Never assume that you can love anyone into changing their financial habits. Repeat after me: Your love does not give you the power to change, fix or control another person—PERIOD. The object of your affection may seem perfect for you—the person of your dreams. Except for the way they handle money. No matter how strong your feelings are for one another, your love will not cure a person of shopping addiction, or make them stop abusing credit cards and pay their bills on time. A person who is not financially responsible will not miraculously become trustworthy and fiscally prudent because you fell in love. Nor can you force, shame, seduce or bribe them to adopt your financial values, priorities and goals. You may be able to work together to agree on how you’ll manage money and common financial goals, and seek help to deal with money issues, but people will only change their financial habits for themselves, not to please you or keep a relationship going.

Never make financial commitments without knowing and sharing financial histories. Romance equals intimacy, and for many, that includes our finances—commingling funds and making joint financial commitments such as co-signing on an apartment lease. However, getting involved with anyone who lies or is secretive about their financial health and habits is an open invitation to conflict and disaster, no matter how strong your feelings for each other. If you don’t know each other well enough to share credit reports, you don’t know each other well enough to make joint financial commitments, such as a joint credit card or bank account. Look at it this way: commingling your finances without knowing each other’s financial histories is like having unprotected sex without knowing each other’s HIV status. And the consequences can be just as devastating. Just don’t do it.

Never assume financial responsibility for an adult dependent. Is your new sweetheart looking for a true partner—or a source of interest-free funding, with no repayment required? Does he or she expect you to pay their bills, finance their lifestyle, be a ready source of cash and provide access to your credit cards as proof of your love? From a financial standpoint, they may really be looking for a parent, sponsor or savior, not a romantic partner or a relationship between equals. Are you prepared to be responsible for an adult dependent? Who handled their expenses before you came along? Be wary of getting emotionally involved with a person unwilling, disinterested or not yet capable of providing for himself or herself. For the sake of your finances, resist the temptation to financially support adult dependents in return for their affections. (Those of you who think you can buy love, affection, fidelity, respect and/or loyalty, see previous point 5.)

Never forget the No. 1 Rule of love and money: Protect yourself at all times. That’s right, the most important rule applies to romance and finance just as it does in boxing. Do not let your natural desire to give and receive affection cause you to drop your guard and neglect your responsibility to protect your finances, as well as your body, home and heart. Maintaining your budget is your responsibility. And only you can say “No” to people who want to spend your money for you. That does not change because you feel love for them. If you don’t have an agenda for your money, your finances will fall prey to the agendas of others.

Here’s a great rule of thumb for making decisions that could put your financial health at risk in the Grown Zone: Would you make the same financial decision if you were not sexually/romantically/emotionally interested or involved with this person? Would the person expect you to, or even feel they had the right to ask? If the answer is no, don’t do it. “I was in love” is a sad, sorry excuse for bad financial decision-making.

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