Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Best friend “morphs” into whoever she is dating? Getting married but want to keep separate bank accounts?

DEAR NATALIE: Every time my best friend gets into a new relationship (which is often) she seems to ‘morph’ into whatever her new boyfriend wants her to be. The last guy was a musician, so she was obsessed with his music (which was bad) for five weeks. The guy before that was a deeply devout Christian, so for six months I had to listen to her reciting Bible quotes. The one before that was a sports fanatic and my friend (who had never watched football in her life) became a die-hard Steelers fan for about two months. What gives? I find it all very annoying!


DEAR CHAMELEON LIFE: Your friend sounds immature and still figuring out who she is. While it is natural to pick up traits of someone when you are dating them or be open to new things, it can be really weird to see a friend morph into her boyfriend--especially when you’ve seen it over and over again. But in all honesty, what can you do? She clearly has some insecurity issues and a need to please. I actually feel bad for your friend. Instead of being annoyed, try imagining what it would be like to be that insecure and needy. Now I want you to keep that in mind the next time you want to roll your eyes at her. Hopefully this is a phase and she will grow out of it as she becomes more comfortable with herself. In the meantime, continue to build her up and express what a great person she is just as she is. After all, that’s what friends are for.

DEAR NATALIE: My fiance and I have just moved in together and we were wondering if we should combine our incomes into one checking account or keep separate accounts? I say we should keep separate accounts, but he thinks we should combine them. Who’s right? --BANK ON IT

DEAR BANK ON IT: I guess this just depends on who you ask. Some of my friends keep everything in one account and refer to their money as “ours.” Some of my friends keep separate accounts and split up the household expenses that way. Others do a mix of both separate and joint finances. Personally, I think it is important to maintain a sense of financial independence even within your relationship. Often times, whoever controls the money has the power. In order to keep a sense of power for yourself, I suggest always having a separate account that is really an “emergency” fund in case things go south and you need to get out. Some would say that’s paranoid, but I’ve watched enough people go through really dark relationships and have no financial leg to stand on. At the same time, if you are comfortable with it, it may be a good idea to also have a joint account that you both put money into every month to cover your joint expenses, like food, meals out together, rent or your mortgage, utility bills, etc.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Have fun with networking! Don’t be afraid to set up your own small event and invite your friends, asking them each to also bring one friend. Before you know it, you will meet plenty of new people that each have a connection to someone you like and trust.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)