Photo: Marc Royce
Q: I've been dating a divorcé for close to a year. He earns a good living and spends a lot of money on himself. Since we started seeing each other, he's purchased three used cars, a plasma TV, a new computer, and more clothes than his closets can hold. He's very loving and affectionate, but sometimes I feel slighted—while he spares no expense on himself, he's modest when it comes to spending on me. I'm a mother of two; money is tight, and I often have trouble meeting the monthly bills. It's frustrating to watch my boyfriend living so extravagantly. He says he wishes he could help me, but then he buys some ridiculously expensive item he doesn't need. His behavior is starting to cause a rift between us, and I don't know how to discuss it without sounding like a gold digger. Am I wrong to feel this way?
A: A rift is starting to form? From what you tell me, the Grand Canyon should have formed by now. But before we pass judgment on your boyfriend, it's important to try to figure out why he's acting this way. Maybe he was taken advantage of financially in his last relationship and has no desire to support someone else, or perhaps he's still trying to heal his broken heart by overspending on things that he hopes will fix it. I'd be willing to bet that the reason he's divorced has a lot to do with the spending habits you describe.
Whatever the cause, it concerns me that you haven't managed to address this issue yet. I know money can be a tricky topic, but it's also too serious a factor in our lives to run from. So I want you to gather yourself up and ask him to talk this through with you. Make it clear you aren't looking for him to “save” you, but you need to better understand exactly how he feels when he showers himself with toys while watching you struggle to meet your basic needs. Does he realize what's going on? Does he care?
You can also use this conversation as a starting point for becoming more financially intimate. If your boyfriend is open to it, then this is the right time for you both to divulge your assets, debts, FICO scores, and goals for the future. This heart-to-heart will give you an indication as to whether you really have a caring, responsible partner you might want to spend the rest of your life with. But if you find out that the two of you aren't the perfect picture of financial health, you might want to head out and strike gold on your own.
From the November 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine