Financial talks can be uncomfortable to have in any situation (just think about how we tiptoe around discussing our salaries at work!). But when you're dating someone you care about, money convos can be even more awkward to have with them. This is especially true if you find yourself in a situation where you need to ask your partner for money... or vice versa. Yikes.
Of course, while every situation and relationship is different—and there's no right answer for how to have these kind of talks—take solace in the fact that you're not alone if you think they're touchy.
In fact, consider the opinions of these 13 twentysomething men and women, who get real about loaning or being loaned money by their partners
1. "I think asking your partner for money can be a very slippery slope. In the past, I had a partner who needed money, and would make me feel guilty for having my family financially support me. I was too uncomfortable talking about our different financial situations, so I'd just pay for everything by default. If I mentioned him paying for something or getting a full-time job, he'd act like it was no big deal for me to pay since it wasn't my money. It's uncomfortable, but now I always talk with my partner about our financial situations upfront."—Lauren, 24
2. "I think borrowing money from a partner can be a great opportunity— both for the giver to feel helpful, and for the recipient to prove that they’re trustworthy and conscientious. When I was really broke in college, I had to reluctantly borrow $50 from my boyfriend of six months so that I could eat that week — I paid him back within the month. It made him feel good to help me out, really saved me in the moment, and definitely brought us closer." —Sophie, 24
3. "In most cases, if there’s another friend or family member that can help you out instead, it's not a good idea. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to 'claim' a pretty large windfall of money, but wouldn't have been able to cash out the funds for a while. This money also came with a huge tax bill upfront that I didn't have the money to pay. My girlfriend of just over a year had worked in finance for many years and had quite a bit of money saved up, and agreed to lend me the money at a slightly-below-market interest rate. I’m not sure if it changed the dynamic of our relationship for her, but I know I was always worried about the fact that I was indebted to her. I wasn’t sure how we would handle the fact that I still owed her all of this money if something went wrong in our relationship. If anything, the fact that I had borrowed money from my partner made me rush to pay back the loan as quickly as possible."—Michael, 29
4. "Giving a partner money can totally work out, but you need to view it as a gift, not a loan. My partner of seven years is in grad school, and I've been working full-time for three years at a big tech company. Last summer, my boyfriend got accepted to study abroad but had limited funds, so I offered to pay for us to fly there and back—about $5,000. I had the money, so for me it was worth it to invest in my partner's educational experience, but it was the most I've ever spent, or given him. With that context, it didn't shift our relationship dynamic much. I have always been more willing to pay for expensive things I want us to do, and after getting burned badly by a friend in college, I only ever give people money, I don't do loans." —Marie, 25
5."I have lent money to past partners and would hope to not do it again. I had a girlfriend I lived with who ran into some money problems after getting injured, so I offered to cover her living costs (including rent). At the time, it seemed like there would be a definitive end to her financial need, but once she started making money again, it didn't stop. Her eventual five-figure debt kept us tied together longer than we should have been together."—Hannah, 23
6. "Earlier this year I lent my boyfriend around $3k to pay for some taxes he owed (I offered and didn't hesitate to do it). He didn't want to accept it at first, but realized it was better than paying more interest. I make slightly more than him so I knew that it wouldn't hurt me as much if I shelled out the money. We'd been together four years so I knew he wouldn't just bail on me without paying, which definitely influenced why I was willing to lend him money. At first I didn't think our relationship had changed, and at least from my perspective it hasn't, but lately, he always brings it up a lot because he hasn't finished paying me back. I always assure him that I'm not mad at him for taking so long to pay me back, but he definitely thinks it sucks that he's in this position." — Edna, 24
7. "Back in college, I'd have to spot my boyfriend all the time for dinner, food, and outings because he didn't really have an income. I would just charge him for stuff on Venmo and then wait for him to pay me back when he would get gift money, financial aid, whatever. When we eventually broke up, he still owed me around a hundred dollars, but he paid me back without having to be reminded. I always felt it was worth it, and never lent him more money than I was willing to lose, but I only covered him for stuff we did together. If you're gonna lend people money, you have to be mentally okay with not getting paid back for a long time, or possibly ever, because there's always a chance you're never gonna see it again. "—Amy, 23
8. "I think as long as you're doing it for things you absolutely need and have a plan to pay them back, it's okay. While I was looking for a job, I was really struggling to even buy food sometimes, so my boyfriend would sometimes spot me. I felt so guilty and kept track of every transaction, and made sure he knew I was going to pay him back once I figured out my life. He understood though, because he also went through the struggle of looking for a job post-grad. Once I got a job, I paid him back for everything."—Angelina, 22
9. "My personal advice: Don't do it unless you're desperate. As someone who has always been more financially successful than my partner, I've often found myself being too generous and giving. I had one boyfriend I was with for over four years, and I'd wind up paying for nearly everything when we went out together, and loaning him money when he'd be in a bind. Sometimes he'd pay me back, sometimes he'd 'forget.' I thought it would be stingy of me to bring it up, so I never did. I assumed he'd always do the same for me, until the time came that I really needed his help, and he was very reluctant. It completely changed the dynamic of the relationship and put this expectation on me to pay for things almost exclusively moving forward. " —Marie, 24
10. "One time I didn't have enough money to check my luggage and my card was declined. I had been hooking up with this guy very casually, and there was already a weird dynamic in place with a language barrier. I always felt very shy around him. I felt very subordinate with him and guilty asking for money, but he ended helping me out and never asked for money back. I felt very uncomfortable at first — If I’m a feminist, do I only pay for myself? Is it okay to accept money from men? Where do I draw the line? It’s very hard for me to accept money from men but that really changed it for me. When it comes down to it, a partnership is a partnership. That means taking care of each other. That goes both ways too—if he needed me that way, I’d be available as well."—Edwina, 25
11. "When I was in college a few years ago, I found myself unable to pay rent one month because of a car issue. I was very distraught as I knew my parents couldn’t help me either. I dreaded even the thought of mentioning it to my partner at the time, but knew I had to ask because I was desperate. We'd been dating for around six months at that point, but he came from a very different socioeconomic background than me, so I felt like he wouldn’t understand. He offered me the money, but only if I would agree to sign a contract paired with an interest rate. It was a super dehumanizing experience that was paired with a lot of verbal abuse about how I was irresponsible. He even went so far as to say that if I really needed money, I should sell my dog. I declined his offer, and thankfully scrambled the cash together elsewhere. We broke up about half a year later, although I wished I had done it sooner."— Jenn, 23
12. "My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over two years and we live together. I work in an inconsistent, creative field and he's a lawyer at a big bank, so we make very different money. Last year I was starting off in this new field, and money was super tight for me. He saw how stressed I was, and offered me money on almost a daily basis. We'd be watching TV and he'd be like 'do you need money?' I always said no, but definitely made concessions in other places. For example, he pays slightly more of the rent than I do, and he usually pays when we go out. I think that allows me to still be independent. I think if I had accepted money from him, I would always kind of feel like I owed him, and might feel like I was less than him. I never want to rely on a man for money and want to know that if the relationship doesn't work out, I can take care of myself."—Page, 25
13. "I think it's fine, but only if it's an emergency where they're borrowing short-term, or like a real 'boyfriend-girlfriend' situation. I was recently asked for around a thousand dollars from a girl I had very casually been hooking up with for a month or two. Not only was that way too much money, but the reason she needed the money was so that she could have extra cash on hand for a yacht vacation in Europe. I thought it was totally bogus that she'd ask me and it basically ruined the relationship."—Daniel, 26
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
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