‘I Almost Married a Money Nightmare’

Have you ever felt grateful a relationship didn’t work out? Have you ever looked around at what you have now and thought, “Dang, I really dodged a bullet with that one!”

If so, you’ve probably been reminded of that Garth Brooks song, “Unanswered Prayers.” While in the thick of your relationship and still struggling, you were willing to do anything to make it work. You prayed. You brainstormed solutions. You hoped he or she would wise up and change.

But it fell apart somehow, and you’re perfectly fine with it now. In fact, you may even be thrilled things didn’t turn out quite like you planned.

This is exactly how I feel about someone I dated in my early 20s. Let’s call him my “money nightmare.”

You know, I wasn’t great with money at the time either (mostly because I didn’t have any). But he was really, really bad.

How bad? Bounce a check almost every other week bad. Have a bad day at work and randomly quit your job bad. Spend your rent money buying your friends drinks at the bar bad.

Bad, bad, bad. And it got old… fast. Fortunately, I was given an amazing opportunity in the form of really good advice. And of course, that advice came from my mother.

One day, when I was complaining to my mom about some ridiculous thing he had done, she offered up a gem of wisdom I’ll never forget.

She said, “If you end up with him, your entire life will be this way.”

Now, that was a scary thought.

Shortly after, I realized I didn’t want to end up with someone who couldn’t balance his checkbook – someone who had no desire to fix his inexplicably ruined credit – someone who made it clear he valued expensive steak dinners over any semblance of responsible adult living.

So, I bounced. And when I look at my husband and kids and the way we live now, I am so glad I did.

Nine Money Nightmares

If you dodged a bullet like I did, you can probably relate. When you’re young and don’t know what you want in life, it’s easy to fall for people who seem fun and exciting, but are actually nightmares in disguise.

Fortunately, some people are able to escape the poor decisions of their former flame and move on with their lives. Here are some stories of others who dodged a money nightmare of their own:

Money Nightmare #1: He Couldn’t Live Within His Means

Gwen of Fiery Millennials says she dated a guy who acted like money grew on trees. “He was a 24-year-old newly minted CPA. He insisted upon picking me up for our first date. He got there and I saw why: He had a Porsche 911 – a ridiculous car for a 24-year-old with student loan debt, but even more ridiculous considering we live in the Midwest and he can’t even use it for most of the year. He had to have a second car to get around in the winter, so he got a late-model Audi,” she says.

“He also lives on the new side of town in a brand-new condo that’s furnished with brand new ridiculous furniture such as an all-white pleather couch that can only be dry-cleaned,” Gwen continues. “I ducked out of dating him really fast after seeing all that!”

Maybe he could afford all that, but maybe not. Either way, Gwen saw the way he spent and ran out that door without looking back.

Money Nightmare #2: The Over-Spender Who Cannot Change

Pauline from Reach Financial Independence says:

“I dated a guy who considered himself thrifty. He was making several hundred dollars a day when working, but living like he was employed full-time and had thousands to spend. He had big goals and became frustrated they were never achieved. I looked at his spending for a week and saw all the signs of bad money management: food waste, unneeded mileage to run errands, buying the first thing without comparing prices, and always brand new…

“What bothered me most is there was never any free time to do things together because he had to work to support his wasteful lifestyle. I tried to show him how to be more savvy, but for as much as he understood the concept, spending money was like a deserved treat for working hard. I cut it short when I saw it would lead to a lifetime of frustration.”

It’s one thing to stay with someone who is truly trying to change, but it’s another to stick around when they just can’t – or won’t.

Money Nightmare #3: When Someone is Indifferent About their Credit

Jon Luskin of Uncle D Money says:

“I dated a girl in college who had a practice of ducking debt collectors. When the phone would ring, she would insist that it not be answered. Despite this massive debt load, she would wax poetic about $400 pairs of jeans, having several pairs of the jeans in her own wardrobe.

“Once, I lent her money when she could not afford yet another discretionary purchase herself – a puppy. Of course, I never got the money back (and she kept the dog). Looking back, I can say that the whole experience was valuable. I gained some key insights in how not to manage your money.”

If you’ve ever dated someone with financial problems, you can probably relate. No matter what, some people aren’t programmed to care about their credit – or their debts.

Money Nightmare #4: The Person Who Runs

John Rampton from Due.com says:

“I dated ‘the traveler’ right after college. She was the girl that traveled every chance she got. We dated for years. During this time, I noticed that she would spend a bit more than she was making. It got worse and worse and worse to the point where I confronted her about it. She denied it. Over the next two years, I fell in love with her. I ended up marrying her to find out 2 weeks after we were married this was more than just an addiction, it was a major problem. Things when from bad to worse when I started getting calls to pay off debts. Needless to say, this caused our marriage to end months after it began.”

Generally speaking, you can’t fix financial problems when you run from them. And most of the time, no one wants to stay behind and fix your problems for you, either.

Money Nightmare #5: The Clueless Giver

Rory Olson of Wall Street Survivor says:

“I once dated a girl that had terrible money habits, but great intentions. It was a weird  mix because she would spend in an irresponsible fashion – but on other people and for good causes. She would donate money to charities whenever the opportunities arise (which there are plenty of), and was constantly buying thoughtful gifts for friends and family. She even once bought a super expensive plane ticket to treat her mother to a spontaneous vacation,” Olson says.

“She was still a student and couldn’t afford all this spending, but so desperately wanted to please others. Confronting her was difficult because I had never met someone whose carefree spending was so selfless. Explaining to her that just because it is well-intentioned spending does not justify financial hardship that comes along. The relationship eventually ended for reasons unrelated to her kind, green-colored heart.”

Being a charitable person is a good thing, but you’ll make a bigger and more sustainable impact if you have your own finances in order before you go in debt trying to help others.

Money Nightmare #6: Destined to Be Broke

Hannah Rounds of Unplanned Finance says:

“I dated a guy who wanted to become a pastor, but by the start of our junior year he already had close to six figures of student debt. Here in the Southeast, full-time pastors earn anywhere from $30K to $70K per year, and he would need to get an M.Div from a private school before he started full-time work. I was no good with money in college, but even I could see that was a recipe for disaster. We decided we weren’t a good couple for non-financial reasons, but I’m thankful it didn’t work out.”

The first years of marriage can be hard enough without six figures of student loan debt. Fortunately, Rounds never learned just how hard it would be.

Money Nightmare #7: The Financial Trainwreck

Valerie Rind, author of the award-winning book “Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads: True Stories of Friends, Family, and Financial Ruin,” shares her money nightmare story:

“Not only did I date him — I married him. However, there were few if any warning signs of his financial difficulties when we met or during the course of our 10-year relationship. On the surface, he appeared to be doing well. Not flashy or rich, but comfortable enough. My fatal mistake was not learning enough about his background before we wed.

“I got the shock of my life when I found out the condo he claimed he owned was not an asset on the marital balance sheet. Without realizing it, I lived in a home where we were only tenants. The plan to eventually sell it and buy our dream house was just a farce.”

This could have been avoided if they had shared all of their financial details ahead of time, Rind says, and if she had conducted due diligence.

“You need to disclose all your assets and debts and talk about how you’re going to handle money when you’re married,” says Rind. “I won’t say that people are incapable of change, but if you’re uncomfortable with how someone handles their finances when they’re single, it’s unlikely to get rosier after you’re hitched.”

Money Nightmare #8: The Borrower

Tai Stewart of Saidia Financial Solutions says:

“The financial shock of my life was dating someone who lived paycheck to paycheck, bounced checks, and borrowed money from his parents regularly.  He was the master of impulse shopping and used a positive bank balance as the indication that he buy something. Enrolling in college classes in order to get student loan money should have been a major indication there was a problem, but alas, I was blind,” Stewart says.

“Before it was all over seven years later, he had opened and failed two businesses, maxed out his (and my) credit lines, and received several loans from me, still unpaid. I’ve been rebuilding my credit and savings ever since I learned to say no and to cut off all contact with people who are financial leeches.”

It’s one thing for someone to ruin their own finances, but it’s another when they’re intent on ruining yours, too. And when your partner wants to borrow money from the start, that’s usually a bad sign.

Money Nightmare #9: The Mooch

Sarah Li Cain of High Fiving Dollars says:

“I was in a serious relationship with someone who was a little too dependent. Right after college, I bought a one-way ticket to Australia to work there. We only dated for a month at the time, and this person decided to move across the world to be with me. Talk about pressure! Long story short, I paid for the rent and groceries initially until my ex could ‘get on his feet.’ I was living paycheck to paycheck as I ended up paying for expenses. I was offered a chance at a promotion and to move across Australia, and was guilted into paying for myself and this person. I ended up paying for a bunch of trips around Oz, and ended up with about $9,000 in credit card debt.

“When I moved back to Canada, this person said they wanted ‘to go on a break.’ I moved to South Korea a month later and broke things off with him for good. I’ve learned that relationships need to be both ways. I learned to say no to a lot of people and things that are a drain on my energy.”

When you’re dating someone for a month, they shouldn’t become your financial liability. Unfortunately, Sarah learned this lesson the hard way – by accruing $9,000 in credit card debt.

The Bottom Line

Sometimes you have to date a few toads before you meet your prince. Other times, you wind up running away from a money nightmare as fast as you can. The hard part is, it can take months – and even years – to find out someone is incapable of living a financially responsible lifestyle.

As for me, I’m thankful for the wisdom of my mother who knew the truth – that some people will never change their ways.

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Have you ever dated a financial nightmare? What happened? Please share your story below.

Holly Johnson
Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.

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