So you’ve found The One. The person who makes you feel weightless and grounded at the same time. You laugh, you cry, you finish each other’s sentences… until that dreaded issue brings you crashing down from cloud nine: who’s paying for dinner.
In this modern world of supposed equality, the answer is seemingly simple: you split the bill.
It isn’t that simple.
There are cans upon cans of worms that get opened from the moment the first check arrives at your hitherto romantic table. No amount of of dim, atmospheric candlelight is going to hide the awkwardness that will just keep coming if you and your partner do not address money issues from the beginning.
Broaching such topics with your partner can be treacherous. If you have made it through the little coffee, dinner, theatre, and even hotel expenses without much drama over who pays and are still going strong, it becomes time to make major financial decisions together. This is where many otherwise happy couples hit a wall.
Differences in economic background or practices can create tension, and must be faced head-on. Possibly you’re a financially independent woman, but your fiancé’s family comes from Old Money. Or your girlfriend owns a small, whimsical bike shop with the sloppiest books you’ve ever seen, and you feel you can’t invest in her business unless she relinquishes some financial control: a fiery battle of wills ensues.
Most likely the situation is not so cinematic, but discrepancies between a couples’ spending habits—no matter how small—can cause serious fights down the road, and often cause a premature parting of ways. A couple’s decision to move in together, for example, raises a number of practical and romantic questions that, when mixed, create an emotional time bomb. Is one partner more invested in the relationship? Does one of them make significantly less money? Even worse, are those two things true of the same person? These are all issues we can have trouble coming to terms with in our own heads, much less discussing them out loud and rationally.
In Toronto, many young women find living alone prohibitively expensive. Co-habitating with a partner often means more space, in a better area, closer to hot districts like the Annex or the Junction. But beware, ladies: moving in with your man or lady means your finances will become unavoidably intertwined. Groceries, WiFi, heat, that new bath mat, are all suddenly joint purchases. Failing to consult with your partner on your household budget (something many of us don’t have in the first place, tsk tsk) will bring whole new levels to your lovers’ spats.
Your finances, and how you divide and conquer them with your partner, will always be very different from couple to couple. The main necessity is that you agree with your partner on how to move forward. Big steps are coming, it’s a easy to trip. So, what to do? Talk about money from that first check-splitting conversation. Get to know your partner’s money spending and saving style. Discuss mutual goals. And… keep a savings account in your own name, even if you’re getting married. It might seem cold when you’re so in love with your partner, but no matter how wonderful he or she is, they can make mistakes. He may be gorgeous, but he’s not infallible. She may be the most kindhearted person on earth, but she might fuck up her taxes.
No couple ever wants to discuss the possibility of splitting up one day, but it is vital to the sanity of both parties that they feel in control of their finances, and understand them sufficiently to go it alone.This begins with a conversation. It might be a heavy one. We recommend having it over His’n’Hers burritos at Disgraceland.