Living with credit

How dating and getting a credit card are alike

Andrea Travillian

Andrea Travillian has loved personal finance from an early age; her first stock purchase was in 6th grade! Deciding to make a career of it she got her BBA and MBA in finance. She currently covers personal finance topics including investing, debt and money emotions on her site Take a Smart Step.

Being in a relationship can bring love, happiness and many benefits. Yet many people hate seeing others in relationships, they see it as a reminder of what they don’t have and of past loves gone wrong.

Credit cards bring about mixed feelings as well. Some of us love the happiness (OK, maybe not happiness; how about benefits?) they bring. Yet some of us hate them for our inability to manage them and for mistakes we have made with them in the past.

With love, we are willing to try again and again to find that perfect relationship. We attempt to correct our past mistakes and try to find a relationship that works.

Yet with credit cards, it seems that we often don’t want to learn from our mistakes. We don’t want to find that perfect relationship balance that is right for us. Instead we take permanent sides in the battle of credit card love and hate. We either love using them or hate them and never want to touch them again.

What if instead of taking sides we take the time to learn, adjust our behavior and try again with credit cards? Using the same steps you take to improve your relationships, you can also improve your relationship with credit cards. Here’s how:

Step No. 1: Stop dating
To start, you should stop using credit cards completely until you clean up your debt and budgeting mess.

You don’t keep dating if you need to figure out your dependency issues. Instead, you stop dating, learn to be your own person and then try dating again. With credit cards, don’t keep using what enables you to break your budget. Stop; learn to live on less than you make, then try again.

Note: This process may take years to complete – it took me seven years.

Step No. 2: Understand what you want in a partner
Once you have resolved your issues and are ready to start dating again, you should decide what qualities you want in a partner. Do you prefer the silent type that likes the library or would you rather be with the life of the party?

The same is true with credit cards. You need to understand what you want from the relationship.  Do you want a rewards card; even if it means paying an annual fee for the privilege of using it, or would you rather just have a no-frills card to use just for cash management?

Step No. 3: Find a new partner
Once you know what you want in a partner, you should start looking for that person. You can even try meeting people through dating websites if you’re interested.

With credit cards, you can find what you want online as well. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can head to a site such as to find the card that meets your requirements.

Step No. 4: Try out the relationship
Once you have found that new boyfriend/girlfriend, get to know each other. Take it slowly. Discover over time if you are right for each other and see if the mistakes that you worked to correct have indeed been taken care of.

With credit cards, it’s also important to take it slow. See, over time, how you handle your cash management and budgeting and make sure that your new plan is right for you.

Step No. 5:  Keep working on the relationship
If love is not working, you break up and move on — sometimes going back to work on yourself again and sometimes finding a new love. You may even find it is more about communicating with your partner in a more efficient way, so you adjust the relationship instead of starting from the beginning again.

With your credit card, if the relationship is not working, stop and reassess what went wrong.  You may need to stop and work on budgeting again. Perhaps you may have the wrong card for you. Maybe you just need a different payment date.

You may be surprised to find that after a bad experience, you can find the right credit relationship. It may just take a little time, love and work — both on you and your relationship.

See related: How financial troubles can actually help your relationship; Mine, yours and ours: marriage and your money; Help for bad credit: relationships, marriage and divorce

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