Dear Mrs. Riches:
Valentine's Day is approaching, I am newly engaged, and my fiance and I will be enjoying a quiet evening at home together that night. Sounds good, right? Except that somehow this man with whom I'm about to spend my life has this idea that I would never enjoy something as "frivolous" as a bouquet of flowers, a card, or a gift for such an occasion. Whenever Valentine's Day ads crop up on TV, he is the first to say, "Boy, am I glad you're not the kind of girl who likes that stuff." He is quite careful with the management of money, and so I think he sees most gifts as a waste. I, on the other hand, am not happy with the prospect of going decades without any romantic overtures. What seemed like a harmless quirk before now seems like something that could really drive me crazy over the long haul. Your thoughts?
-- Gift Girl
Dear Gift Girl:
How crazy will this make you -- astronaut-wears-adult-diapers-across-the-country crazy, or just the roll-your-eyes kind of crazy most of us married folks can get from time to time? If this is a minor irritation in what would otherwise be called a great relationship, you still have hope. Not that you'll get him to change, mind you, but you may be able to make peace with his pragmatism. Accept him the way he is and get used to buying your own box of chocolates come Feb. 14.
But something puzzles me. Presumably, you had lots of opportunities before this to let him know you are a gift girl, not the uber-practical fiancee he thinks you to be. For some reason, you stayed mum. Why?
I wonder whether the answer would reveal an even greater crack in the foundation of your relationship than seems apparent. Did you worry that he wouldn't like you if he knew the truth? Would it make you admit that the two of you have very different perspectives on money? Are you afraid to share your real self? How comfortable are you both with conflict? Only you know the answers, and so only you can decide whether a marriage between the two of you is just a circuitous route to divorce court.
What if you really don't know how healthy the relationship is? Then start by talking about the gift issue. 'Fess up to the truth -- that gifts are not only acceptable, but they're also encouraged, and that you prefer silver jewelry, thank you very much. See what he has to say and how he says it. If the issue is volatile enough to make things shaky now, plan to prolong the engagement. The two of you need time to figure out whether you're really in it for the long haul.
In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to bone up on managing finances as a couple. Money conflicts can turn the most romantic of couples bitter. Try:
Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp, a.k.a. "Mrs. Riches," is a licensed professional counselor. She's married to Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. The Fool has a disclosure policy.