Joint Accounts

Should I Be Worried That My Boyfriend Refuses to Talk About Money?

How to have an awkward but necessary conversation

Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

I’ve been dating someone for a couple of months and it’s going well. I can see us being in this for the long haul, moving in together, etc. But every time I broach the topic of money, my boyfriend shuts down the conversation. He says he doesn’t like to talk about it, and I always end up feeling crass for bringing it up. Obviously, we can’t spend our lives together totally avoiding any discussion of finances. Help!

Sincerely,

Ready for The Talk

MMoney is a touchy subject for plenty of people, but when someone refuses to talk about it altogether, it’s usually because there’s something else going on. Your new boyfriend might be dealing with massive debt, or worried about an impending layoff. Or maybe he’s just self-conscious about his finances and doesn’t want to think about that while he’s having a nice dinner with you.

There could be any number of reasons why your boyfriend shuts down the conversation, so it’s pointless to try to guess what’s going on — but if you see a future together, it’s important that you find out from him directly. If you see yourself possibly moving in with this guy, or taking trips together, or doing any other kind of activity that involves comingling your money, this issue will come to a head at some point. Address the problem now to avoid awkwardness (or a relationship-ending blowup) down the road.

Yes, that means having a potentially uncomfortable conversation. Broach the subject carefully, with empathy and respect. Try to ease into it with something like, “I know you don’t like to talk about money, but I think it’s important that we’re able to tell each other anything. I’d like to share some of my issues with money and hear about yours.” If you establish that you’re not there to shut him down, tell him what to do, or gawk at his financial troubles, he’ll be more willing to talk openly.

Once you find out what’s making him so reluctant to share, the next step will be getting on the same page. It seems like you currently have quite different approaches to dealing with money: He sounds like the type of person who avoids it altogether, while you seem like the type who stays on top of your finances. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, but you’ll need to figure out a way to communicate.

After all, money is involved in nearly everything we do. And if he continues to pretend that’s not the case, it’s only going to make your life, and your relationship, more difficult.

Lecturing him about this will likely just make him shut down, but you do want to communicate to him that as your lives become more intertwined, his refusal to discuss money affects you, too.

Every couple has the “where is this going” conversation sooner or later, so when that conversation arises organically, take it as a chance to have a second, deeper conversation about money. Talk about what you both want from the future, and you’ll probably find that finances will inevitably come up. If he wants to travel extensively, for instance, it’s only natural to talk about the cost of travel and how he’ll afford it.

From there, you can transition into asking about his financial past and present, the deeper stuff you don’t really need to get into until your relationship gets a bit more serious. For instance, how much debt does he have? Has he ever filed for bankruptcy? How much money does he earn? Does he budget? Of course, you should be prepared to share this information, too. If he’s unwilling to have the conversation at all, it might be time to slow things down — not because of money, but because healthy relationships require openness and intimacy. Being able to talk freely about finances is a big part of that.

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, ELLE, Travel + Leisure, and Glamour magazine.

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