say where you stand on financial issues," says Metselaar. "Make it a conversation, take away the awkwardness." If you handle financial discussions the right way, it can actually bring you and your long-term partner closer together.
One way to approach the delicate subject of income, for example, is to look for an opening after a few months of dating: "If you work in corporate [America], you usually get a bonus.…That's your partner's opportunity to say, 'That's so amazing, so what are you making now?' That opens the dialog and it doesn't seem like you're hungry to know that number, but you are genuinely curious because you care about that person," Metselaar says.
Besides salary, it's important as your relationship progresses to discuss your money philosophy, financial goals, and the state of your finances. If you and your partner are on different pages, that's OK, says Metselaar, as long as you're open to compromise.
Discussing finances in gory detail in the early stages of a relationship is an easy way to kill the mood fast, says Metselaar. Money is a crucial topic of conversation, but timing is everything: Metselaar suggests waiting to have substantive conversations about your finances until your relationship is "exclusive."
On Metselaar's podcast, a guest recently told a story about how, on a first date, a man invited her out for drinks and immediately divulged he didn't have enough money to order because he had just paid his bills.
The main issue is "not that it's not sexy that he can't afford to pay," Metselaar explains. "It's just the whole way he went about that. There are just so many things you can do on a budget on a date" without potentially turning someone off by seeming tactless.
Using money as a means for control in a relationship is toxic behavior, Metselaar says. When one person in a romantic relationship controls the purse strings, it can make the other feel beholden, and that's ultimately disempowering.
For example, if after insisting on paying for the majority of purchases, your partner says something like, "I pay for everything, you better not break up with me," that's a recipe for disaster, says Metselaar. "I've seen it backfire probably 90% of the time."
Make sure you're both contributing, even if it's not the same amount or in the same way. "No matter how much someone insists on treating you, you have to do something in return, because it's 2019, you don't want to feel helpless in your relationship," Metselaar says. If you're cohabitating and can only afford to pay one-third of the rent, you can still take responsibility for buying groceries or household supplies.
In a long-term partnership, Metselaar says it's best to split at least some costs, if you can: "It shows you're both putting 50/50 into the relationship."
Maintaining financial independence is also crucial, says Metselaar: "Your money is your money, so however you want to spend it is totally fine, as long as it doesn't negatively affect your relationship."
Being overly frugal is another way to cause tension in your relationship. If you're thinking of Venmo requesting your partner for anything under $10, consider whether such a trivial amount is really worth asking for, Metselaar says.
"Did it mean that much to you, $7.50, really? I don't understand why you think that's necessary. I would just take care of that," she says. "It's a beer."
Before splitting costs becomes a recurring argument or, worse, a grudge, Metselaar suggests establishing how you're going to deal with tabs. In her relationship, for example, Metselaar says she and her partner had a candid conversation about handling the check: "Are we going to be the couple that splits? Or switch off every time? We've established we want to switch off. And so the other night, we were at the movies. He got the tickets, I got the food, and that's how I'd like for it to be."
Metselaar believes you can avoid a lot of tension, miscommunications, and inequality by keeping lines of communication open with your partner. While they can seem tricky, especially at first, these conversations are worth the effort: "It would be a shame if money got in the way of your relationship."
More from Grow: