If you’re fresh off your divorce, the last thing you want to think about is trusting someone again, especially in the area of money. You need time to heal, and it’s usually not smart to jump into a new relationship without dealing with the issues of your past. However, there likely will come a time when you are ready for a new relationship, and for it to be successful, trusting again after divorce is necessary.
Trusting Again After Divorce
Please don’t wait until you’re engaged or moving in together to start having money conversations with your new significant other. But you probably shouldn’t divulge too much information about your finances in the early stages of the relationship either. (Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who pretend to be romantically interested in your, but they’re really just loving the thought of you giving them your money!) So, let’s talk about what we should be talking about at each stage of the relationship.
When you first start dating someone, just observe how he talks about and handles money. Does he allude to the fact that he has a ton of bills, credit card debt, or big student loan payments? Does he always insist on paying for dates, or insist on you paying? Or is he “even-steven” when it comes to going out? Does he admire financially successful individuals or refer to them as “greedy rich people”? These observations will give you clues as to how he thinks about and handles money.
When you begin to get more serious with your honey, that’s the time to start having more in-depth conversations as money topics come up. One of the best financial conversation starters is this question: “How did your parents handle money when you were growing up?” And this follow-up: “Do you agree with their approach?” This will give you insight into your partner’s money story and might uncover differences you need to discuss in depth.
Once you are officially engaged, I highly recommend you take a personal finance class together. Some churches have a financial component to their required premarital program. At the very least, read or listen to a book on money management together. I’ve had countless couples tell me that reading Money Is Emotional together spurred in-depth conversations that improved both their relationship and their finances. It might also be helpful to have a few sessions with a financial coach to help you navigate the combining of your finances. This is especially true if there are stepchildren involved or one of you is coming into the relationship with a disproportionate amount of either debt or assets.
This is also the time to get “financially naked” with your significant other. But please do not give anyone access to your credit cards or checking accounts until you are legally married. I made that mistake with my ex-fiancé Jeff, and I ended up being responsible for all the debt he helped me accumulate. You should both disclose all of your assets, debts, and credit history. The goal is not to shame or judge each other. When you “become one” in marriage, that means financially as well! You’re improving your relationship with money, and you want to make sure that your partner is going to be on board.
“Financial transparency is incredibly important in a marriage. Typically, one spouse is in control of the finances. Educating and familiarizing oneself will go a long way for your relationship as a whole, and will give you more confidence and certainty,” says divorce attorney Bryan Goldstein.
There should not be any hidden purchases, debt, or savings accounts going into marriage. Talk about how you are going to handle the day-to-day financial transactions in your house. Who is going to be responsible for making bill payments, buying groceries, purchasing items for the house? Is all of your money going to be in one joint account, or will you keep some spending money separate?
Remember, just because your significant other does something different from you with their money, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. You might project your ex’s mistakes onto your significant other. If your ex was controlling with money, you might see any attempt to have a discussion about your spending habits as an attack on your newfound financial freedom. If either of you experienced financial drama in your past relationship, I highly recommend working with a financial counselor to navigate those issues before you walk down the aisle.
Trusting again after divorce is a process. If you have these conversations prior to getting married and work out the differences, you’ll be much more likely to have a strong, loving marriage that lasts. However, you may discover there are deal breaker issues. Isn’t it better you find this out now rather than after the wedding?
(This post is a sneak peek into my newest book, Financial Dignity® After Divorce: A Woman’s Guide to Healing Her Relationship with Money, publishing on April 4th. Click HERE to download the first 3 chapters!