Let’s Talk About Debt, Baby

by Alexa Mason · 6 comments

You’ve been dating for six months now, and it’s feeling right. He gives you butterflies when he walks into the room. You think he could be “the one.”

The problem is that you’ve been withholding some information from him.

You’re not sure if you should even be bringing up such a topic so early on in a relationship – and quite frankly, this secret has the potential to make your new love interest run for the hills.

You have $90,000 in student loan debt and $45,000 in credit card debt. You’re not quite sure what his financial situation is, or if yours will scare him away. What do you do?

Disclose Your Financial Situation, or Forever Hold Your Peace

Face it: talking about finances early on in a relationship isn’t sexy, but it’s necessary. Money problems are one of the leading causes of break-ups and divorces. If you’re not open about your finances now, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of stress and heartbreak in the future. The thing with not being honest is that the longer you hide your problems, the harder it’ll be to be open about the whole thing. Many people try to cover things up until one day the situation just blows up in their face.

If you’ve been beating around the bush when it comes to disclosing your finances, then it’s time to bite the bullet and come out to the open. Here are three ways to go about it.

#1 – Keep it Casual

During a casual conversation, playfully ask your new love interest about his views on money. If you’re talking about careers, ask him how he feels about student loans. If you’re talking about vacations, vehicles, or any other big-ticket items, ask how he feels about consumer debt.

Your casual conversation could lead to a long, heartfelt talk in which you openly disclose your financial status. Remember that this is about sharing more than probing, so ask plenty of questions but also disclose a fair bit!

#2 – Observe

You can tell a lot about someone’s financial habits by simply observing what they do. By this point, you’ve probably spent enough time with this person to have a general idea of their money personality.

For example, she’s a frugal person if you’ve seen her use coupons. You might want to ask her about her strategy and learn a thing or two. If she purchases expensive designer jeans at the drop of a hat and charges them to her credit card without much thought, she might have money problems. You won’t know though unless you talk about her money choices with her. And even if she ends up having a spending issue, she might not know it’s a problem unless you help her realize the magnitude of the issue.

#3 – Just Bring It Up

If you feel that your money issues are enough to put a hold on your new relationship, or that your love interest is the one in money trouble, just bring it up. If money’s an issue that’s been weighing heavily on your mind, it’s better to get everything out in the open. Maybe it could be easily remedied, but nothing will change unless you start addressing the problem.

This doesn’t have to be awkward either. Try starting a conversation about your future goals. Disclose where you’re at now, and where you want to be in the coming years. Ask the same of your partner.

There’s quite a bit of chatter about our government possibly canceling student loan debt. You might be thinking that if that were to happen, your debt issue might just disappear all on its own. Still, I encourage you not to wait for your issues to resolve themselves. For one, it may not ever happen. If you already feel uneasy about the situation, don’t let that feeling fester into something much bigger. Share your goals and situation with the one you love now. Don’t delay.

Keep Your Money Views In Mind

Love can be blinding, but debt can be binding too. If you’re on a path to financial freedom – working hard to earn and save every dollar you get – then dating someone with major money issues will likely cause a lot of friction for you in the future because your partner’s finances will affect yours no matter how hard you try to keep everything separate.

Enjoy your new relationship, but make sure that you and your potential partner’s financial paths have similarities. You may not be concerned about money habits now, but they will certainly play a role in the relationship in your future. How would you feel if you were originally planning to retire because you’ve worked hard and diligently saved for decades, only to find out that your significant other managed to accumulate $150,000 in debt?

It’s hard, but be completely honest about the details whatever your situation is. When it comes to relationships and money, honesty will always be the most important factor.

How has money affected your romantic relationships?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • JoannieO says:

    I’ve been married since Sept 1974. We eloped and had a hippie wedding. Our friends made us a potluck supper that evening. Another friend took our wedding photos. We were conservative with money right from the start, but while young enough, took many vacations w/in the USA and Caribbean. Now both retired, we’ve done it all, live in a nice Rhode Island community near a beach, & still watch our money. I cannot stress enough, how important the financials are. The leading cause of divorce was finances back in the late 1970s, when I was attending college for my BSN. I believe it is the leading cause of divorce today!

  • hannah says:

    This is a really important article. I think most young couples ignore this subject, to the great destruction of their future relationship.
    My spouse and I didn’t have a long courtship, but we talked in depth about goals in regards to life, work, kids, and most especially money. Now that we are dealing with real life problems like job loss and cancer, we are on the same page and can work together to combat money issues.
    So much easier than finding out when the going gets tough, that you aren’t on the same page at all.

  • The Warrior says:

    I know this really doesn’t need to be said as most people know or should know, but communication is the biggest thing.

    My wife and I have communicated on finances from the time we start dating. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have such a health relationship.

    As mentioned, at the least, bring any and all financial situations to the forefront and address them rather than letting them eat away at either of you.

    The Warrior

  • Mike Della says:

    This is really good advice. The key is to be honest and open (as with anything else) with your partner to prevent debt from happening. You don’t have to hold each other accountable for purchases, but you should discuss finances at length before moving in together or getting married. How we were all raised greatly affects our relationship with money and how we spend.

  • Prudence says:

    Great advice to new couples. The problem is, I remember hearing it myself – over a couple of decades ago now – and I ignored it. Youth – especially youth combined with love – can feel very powerful and “above” such considerations. I think there might be a shift in our culture now though – so maybe even those who are young and in love will take your wisdom to heart.

    • Alexa says:

      Absolutely. Young love is a very powerful thing. I remember the way I felt with my first boyfriend and quite frankly money was my last concern. Over the years though, I have gotten a lot wiser about relationships and money. Young love could overlook be blind to major financial issues but as people people mature I think they start to realize the impact of finances on a relationship.

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