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Carolyn Hax: Heed impulse on money, trust

Fri., June 25, 2010, midnight

Dear Carolyn: Boyfriend and I are moving in together soon. He mentioned that he assumed we would get a joint checking account for “general expenses.” I was assuming the opposite. I’ve never lived with a guy before, and I haven’t had a joint checking account with anyone aside from my mom when I was 12.

I’m not tight with my money, but I’m nervous to see what happens when someone else starts spending it. Thoughts on how to approach this? Am I being unreasonable? – (Attempting to stay) financially independent

The issue here is not about being tight with your money; it’s about being tight with your trust.

And it’s never wise to ignore an impulse to withhold your trust. Don’t act on it rashly, either – just in case that impulse ultimately proves to be unhealthy – but heed it regardless. Such an impulse is a warning, and our internal alarms are to be explored, not ignored.

Specifically, it’s essential to identify the source of the alarm.

In your case, there are many possible sources, including (but not limited to) differences about money management, insecurity, discomfort with being assertive about your needs, haste to move in, a naturally cautious temperament, an untrustworthy guy.

The last is the most obvious – as is the answer: Postpone the move-in date indefinitely.

I get asked over and over again what my stance is on cohabitation, and so here it is again: Don’t do it unless you’d marry each other tomorrow. If you treat moving in as marriage and the exchange of vows as a formality, and then the cohabitation doesn’t work out, you’ll walk away from it thinking, “Wow I dodged a bullet,” and not, “I can’t believe I was so careless about sharing myself, the most valuable thing I have.”

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