Before I got married, I spent nearly half of my life dating. Yes, half! In the sixteen years that I dated and dated and… dated, I learned a lot about the role that money plays in relationships.
Even though money is that one thing that no one likes to talk about in a relationship, I can tell you that as a married woman, money plays an extremely significant role in how smoothly your marriage progresses and how intimate you and your spouse grow together.
And if anyone tells you different, they are probably in denial about their own finances and their family’s finances. That is just real talk.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month, here are three things that I advise any woman about love and money before they decide to marry.
A man is not a financial plan. If you were raised looking for Prince Charming to swoop in and take care of you, then you are setting yourself up for a lot of financial frustration and failure. The cost of living in the United States, especially in cities like New York City, Washington DC, or Massachusetts, are going to require the contribution of two salaries in order to have a basic quality of living.
That is, if you are expecting to stay at home and have the big house and have a closet full of clothes and have dinners out every week and international travel on a regular basis and be able to provide for your children’s needs (assuming that you want children) on one income without expecting deep levels of debt, you are living in a fantasy world.
When thinking about love and money, be in a position to contribute to the family income in some way, whether that means working part-time, working full-time, or if you decide to be a stay-at-home spouse—managing your expectations about how far one income can go with modern costs of living.
Be wary of men that don’t believe in budgets. If you are dating with the purpose of marriage, then you have to date differently than women that date for dating-sake.
Here is what I mean.
I know that some women love to be wined and dined. They love to be lavished with expensive gifts, exotic trips, and all types of over-the-top overtures of love.
But be careful. Many times men that try to impress you cannot afford it and have difficulty saying “no”. It can also imply that if he is treating you lavishly, he is contributing to his financial downfall by how much he spends on himself.
While these qualities of fun and living-in-the-moment can be exciting for a futureless relationship, but as a spouse, this man’s relationship with money will make you both broke.
If you are dating for marriage, make sure your man believes in budgets and embrace his ability to tell you, “No, baby, I can’t afford that trip right now.” A man with financial limits and boundaries is the type of man that will be a financially responsible and future-thinking husband and father.
Understand that marriage is part romance and part finance. There is a huge difference between a wedding and a marriage. A wedding is a one-day commitment. Marriage, on the other hand, is a lifetime investment of day-to-day commitments and year-to-year financial decisions.
So, when you think about long-term journeys like marriage, you have to think about how you both will support yourselves on a monthly basis with a budget and how will you support yourselves in your twilight years during retirement.
In between the short-term and long-term plans, you will have to decide what kind of life you want to have. Be ready to think about how will you use your values to guide your spending on the purchase of home, how much travel you do, how many children you have, how many years you work, how often you will buy/lease cars, and what memories you want to create for you and your spouse.
If you are looking to be a wife (and a happy and stress-free one at that), make sure you are thinking about love and money before you say “I do.” It will save you a lot of time, emotional energy, and money.