How to Navigate a Relationship When You and Your Partner Have Different Financial Expectations

For Christmas I received a case of wine. Because I am moving in a couple of months, the case has remained unopened in a box on my kitchen floor. My apartment does not have room for this fantastic amount of wine.

My boyfriend would react to this by saying that we should either drink it or get rid of it. My response to having too much wine is that we should move somewhere with a private wine cellar. In this case, and many others, we are at cross-purposes.

By this single anecdote, it would be easy for you to assume that he is the logical one, and my spending is untethered. To that I say, it depends on the day, and it depends on the situation.

He shops at H&M. I think that's a waste of money — you're going to be buying a new sweater in a few weeks! — and I'd rather have something of quality that looks good and feels comfortable.

On other topics, I'm a miser, and my boyfriend is more relaxed. I'd rather sweat bullets than pay for air conditioning. It feels like such a waste of money. It's just air. I'd rather bury myself in a pile of blankets than pay for heat. Again, it's air.

When you fall in love with someone, it's rarely because you have the same budgeting strategy. That's something that you learn about each other further into the relationship. It can cause sticking points, or it can strengthen your relationship. It all depends on how you approach it.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned is not to make choices with your partner's money. I recognized that each relationship is different, and that what works for one couple may not work for another, but what I have found is that if you are relying on the other person's pockets, you have less freedom to disagree. Where my boyfriend and I disagree, we try to keep things separate (and within reason). While I might love to stay in a nice hotel, I am not going to force that on him if we're traveling together. What makes me happy would make him uncomfortable. It's just not worth it.

We're able to learn from each other better when we stop trying to change each other's minds. Instead, we focus on trying to understand. It would be easy for me to judge his H&M hoodies — they're garbage shrouded in flashy marketing with price tag so low it should make you suspicious — but I try not to. It would be easy for my boyfriend to tell me to stop buying cashmere sweaters — they are extravagant (though less so when you remember that I refuse to pay for heat). He tries not to.

Instead, we try to understand each other and see our finances from the other person's point-of-view. I show him that fast fashion is ruining the planet, at a great human cost. He shows me that you can't take your possessions with you — and that while I might still want to buy a nice sweater, maybe I only need one, rather than a drawer full of them.

When you tell your partner what they should do, they'll get defensive. This is true of all things, but especially finances. Rather than telling them who to be, or what to value, it can be more beneficial to ask, Why? "Why" helps us to understand. It helps us to communicate in an open and honest way.

And if you do it right, "why" can also help to line your pockets. While my boyfriend and I have differing notions about the particulars, we share a desire to have a healthy, financially full life together. Through understanding each other's motivations for saving on certain things, we have better been able to save. Soon, we might have enough for a stay at a luxury hotel, though I doubt we'll use the money for that.