You are in Debt: How to Tell Your Partner About It

Posted by on Sep 30, 2018 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on You are in Debt: How to Tell Your Partner About It

It’s not unusual for people to have debt. What should you do, though, if you are in a new relationship or even a long-term relationship and haven’t told your partner yet that you are in debt or how much you owe?  

In either situation, your partner needs to know how and why you are in debt. Even it is a difficult conversation. The two hardest discussions you can have in a relationship are those about money and sex.

Whether or not you bring debt into a relationship can affect your being able to qualify for a mortgage or even afford children. Debt can have a real-world impact on both of your lives. Of course, you don’t want your partner to feel betrayed when you disclose your debt. That’s why it’s important to follow these steps:

  • Do Your Homework

Collect all the information you have about your debt so that you can be prepared when you tell your partner about it. Have bank statements, credit card statements, loan information, and any other necessary documents on hand.

  • Timing is Everything When You Tell Your Partner about Debt

If you are in a new relationship, you probably don’t have to tell your partner about your debt on the first few dates. However, if this is someone you are serious about and you both decide to integrate your lives, then it’s time to tell them about your financial challenges.

You definitely want to do this before moving in together, even if you are both planning to keep your finances separate. This is because there will still be some mingling, such as co-signing a lease, buying appliances, etc.  Oftentimes, I find people don’t want to tell their partners for fear they will leave. Ultimately, though, they have a right to know.

  • Be Calm When Having the Discussion

Stay calm and in control when talking about debt. You can start out by saying, “It’s hard for me to talk to you about this but…” This lets your partner know that even though this is difficult for you, it’s still important for the relationship. Then, explain the circumstances surrounding the debt, how you incurred the debt, and what the current status is surrounding the debt.

Also, share whether your financial habits have changed since you first had the debt. For instance, if you are in debt because of credit card misuse, be sure to disclose whether you have curbed your spending. It’s also important for your partner to know what your plan is for dealing with the debt. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. However, remember that you are in debt, so it is your responsibility, not your partner’s.

  • Allow Time to Absorb the Information

Keep in mind that it may not be possible to deal with all the information listed in step #3 in one sitting. Your partner may need time to absorb it all and process. If they need a break, that’s fine. Just agree on a time when you can both return to the conversation. Remember, it’s important for you to acknowledge your partner’s feelings about this. Even if it’s hard to hear, they still need to know this information.

  • Moving Forward with the Debt

Once you tell your partner about the debt, you both need to know how to move forward with this new information productively. You should both communicate regularly about the status of the debt and what you are doing to pay it off. Also, discuss how you can both avoid incurring more debt in the future.  

If, after you tell your partner about debt in your relationship, you are still struggling, consider getting couples counseling. Together, you can work on your communication skills and ways of understanding how to strengthen your relationship despite the financial burden.

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