Why is debt a deal breaker?

Committing to marry someone includes more than just building a future together. What assets and liabilities a person has will come along in to the relationship. When someone carries debt into their marriage, it puts an immediate strain on a new family. Marriage between two financially equal partners is hard enough without the burden of debt. Financial stress is one of the major triggers for conflict between partners and a risk factor for divorce. After a couple marries, there is a pressure and tendency to combine everything into one combined pot of resources. Having a partnership start with a handicap, one that would reflect on both partners if the marriage ends, is a decision that one should not take lightly. While it may be common to have certain kinds of debt in our modern consumer culture, dating a partner with debt is not the same as entering into a marriage where that burden becomes shared. If a partner dies, or if a debt goes unpaid, that responsibility can affect the partner.

Why might women be more hesitant then men?

Women are the traditional victims of marriage debt, as they have historically been the ones to leave the workplace during the relationship. Women that give up their source of income are still liable once finances are combined in the marriage. If the marriage ends, the wife will be without consistent income to pay down monthly payments, a lack of work experience when trying to re-enter the job market, and potentially a loss of their status in the dating economy to find another partner. When dating, finding a partner that believes in equal roles in and out of the house is not guaranteed. If a relationship progresses to the point of engagement and marriage, a partner might feel that debt is something that can be overcome and not worth leaving the investment in the partner just because of the financial situation. Men may be able to bounce back faster from a divorce than a woman that has made financial sacrifices during the marriage, and the wife may be stuck paying for debts she did not incur on her own as part of a divorce settlement.

What is the worst kind of debt to bring into a marriage?

The debts that might be more difficult to discharge in case a financial situation deteriorates to the point of bankruptcy are the worst. Any well educated partner may have the student loans to prove it, and those linked to federal loans are rarely going to be forgiven in bankruptcy. If you see yours or your partner’s debt as lingering and taking a toll on the financial and emotional health of your partner, you might be setting yourself up for failure by hitching your own liabilities to that wagon. Consumer credit can be charged off and will eventually come off a credit report, but homes and student loans do not go away easily. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone with consumer debt, you might want to take a second to understand their spending habits and psychological health when it comes to spending. Fiscal management should be something that a partner assesses along with family and physical health of their partner.

What can people do to prevent debt from ruining wedding plans?

As a counselor that preaches the six p’s (prior planning prevents piss poor performance) I advocate for singles to take time to address as many issues as possible before linking a life to another person. Couples that invest in their future together should outline a budget that allows for paying down debt as much as possible before dealing with the burden of wedding costs. Couples that choose to work on their spending habits together, paying down individual debts ahead of joining their assets into a joint account, or keeping separate accounts along with a joint account for shared expenses will be set up for success well into the future. The less debt a couple brings into a marriage the better their chance of staying together.

What are some tips to handle debt once married?

Once a couple finds themselves in a debt burdened marriage, it becomes easy for other issues to pile on top of the financial stress. If a couple decides to make addressing debt a priority, they can use both incomes to pay down their liabilities while saving a percentage to live. If both couples stay working and treat their debt as their child, they can really focus their combined energy to paying down debts to prepare for their family’s future. Combined incomes are a great way, but for those that are surviving on one income while trying to confront debts, hard choices must be made. Debt can be easy to get into and hard to get out of. Without commitment from both partners and how the money is spent between the couple, debt can linger on long after it should. Ensuring that the highest percentage of funds possible goes towards paying down debts, not increasing the debt load, and prioritizing smart spending can be the bond that strengthens a union. When one partner is not on board it will create stress and resentment that could lead to divorce and an even worse financial satiation for both partners. Teamwork is essential for any partnership; a marriage is no different.

What do you think? Tell your relationship & debt story in the comments.

This article was written for Rebecca Lake, at http://www.mybanktracker.com

Dr. Ethan Gregory





Author of I’m Sorry, You are Not a Pick-Up Artist and I’m Sorry, You are Not a Disney Princess and You Matter Most! Season One

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