I feel like everywhere you turn, debt is abundant. That is sad…
However, with that debt comes a person, and that person will eventually form a relationship. That relationship will usually be built around everything but money – love, friendship, shared interests, etc. And when the money piece comes out, will the relationship be jeopardized?
Love and Money When You’re Young
If you’re young, and having fun, money and debt most likely never play a part in a relationship. As long as “date night” can be afforded, everybody is happy. It’s good to be young, and buy expensive things, and get an expensive education.
However, as things become more serious, and you start thinking about settling down, getting married, kids, and buying a house, that debt from your “wild and free” days can quickly come back to haunt you.
So, while there is no guilt now, “young” may only last a few years, and then you will be guilty as you try to make things work with a loved one.
Next Next Phase
As things get more serious, this is where debt can really harm a relationship. As couples try to get the finances arranged for this new “couple”, it can be a challenge to deal with debt. Some couples didn’t even know how in debt their partners were until this phase, and that can cause real trust issues.
The best thing you can do is be open and honest about debt, and what your plan is to pay it off. You also need to consider what caused the debt, and is that behavior likely to continue? Was it for education, which is now over, or was the debt credit card debt, and it was accrued by poor spending and budgeting habits.
If the costs incurred are over, this phase is a great time to support each other in paying it off. However, if the debt is a behavioral issue that hasn’t changed, it could be a big red flag for the relationship.
Check out our guide to Being Married With Student Loan Debt for more on this.
What Couples Can Do
If you are in this situation, and are concerned about your other half’s debt, the biggest thing you should do is communicate about it. When communication, discuss how it makes you feel (it could be a trust issue, or a fear of being saddled with the debt in the future).
As your relationship progresses, maybe you can do things to alleviate the fear. Insurance could be a good thing to look at – should something happen to you, your significant other won’t be saddled with any of your debts. If you’re thinking about getting married, maybe you consider a prenuptial agreement that clearly spells out each party’s responsibility for their debts.
Whatever the case, you need to be open, honest, and up front about any debts you have, especially as a relationship progresses.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Can debt hurt a relationship?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.