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Trying to Buy LoveToo many people pay dearly, both emotionally and financially because they insist on treating love as a form of currency, like the yen or Euro, with an exchange rate convertible to U.S. dollars. We share examples of this in Love and Money: Stop Giving Them To Strangers, Part 1. To graduate from exercising your adult right to engage in financial and romantic foolery, to making Grown decisions as relates to love and money, requires you to ask and honestly answer two questions, and operate accordingly: Is this person a strangera dependent or a partner? And would I make the same financial choices if this person were not a love interest?  If the only or primary reason you’re considering making a financial decision or commitment is your desire to get or keep a relationship, don’t do it. And if your love interest is a stranger or a dependent, you absolutely shouldn’t do it. And if he or she is not ready, willing and able to accept full, joint responsibility for a financial purchase or commitment, again, the answer is no. Let’s explore these concepts further.

Strangers. The reason you shouldn’t be giving, spending, investing or otherwise allowing access to your money to strangers is the same reason they shouldn’t have access to your body, home or heart: no matter how cute, sexy, funny, smart, fine, “Godly”, well-dressed (yada-yada-yada) he or she is, you do not know them. Paying the bills, taking on joint financial obligations or buying overly expensive gifts for people you do not know is not Grown.

Dependents. If an adult is unwilling, disinterested or not yet capable of supporting him or herself, he or she is not Grown—period. Only Grown people—complete, self-supporting, whole, healthy and happy all by themselves—are capable of sustaining healthy relationships. Grown people do not need to be saved, rescued or believed in to achieve their potential, make progress toward their goals and to be generally productive. (They’re not working toward any goals? They’re definitely not Grown.) Adult dependents are not qualified to engage in healthy, sustainable relationships. Furthermore, Grown people do not financially support dependents other than their minor children.

Look at their track record. If they’re happiest when someone (mom, dad, their ex, the government, whoever) is financing their wants and needs, and they view actually having to earn money to support and advance themselves as a grave injustice, do not get involved with them, especially financially. Ladies, if he is not committed to taking care of his children by other women, don’t allow your ego (or your belief in your own sexual wiles) to convince you that he will turn into a different person and take care of you and yours. Dependent men can’t support other dependents when they can’t depend on themselves. Gentlemen, if she is accustomed to love interests who pay her car note, rent, and other expenses as proof of love, back away—unless you really want to support an adult dependent over which you have no parental authority. (And if you’re the one with the dependent mindset, you need to get serious about your personal growth, before you do real damage to your life as well as to the lives of others.)

Partners. If a person is not a dependent and no longer a stranger, then this person must show that he or she is partner material. (A dependent, by definition, cannot be a partner.) Not as in marriage, but as in: Can I trust this person with my money? Can we do business fairly with one another? Does this person honor their agreements? Do they pay their debts? Do they pay their bills on time, or whenever it is convenient for them? Are they responsible with their finances, or do they live beyond their means? What did they learn about handling money from their parents, family and culture? You should be looking for the same qualities that a bank or credit card company seeks when determining if someone is a financially responsible, fair and trustworthy person. Again, the fact the person is attractive, religious, smart and nice is immaterial. Understand: If he or she is a poor credit risk, can’t or won’t pay their bills, sees paying back loans as an optional exercise, and is generally unreliable when it comes to money, they are not suddenly going to become conscientious, income-earning, money-savvy and credit-worthy because of your loving ways. If they can’t afford to buy what they want or need, they won’t be able to afford to pay back money you loan to them to get it. If they’ll stiff, cheat or avoid financial obligations to others, they will not make an exception for you, no matter how special you believe your relationship is.

Here’s a real litmus test for financial decision making for any relationship outside of marriage (which is legally a joint financial partnership in most states): One or both of you is unwilling to create and sign a written agreement detailing terms and a schedule for repayment of a loan or other financial favor. If this is the case, such loans or financial favors should not be granted. Grown people do not loan each other money without a written agreement spelling out repayment terms, with signatures from both partners. They accept that any monies shared outside such an agreement to be gifts or part of the shared expenses of the relationship, with no expectation of repayment. If you can’t afford to make such gifts, do not do so in the name of love.

Too many people refuse to deal with these questions until after money has changed hands, loans have been extended, authorized users have been added, purchases have been co-signed for—which usually means drama, conflict, break-ups and broken commitments are in full effect. On the other hand, Grown people never give access to their money to strangers, nor do they finance the needs and desires of dependents other than their minor children. Grown people only allow financial access to partners—as defined by capabilities, habits, values, character and track record, not romantic feelings, hopes and promises.