Are relationships and money ever easy to reconcile?

Relationships can be challenging without money issues. Bringing finance out into the open can help establish a solid foundation - or show that your caution flags were warranted.

“I met this great guy. He is well-spoken, educated, good looking and athletic. As soon as I met him, we had a connection and sparks were flying. He has a delightful sense of humor, sweet mannerisms and a kind demeanor. As we're getting to know each other, he has been honest, too. Thus came the disclosure that he is in transition, job-wise. Translation: unemployed. The thought of getting involved with an unemployed 50-something-year-old took my breath away a bit at first, but here is an opportunity to find love, and to begin an exciting new relationship. Unemployment is a part of life. I believe that when one door closes another, better one, will open.”

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These were the words of Charlene, a client who consults with me about her financial issues. Recently, she talked about the internal conflict she is facing: while unemployed, Great Guy spends his money in ways she finds reckless, which both bothers and worries her. Great Guy lives in an opulent apartment, belongs to an exclusive golf club and drives a luxury automobile.

Despite being unemployed, Great Guy spends a lot. He frequently goes out to costly meals, live performances, social events and shopping sprees. He is a snob when it comes to chain restaurants (who doesn’t like The Cheesecake Factory?), so dinners out are never on the inexpensive side.

When he does actually buy groceries, Great Guy goes to the ultra chic, expensive supermarkets and purchases top label products. Charlene is the opposite. She spends her money on a tight budget, always looking for ways to have fun and enjoy life inexpensively.

The evidence leads me to believe that Great Guy has likely saved money throughout his working life and is solid enough to weather this unemployment blip. But red flags fly when Charlene discloses that Great Guy questions the economics of spending/investing money to enhance and elevate his employment marketability.

Equally disconcerting, Charlene reveals, are Great Guy’s recent statements that he intends to work into his 70s or beyond.

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Relationships and money can be complex, to say the least.

This is the short version of Charlene and Great Guy’s date last week. They started with lunch. She suggested the local diner. He was opposed and chose a trendy place in town.

When the check arrived, Great Guy pulled for his wallet. However, knowing an expensive day (by his invitation) was ahead, Charlene paid. The check and tip came to $60, maybe twice what the diner would have cost.

At the end of their day in the city, after his money was generously spent on transportation, drinks and show tickets, they went to dinner at a highfalutin restaurant. The entree prices ranged from $28 to $78. Charlene ordered the lowest-priced pasta dish and drank tap water.

To her surprise (and horror), Great Guy ordered several liquor beverages, an appetizer, entree, side vegetable, dessert, and coffee. Not surprisingly, the cost of the dinner was astronomical.

Charlene winced when Great Guy mentioned the tip alone was not much less than the price of the outrageous blue plate specials earlier in the day. On the way home Great Guy asked Charlene if she didn’t drink because she was driving. Charlene said yes.

She told me that she didn’t drink or order more because she simply could not justify spending a penny more on overpriced alcohol and side dishes at that “insanely priced” restaurant.

Charlene should have answered honestly, because she's now grappling about having “The Relationships and Money Discussion” with Great Guy.

This coming Saturday, Great Guy invited Charlene out to yet another expensive dinner. Instead, she invited him to her place where she plans to cook a dinner that will be more economical.

Charlene has only known Great Guy for about a month. So can she justify asking him what his actual financial situation is? Or is that none of her business?

Does Great Guy have $2,000,000 in savings or $200,000 (or $20,000 or $2,000)?

It may be none of her business. But for her peace of mind, she needs to know if he is being responsible, making wise decisions and not wasting a significant portion of his resources living a lifestyle that he can ill afford.

To me it is a question of compatibility and aligned values. Before Charlene invests herself emotionally, she needs to know the answers to her questions about relationships and money- in this relationship, specifically.

Charlene certainly doesn’t want to kick Great Guy when he is down. At the same time, she thinks he may be making big mistakes and unintentionally hurting himself. Charlene is not looking for a sugar daddy. At the same time, she is definitely not looking to be a sugar momma.

It is my personal aspiration and life’s goal to get people right with their money by explaining the freedoms you obtain when you save your money, use it cautiously and watch it grow.

If the choice is spending money on a high-priced dinner that is going straight to the septic tank or spending it to improve your career prospects, would you choose dinner? How can that even be an option?

After much discussion and contemplation over matters related to relationships and money, Charlene has indicated that she is determined to ask her burning questions on Saturday night. So, I guess Charlene’s homemade dinner will be quite telling.

After opening this can of beans, Charlene may be eating her chili solo – or she may be setting the foundation of a solid relationship with Great Guy where money issues, truths and values, are on the table, ready to be analyzed and fully digested.

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When your outgo exceeds your income your upkeep is your downfall. ~Author unknown, c.1945

This article originally appeared on Financial Poise.