Money was the reason my boyfriend and I were no longer giving each other goodnight kisses, Netflix and chill became nonexistent, and late night White Castle runs were few and far between. We thought sharing our cash was a good thing for our relationship, but it wasn’t until we started keeping our finances separate that things improved between us.
It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, our joint finances were fluid. Money was spent when needed and shared equally on both ends. Budgets weren’t enforced and a joint bank account was opened. The advice we received encouraged taking this step in order to ensure we were on the right path to a long-lasting relationship. My boyfriend and I equated financial openness to trust, and that was the worst decision we ever made.
We realized money led to our biggest arguments. We fought over who was spending what, whether a purchase was really necessary, and why we needed $6 lattes in the morning. The arguments were explosive and had us questioning if we even wanted to be in a relationship anymore. I never would’ve thought the topic of money could be so detrimental in a relationship, but it was threatening to tear us apart.
My frequent withdrawals were the first major red flag. It took quite some time for me to find work after college, and although we were initially allowed to dip into funds whenever we needed, it was me who always did—a quick mall visit here, cafe brunch there, and a Target haul to top it all off. Although none of the spendings were excessive, they weren’t exactly crucial purchases either. This put a huge amount of strain on the situation since I was constantly taking out cash without ever being able to put any back in.
We stopped taking unsolicited advice. There was an insane amount of tension around anything that had to do with our money matters. Outside sources (our parents and friends) butted in to try and mediate the choices we were making with our finances, but that didn’t help at all. It made us feel like we weren’t a team and couldn’t handle our issues. Once we pushed everyone out, we noticed an immediate shift in the way things were handled.
We ultimately decided to open separate accounts. This was a game-changer, not only because we’re both able to spend freely without scrutinizing one another now, but there’s no worry on my end about whether or not my boyfriend might get upset about a purchase or question my thought process before buying those new shoes. Once we finally made the decision to keep our money separate, I finally felt like our relationship was headed in the right direction.
We’ve been able to grow our savings independently. Our spending styles are extremely different, but we never considered that when we decided to combine our finances. These days, I’m definitely more relaxed when it comes to money than he is. I have no issue sipping wine and online shopping on a Friday night while he’s OK with ramen three nights a week if it means putting more in savings. We both agreed to put at least the minimum of a specified amount in our savings account each time we got paid. Despite our different approaches to money, both of our separate accounts still manage to thrive.
Everything is split down the middle. Paying our equal share for things like household necessities and groceries has put us both at ease. We decided one person would pay all utilities and the other person would pay rent. Once paid, we would bill each other what was still owed and this tactic has been working seamlessly. We’re both contributing and we’re both equally indebted. Sharing financial responsibilities in this way felt like the perfect fit for us.
We stopped sharing how much we make. As long as bills are covered, bellies are full, and our chihuahua has his favorite treats, we feel like it’s not necessary to share every single detail of our income. His money is his and my money is mine. When we were sharing finances, we were constantly questioning who should contribute what. Agreeing everything should be split 50/50 took the guesswork out.
The sex is so much better these days. Constant fighting doesn’t make for a healthy relationship and can cause much-unwanted static in the bedroom. Our fights would sometimes last for days, with both of us being too stubborn to break the ice. Taking control of our finances individually while still working together made past arguments seem almost childish and unnecessary. Since our financial issues have been put to rest, love lines are in constant flow.
We’ll continue this setup into marriage. Marriage is hard and it’s important for me to have a successful one. Minimizing money as a potential stressor early on can only be beneficial in the long run. What works for us may not work for everyone else, which is fine. Revising the standard approach couples take when dealing with money showed us how we can fine-tune any obstacle and make it work for us.
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