Everyday Cheapskate: Without Trust, You Have Nothing -- in Money and in Life
Dear Mary: I have been dating a woman for about two years. Getting to know her, I have learned that she has significant financial problems that she has not told me about. I have found out by doing a little research on my own (public records, etc.).
This is a serious relationship. We are both divorced with children. Money issues were one of the things that led to the breakup of my first marriage and hers. I am recovering from my past mistakes and well on my way to living debt-free.
What is the best way to approach this with her? -- Jared
Dear Jared: First, let me say that the single most important factor in marriage is mutual trust. Regardless of everything else you love about this woman and her kids, without trust, you have nothing. It's all emotional.
If she will mislead and lie to you about this most important issue, can you trust her in any other area? I am not saying that she hasn't confronted her past financial problems and made a successful change. However, considering you put this in the present tense ("She has significant financial problems"), I'm going to assume that hasn't happened.
I can tell you from my own experience that your beloved is afraid that if you find out who she really is -- warts and all -- you will reject her. She's trying to present the best package possible to assure a future with you.
Can broken trust be restored? Yes, absolutely it can, but it is a process that takes time and two individuals, not only one, who are totally committed to fidelity and the restoration of that broken trust.
If you have never had a completely honest relationship with this woman, you may have little, if anything, to restore. You are essentially trying to build this relationship on quicksand.
I suggest that you trade credit reports before you invest any more time into the relationship. A credit report can be an amazingly accurate character report. Granted, credit reports can contain errors, and she may be able to explain an item or two. But outstanding balances, judgments, liens, collections and patterns of behavior cannot be hidden or explained away.
If she agrees and then comes clean with her situation and problems with money, you should consider investing in couples counseling. If she refuses to show you her credit report, you should see that as more than a caution flag. That's when I would tell you to grab the kids and run, not walk, away from this relationship.