I’m in five-digit debt—credit card and student loans. I’ve just started dating a really great guy. When do I need to tell him about this?
Everyone has priorities that are confusing and annoying to other people. A for-instance: an otherwise super-supportive ex-boyfriend of mine, who had a regular nine-to-five and a chill Euro sensibility regarding leisure, didn’t understand or appreciate why I wanted and needed to work super-long days and on weekends, but to me—a self-employed person in a disaster area of an industry—it was essential, and also, it made me (and makes me) really happy to devote so much of my time to reading and writing.
Your priority right now is to pay off your debt; it’s the same, in terms of focus, as if you were in grad school, or training for a marathon. If you’re taking it seriously—which you should beeeee, but the financial stuff is for another kind of column—you won’t be going to restaurants or bars very often, or at all, you won’t be buying supes-cute date-y dresses, and you won’t be booking vacays that don’t involve a borrowed cabin and a stack of library books.
I get that none of this sounds particularly sexy or like a thing you’re extra-excited about revealing to your new piece. First, you need to establish what this guy’s attitudes and realities around money actually are: if he is a young-ish person and/or a non-rich person, he’s going to understand. He might be in a similar situation, actually. And if he isn’t, or hasn’t been… so? Almost every relationship involves some kind of meaningful disparity: money is maybe the most common, but it might also be age, education, coolness (which I’m including because I just read that people want to date someone who is “cooler” than they are, which is maybe the funniest idea and possible fact, ever), sexual experience, diet, et cetera forever and ever.
And, it’s not like your debt is communicable or necessarily even implicated in the early stages of dating, way-pre-cohabitation and marriage and officialdom. You don’t owe him anything (ha, ha!) in the way of, like, the details of your Excel-ified budget. It’s enough to tell him that you’ve accrued some debt (and since some of it is—hopefully—productive debt from your student loans, the reality of it isn’t especially embarrassing, anyway) and are so happy to be paying it off.
And, for every reason, you should do what you can to limit the stress by creating a debt-repayment schedule and a realistic but aggressive budget (talk to your bank; they’re nice; their job is to help you). Just, do whatever you can do, ASAP-sies, so that you’re not standing under a looming storm cloud every day. (A second job? Moving home? Selling your car?)
That’s just the first part, because, how do you get with someone new while your spending is so limited? Dating can be like an angry centrifuge for money, between new clothes, lingerie, waxes, mani-pedis, cabs, beer, meals and tickets. Instead, try to use what you have (boys don’t notice half of it, anyway) and include your dates in your low-and-no-cost lifestyle. (This is a good thought for basically anyone, though: bike rides and home-made everything and Netflix snuzzles are better than loud restaurants, yes?)
Oh, and you also can’t just let him pay for everything, or more than he usually would, even if he is financially generous and insistent when he knows what kind of cash flow you’re working with. (If he is legit rich-rich, and legit doesn’t care, and legit does not use his money as any kind of power-thing, then I maybe take that back.) That said, the point of a relationship is to create a structure of stability and support with someone you like and love: if this new guy is good, he’ll help you achieve all of this, not make it harder.
More great advice from Kate:
How Can I Curb My Tinder-Rejection Sads?
When Should My Guy & I Talk “Numbers”?
Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?
Is It Ever OK to Date a Friend’s Ex?
How Do I Get Over a Guy?