dating

The most important conversation you can have in a new relationship has nothing to do with sex.

In the early days of love, it can be hard to force yourself to have that conversation with your partner. You know the conversation where you openly and honestly tell each other about your pasts, about any skeletons in your closets, and about any sexually infectious diseases. We get tested, we use protection. We do what we have to do to protect ourselves.

In her piece for Business Chicks, writer Melissa Browne explains that that mentality needs to be applied to our finances as well because too many of us are putting ourselves at risk of catching an STD.

A sexually transmitted debt.

Browne, an accountant and money expert, wants women to know that anyone can get an STD. Even those who don’t have any money or who feel confident in their partners handling of their finances.

She explains that in her line of work she meets people from all walks of life who are struggling with STDs they received from partners they thought were loving.

Let's talk about debt, baby. (iStock)

"In one instance the partner was a high-flying executive who took a few risks and then fled overseas while the wife was left liable for the mountain of debts," she writes. "She was left shocked, surprised and with a nasty case of STD."

So how do you avoid an STD?

1. Have the talk

While asking a new partner to let you look at their bank statements and for a full credit report doesn't make for the best pillow talk, the beginning of a relationship is the best time to share financial information.

"Before you get serious and definitely before you start to share any sort of financial products including bank accounts, credit cards, phone or internet, rental agreements and more, make sure you have a conversation about money," Browne writes. "This includes who owns what, who owes what, what taxes are outstanding and what you hope to achieve with your finances."

Browne acknowledges the "giant ick factor associated with talking about money", but encourages women to put on their "big-girl pants and have the conversation." By having the conversation early you're making sure your financial sensibilities align and ensuring that you'll have less financial surprises down the line.

2. Keep things transparent

Talk is cheap, and seeing is believing, so Browne says it's important to get your "eyeballs on bank statements". She is not advocating sharing bank login information, particularly at the beginning of a relationship, but she does suggest having a regular chat about how each of you are doing financially where you bring along your bank statements.

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"Now this isn’t so you can audit each other’s spending – god  knows I don’t need my husband to understand exactly how much money I spend on shoes!" she explains. "However, what he does need to understand is that I’m not in financial strife because of my spending patterns and I’m not putting what we’re working towards at risk."

Watch: Women share the moment they knew their relationship was over. (Post continues after video.)

3. Know the risks

If you get through steps one and two and things are going well it's likely you'll move forward in the relationship by talking about moving in together. "In your mind it’s a ‘try before you buy’ arrangement where you’re thinking this could be the one but you’re not quite ready for marriage, kids and a commitment just yet" Browne writes. "The problem is, sometimes you’ve already made the financial commitment of ‘marriage’ by moving in together without you being aware of the implications."

Browne says even though you are not married it's important to seek legal advice on how to best protect any assets you might have before moving in. "It’s the unsexy side of living together, but if you have a business, you earn decent money or you come into the relationship with assets then it makes sense to protect what you have," she writes.

4. Seek professional advice

Beyond moving in together, you should seek professional advice before big steps like, merging your bank accounts, applying for loans, or signing any documents because it's imporatnt to understand the worst case scenario of any deal.

"For example if you and your partner move in together and both names are on the lease but they leave and you can’t afford to pay, the landlord won’t necessarily chase you both for the money," Browne explains.

"They’ll chase the easiest one to locate and the one that is earning an income. The same goes for signing documents. You may be told it’s not a big deal to guarantee a loan or become a company director for a business but the ramifications if your partner can’t pay or the company is late lodging or paying its debts can be life-changing. And ignorance or the argument that you were too trusting is simply not an excuse."

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Protect yourself. (Image: iStock)

5. Use protection

Browne encourages both partners in a relationship to have money of their own stashed away. "Sure, you might decide to have joint bank accounts but keeping independence by always having some money of your own in your own bank account is just financially smart,"she writes. In addition to money, it's also important to protect your assets regardless of how small they might be.

Browne implores people make sure they've gone through steps one through five before opening any joint bank acccounts, joint credit cards, co-signing any loans, or signing any  Protection means not opening any joint bank accounts or credit cards, co-signing any loans, singing up for any phone plans or signing any contracts.

By talking about the money aspect of your relationship early you're removing some of the taboo, making it normal for you as a couple, and lowering your chances of getting an STD. Browne says, "By choosing to be purposeful about money, couples can not only avoid STDs but can create strong relationships where money isn’t something dirty or awkward but is just another thing that is talked about."

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