The Financial Side of Dating

Dating presents an opportunity to get to know another person more intimately to determine whether he or she could someday become a life partner. Until you have made that decision, dating allows you to get to know the other person more deeply to learn whether or not you are compatible on many levels. That includes financial compatibility.

While some people are reluctant to discuss essential things like money, money management, and financial goals while dating, it is more critical than many couples, in the early stages of a relationship. First things first, it is time to address the elephant in the room when it comes to dating — financial etiquette.

Financial Etiquette for Dates

In the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and even to a lesser degree, the 1980s the guy was expected to pay when couples went on dates. That was the expectation because so few women had jobs and careers. Moreover, women who worked often earned considerably lower wages than the men they were dating.

The times have changed. More women are pursuing professional careers, and many have earnings that outpace the men they are dating. The new rules of financial etiquette for dating are somewhat different too.

In a March 2018 CNBC article on dating etiquette, Emily Post of the "The Emily Post Institute" is quoted: “We believe it is the person who does the asking who should do the paying,” says Post. “Or at least who should be prepared to offer to pay.” They should also be open to the idea of splitting the cost of the date, “if the person asked on the date offers that up as an option.”

With that said, the general expectation is still that the man is to pay — at least for the first date.

The real problem is that expectations and wishes differ from person to person and couple to couple. Some people even prefer to split the bill on that critical first date or opt for a less expensive coffee or drinks rather than going out for dinner and to a movie type that tends to be more costly. That leaves opportunities for discussion about future dates and who will pay and also allows both parties to determine if they even want to consider additional outings with the other person.

The first and second dates are not generally the problem. It is the later dates when you begin to explore the possibility of a long-term relationship with a person when more in-depth conversations about money and money management need to take place.

Starting the Conversation About Money

Money: It can be one of those uncomfortable topics to discuss when dating. Unfortunately, dating someone who is your financial opposite could lead to long-term relationship hardships and a non-happy ending for both of you when all is said and done. The more serious the relationship becomes the more difficult it becomes to extricate yourself, and the more painful.

Determining early on whether you are financially compatible can help you decide if this is the person for you. While it’s just a date today, it could quickly turn into something deeper and romantic for both of you. Understanding a potential partner’s experiences with money, ideas on spending money, and financial goals can go a long way toward deciding if this might be “the one” for you.

Start with a simple question about debt. It might not be a comfortable conversation, but it can help you gauge the approach of the other person. For instance, student loan debt is a good segue into a much broader discussion about debt, managing debt, and paying an outstanding balance off as quickly as possible. You can even start the conversation with a statement about your student loan debt and how you are managing before asking your date about his or her experiences and opinions.

Dealing with Financial Issues

The best way to deal with financial issues is with open and honest communication. At some point, you must sit down together and have the financial reveal where you discuss your financial situations, income, expenses, and approach to managing debt, saving, and spending. When you get to the stage of combining finances, if it ever comes to that, you need to have clear expectations and understandings going into the relationship to save you both from severe emotional and financial pain.

No rule says you have to have your finances entirely under control before beginning a relationship. Many people are just starting to learn their financial tendencies while dating. It is essential to find some common ground upon which you can build long-term financial goals together if you wish to continue in your relationship.