The subject of finances is often tricky to address when you’re in a relationship. It’s not exactly the best topic to chat about on a first date or even in the early stages of a relationship after all. However, certain financial conversations will have to take place at some point if your relationship is to develop.
One of the hardest things to talk about with anyone, let alone your partner in a relationship, is debt. Not many people like to talk about how much money they owe to creditors, because it’s a personal matter. There’s no doubt that debt is a burden and if not managed properly, it will impact on the decisions that you make in day to day life.
Why you should talk about your debt with your partner
Money does matter in a relationship. If your relationship is getting serious, there are some good reasons why you should be upfront with your partner about how much debt you’re in – and why they should be upfront with you, if they also have debt.
The first reason is because debt can end up being a big secret in your relationship even if you didn’t intend for this to be the case. The longer you leave it to mention your debt, the hard it will become. Then when the time comes to make decisions together that involve spending money, like going on holiday or moving in together, your debt can present a problem if it turns out you can’t afford to do those things. Your partner will find it harder to understand about your debt at that point, if you’ve not been able to mention it before.
The second reason is that if you’re not upfront about your debt with your partner and then they find out, this could lead to trouble in your relationship. Your partner could feel betrayed that you kept your debt from them – because when you’re in a relationship debt affects both parties, not just you. If you can’t afford that romantic mini-break away because your debt repayments are too high, then there’s a good chance that your partner won’t be going either.
Lastly, you should consider telling your partner about your debt, because they may be able to support you emotionally and encourage you to pay it off. And vice versa, if your partner has debt, you can support them too. Debt advice is also never far away and many wait far too long before seeking it.
Debt can cause emotions such as anger, shame and guilt as you try your best to figure out how you ended up in debt and how you’re going to manage it going forwards. Facing these emotions alone is tough. But by confiding in your partner, someone whom you (hopefully) trust, you can feel comforted and generally more positive, in the knowledge that you have their support.
In some cases, you may find that your partner just won’t understand about how you got into debt and this could cause a rift in your relationship. This is unlikely but in any case, it’s definitely better to find this out sooner rather than later, rather than waiting a couple of years down the line, when you’re thinking about getting married or having kids.
Why you should work towards financial goals together
Once you and your partner have each discussed your finances including the extent of any debt, it’s important to work together to reduce the debt so that you can enjoy your relationship and life in general.
Sometimes, couples have conflicting priorities when it comes to money matters. One person in the relationship might be heavily focused on saving money every month and the other might find that perspective very restrictive, preferring to spend money as and when they want to.
Being on the same page when it comes to your finances is vital if you don’t want to end up having arguments in the future about the way that one of you is spending money. This is especially the case if either of you have debt to contend with.
A good first step to finding some common ground when it comes to money matters is to open up a joint account for your bills whilst keeping your own accounts for personal expenditure. You could both agree a certain amount of money that you could use as “spending money”. This will help you to remain financially independent of each other, if that’s what you want.
Should you and your partner pay off each other’s debt?
If one or both of you have debt, it’s worth discussing how you’ll tackle that together. This can be tricky if you have more debt than your partner, or the other way around. For example, your minimum debt repayments might be more than your partner’s, so you might have less disposable income which leaves you short every month whilst your partner is doing fine. This situation can lead to bad feelings and arguments.
One way to get around this is to tackle your debts from a combined perspective. For example, if you and your partner sat down and worked out your total debts, including the interest rate for each one, you could formulate a good strategy for which debts should be paid off first.
It makes financial sense to tackle the debt that is costing the most money in interest first. As a couple, you could work together to contribute a certain amount of money as an overpayment towards that particular debt, whilst continuing with the minimum payments on others. Overall, your total debt between you could be paid off much more quickly by doing this.
The strategy of combining debts and working together to pay them off in this way should only be considered if you’re in a serious relationship – for example if you’re married or you’re confident that your relationship is secure. This is because effectively you could be paying off your partner’s debt before your own. If anything were to go wrong in your relationship, you could walk away with just as much debt as before.
The bottom line is that money does matter in a relationship. Debt can create a barrier within a relationship because it will have a negative impact on at least one person’s finances. It’s very tricky to manage debt if you’re keeping it a secret from your partner and before long it could end up spiralling out of control to the point where you have no choice but to tell your partner about it anyway. By then, there could be some major trust issues to worry about!
That’s why it’s important to be upfront with your partner as soon as you can and ask them to be straight with you about their own finances. If your relationship is strong, you could work together to try to reduce any debt, by being supportive of each other’s commitments to getting the debt repaid and possible devising a strategy where you tackle the debts jointly.