Understanding what money means to you will help you clarify whether this is a deal-breaker
I’m about to go out on my sixth date, and everything is going really well. I have one concern, which I’m not even sure is a real concern. The bochur I’m dating is very careful with money, and I can’t tell if he’s frugal, stingy, or acting on principles. On our last date, for example, we sat outside in a park, and he brought along two Snapples. We each finished about half of our bottle and the rest got kind of warm as we were schmoozing. When we got up to leave, I was about to throw mine into a nearby garbage can when he said, “Oh, don’t throw that out. What a waste of good Snapple.” He said it kind of playfully, so I wasn’t sure if he was kidding, but he didn’t buy anything else to drink despite the heat. When I think about it, all our dates have been low- budget, and he parked in a deck two blocks away from the hotel to save $20 on parking.
On the one hand, I am planning to marry a learning boy and I’m prepared to cut costs to make a kollel budget work. On the other hand, I’m scared that he might actually be stingy, and if this is what he’s doing during dating, when you’re supposed to be at your best, what will he be like once he’s married? And to be honest, this is really making me question if I even know what it means to be frugal.
I like everything else about him. He’s smart, funny, serious about his Yiddishkeit, easy to get along with, an overall good guy. So I guess my question is twofold: 1) Is this considered stingy? 2) If so, is it a deal-breaker?
I have many thoughts on this question, but before I present them, I am going to make a radical suggestion.
Talk to him.
Now, I know talking about important issues is a shocking concept, but I think it might clear away many of the doubts you have here (in either direction).
Let’s cut to the heart of the issue. What is the fear underlying your question? Since I can’t ask you directly, I’m going to summarize some of the potential issues I see. When someone is careful with their spending, it can trigger a fear that you will not be taken care of, or at least not the way you would like to be taken care of, and maybe not the way in which you are accustomed to being taken care of. This can be very scary and have great emotional repercussions on a relationship.
I love that this dilemma is leading you to self-reflection. There are many things to think about here. What is your relationship to money and to spending? What does cutting costs look like to you? What is your love language? What is your safety language? Do either of them require easy flow of money? What beliefs and emotions about money do you bring from your family of origin?
Money is such a loaded issue. It can symbolize safety, freedom, security, power, and a host of other things. Understanding what it means to you will help you clarify whether this is a deal-breaker. For example, if you are okay with planning your own budget but feel controlled by having someone else impose one, that is a significant dynamic. If you feel constricted by having only exactly what you need and you need some ravchus to feel secure, that, too, is significant. Feeling stifled on a regular basis can be very detrimental to your well-being and your capacity to perform well as a wife and mother. So this first fear needs to be named.
The second fear is that the bochur you’re dating might be rigid. There is a certain amount of flow and balance that are the hallmarks of a healthy person. When we witness inflexibility in a person it can be a real red flag. But based on some of your descriptors of this young man, this does not seem to be a problem. You use the words “easy to get along with.” That’s significant, and it indicates that some of his behaviors are actually open to interpretation. The fact that he parked two blocks away to save $20 can be seen as “cheap,” or it can be viewed as flexible, a willingness to think out-of-the-box and problem-solve creatively. The fact that he did not consider your comfort/needs and did not buy something cold is concerning but could also be cluelessness.
As in all areas of concern, what we’re looking for is a pattern. Is he consistently tight? Is he stingy in other areas, such as connection? In other words, is he farginning with his feedback? Does he laugh easily? Have nice things to say about people? Is your opinion important to him?
Check in with yourself physically. When you are around him do you feel open and relaxed? Tight and constricted? What do you think would happen if you mentioned that you were hot and thirsty? Do you feel safe to ask for a drink?
In a nutshell, what you have seen is potentially concerning. Now we need clarification. We’re making a lot of assumptions, many of which can be clarified with some good conversation. And by good conversation, I mean easy, nonjudgmental sharing about personal feelings and beliefs related to money. Be careful not to interrogate or to put him on the defensive. It might be fun to explore these issues through one of the dating games.
Bottom line: Attitudes about money can have a real daily impact on the quality of a marriage. It behooves you to understand what his behavior represents, to see if there is a pattern of rigidity, and to trust how you feel inside when this issue comes out.
Hatzlachah, and may Hashem show you what you need to see.
All the best,
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a dating mentor. She lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, authenticity, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 853)
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