My Boyfriend and I Handle Money Differently

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My boyfriend has said that I’m stingy a couple of times now and I just wanted a second opinion because I disagree. I’ve been with him for a year and it seems we have different approaches to handling money which is beginning to irritate me. He earns about 800 pounds more than me a month but is going through a divorce and has to pay child maintenance for his daughter, which I know is expensive. Classic scenario I know, but in the beginning he took me on lavish dates, payed for everything, almost to the point I thought he was absolutely loaded (I’m not at all influenced by how much money someone has, but it was a welcome surprise nonetheless). Over time this proved not to be the case and I was happy to go Dutch with him up to a point – sometimes I’d have to say, look I really can’t afford to pay even half for this so can we do something else tonight? Sad but true – I work in a low-pad creative arts job, say no more. For many months now he’s asked to borrow money from me at the end of the month. It sounds awful, but I’ve felt really reluctant to do this as I am so broke myself. I’m very careful with money as I’ve never had much but he’s said I’m stingy a few times now, and it really bothers me. Sometimes it’s a real mission to get the money back too and I have to ask many times, which again makes me feel like a tight-wad. When he has money he’s very generous towards me, but when he has none he just expects me to lend it when I’m heavily in overdraft myself. How can we find a way around this? I love him and don’t want it to get into a huge issue. He just doesn’t understand -or believe, that I have no money! (By the way, he has bipolar disorder, which I think partly explains his impulsiveness with his own money).

A: Money is emotional currency in a relationship and is often a concrete representation of the dynamics. The bipolar issue and the extravagance is, indeed, likely to be linked — so your setting limits is not only conscientious, it is necessary. It sounds like the two of you could profit from having a financial counselor or a couples therapist work with you on a realistic budget. This will keep the two of you from careening into overdraft when the end of the month comes around.

If you have the name of a couples therapist that you know has experience and capability with money then I would use that person. Some therapists are excellent with emotional issues and not good with financial ones. Be sure to find one who knows his or her way around budgets and finance. Otherwise a competent financial counselor can set the parameters for you and this can help keep you both on track and keep this issue from growing arms and legs.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Nov 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). My Boyfriend and I Handle Money Differently. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/11/30/my-boyfriend-and-i-handle-money-differently/