Financial talks can be uncomfortable to have in any situation (just think about how we tiptoe around discussing our salaries at work!). But when you’re dating someone you care about, money convos can be even more awkward to have with them. This is especially true if you find yourself in a situation where you need to ask your partner for money… or vice versa. Yikes.
Of course, while every situation and relationship is different—and there’s no right answer for how to have these kind of talks—take solace in the fact that you’re not alone if you think they’re touchy.
In fact, consider the opinions of these 13 twentysomething men and women, who get real about loaning or being loaned money by their partners:
Is It Ever Okay to Ask Your Partner for Money?
1. “I think asking your partner for money can be a very slippery slope. In the past, I had a partner who needed money, and would make me feel guilty for having my family financially support me. I was too uncomfortable talking about our different financial situations, so I’d just pay for everything by default. If I mentioned him paying for something or getting a full-time job, he’d act like it was no big deal for me to pay since it wasn’t my money. It’s uncomfortable, but now I always talk with my partner about our financial situations upfront.”—Lauren, 24
2. “I think borrowing money from a partner can be a great opportunity— both for the giver to feel helpful, and for the recipient to prove that they’re trustworthy and conscientious. When I was really broke in college, I had to reluctantly borrow $50 from my boyfriend of six months so that I could eat that week — I paid him back within the month. It made him feel good to help me out, really saved me in the moment, and definitely brought us closer.” —Sophie, 24
4. “Giving a partner money can totally work out, but you need to view it as a gift, not a loan. My partner of seven years is in grad school, and I’ve been working full-time for three years at a big tech company. Last summer, my boyfriend got accepted to study abroad but had limited funds, so I offered to pay for us to fly there and back—about R68 157,70. I had the money, so for me it was worth it to invest in my partner’s educational experience, but it was the most I’ve ever spent, or given him. With that context, it didn’t shift our relationship dynamic much. I have always been more willing to pay for expensive things I want us to do, and after getting burned badly by a friend in college, I only ever give people money, I don’t do loans.” —Marie, 25
6. “Earlier this year I lent my boyfriend around $3k to pay for some taxes he owed (I offered and didn’t hesitate to do it). He didn’t want to accept it at first, but realized it was better than paying more interest. I make slightly more than him so I knew that it wouldn’t hurt me as much if I shelled out the money. We’d been together four years so I knew he wouldn’t just bail on me without paying, which definitely influenced why I was willing to lend him money. At first I didn’t think our relationship had changed, and at least from my perspective it hasn’t, but lately, he always brings it up a lot because he hasn’t finished paying me back. I always assure him that I’m not mad at him for taking so long to pay me back, but he definitely thinks it sucks that he’s in this position.” — Edna, 24
9. “One time I didn’t have enough money to check my luggage and my card was declined. I had been hooking up with this guy very casually, and there was already a weird dynamic in place with a language barrier. I always felt very shy around him. I felt very subordinate with him and guilty asking for money, but he ended helping me out and never asked for money back. I felt very uncomfortable at first — If I’m a feminist, do I only pay for myself? Is it okay to accept money from men? Where do I draw the line? It’s very hard for me to accept money from men but that really changed it for me. When it comes down to it, a partnership is a partnership. That means taking care of each other. That goes both ways too—if he needed me that way, I’d be available as well.”—Edwina, 25
11. “My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over two years and we live together. I work in an inconsistent, creative field and he’s a lawyer at a big bank, so we make very different money. Last year I was starting off in this new field, and money was super tight for me. He saw how stressed I was, and offered me money on almost a daily basis. We’d be watching TV and he’d be like ‘do you need money?’ I always said no, but definitely made concessions in other places. For example, he pays slightly more of the rent than I do, and he usually pays when we go out. I think that allows me to still be independent. I think if I had accepted money from him, I would always kind of feel like I owed him, and might feel like I was less than him. I never want to rely on a man for money and want to know that if the relationship doesn’t work out, I can take care of myself.”—Page, 25