Money is a common issue partners face in a relationship. The basic desire is to have enough money to live comfortably. But sometimes, the pressure from debt and your love life can turn all your plans upside down.
At the beginning of a relationship, everything is hearts and rainbows; no one even thinks about money. But when the relationship reaches a serious level, and money talk comes into play, things tend to change. Money becomes a part of the relationship. If you are facing debt and your love life is just beginning, it can adversely affect a relationship if it is not correctly dealt with.
How does debt affect a relationship?
Most of the time, significant life changes lead people into debt, for example, having a baby, getting married, unforeseen medical expenses, losing a job, etc. Big changes in your life can affect your finances, and it can be hard to adjust to them.
Sometimes, debt can become a problem when you unintentionally overcommit to a big financial purchase. Like when buying a house, you may have thought that the mortgage payments would be manageable initially, but later they turn out to be unaffordable.
There is no manual for a successful relationship, but there are some commonalities that strengthen a relationship, which are shared goals and values. When the topic of personal finances comes up, it’s natural for your values and goals to surface. Because we are all raised differently and come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, you and your partner may not share the same thought process. People’s attitudes toward money can vary greatly depending on their personal experiences.
Debt can be a complex topic to discuss positively because of the stress of being in debt. This could impact many of the things that are important to you. For example, you may be unable to pay for a sport your child is interested in, or your family’s home may be threatened.
Debt-related stress may cause a couple to turn against each other. This could cause you to blame your partner, especially if they were responsible for the debt in any way. Sometimes one partner accumulates a large amount of debt without the other partner’s knowledge. The change in spending habits is a sure sign that they are having financial difficulties.
As a result, the couple may experience some trust issues. When you discover that your partner has accumulated debt, it feels like a betrayal. We usually assume that our partners are looking out for us and have our best interests at heart; finding out about the debt can be a massive blow to that sense of security. Our assumption and expectation that our partner will support us in creating a stable and healthy relationship is the reason for this.
Even if one partner has debt, the pressure falls on both of them. Both have to find a rhythm to tackle it and not let it get in the way of their relationship.
What can you do to address this problem?
It is vital that couples address the problem before it becomes too big to handle. There are a few things that couples can do to avoid this issue.
It is best to start discussing your financial situation early in the relationship. To be years down the line and then your partner discovers debt and your love life starts to dwindle, you will regret not being honest from the beginning. If any of you are having financial difficulties, it’s best to open up about it with each other. Discuss your spending habits: are you a saver or a spender? Do you put your money at risk, or are you careful with it? It would help if you also discussed how your family handled money when you were younger. Childhood experiences shape habits that last well into adulthood. You can ask if money was ever talked about openly at home or if they had a tight budget or one that was more flexible. This discussion may feel awkward and uncomfortable for some, but it will help you understand how you and your partner handle money.
However, if a financial crisis occurs in the future, discussing money and your financial situation will help solve the majority of the problems. Nobody has the same attitude toward money. Understanding one’s way of thinking while making some compromises for the other can sometimes help resolve various issues.
This conversation is critical because it informs both parties about what they’re getting themselves into. When couples commit to being there for their partner “for better or for worse,” it is often the most evident test. Do not be afraid to discuss your debt, whether it is good debt (example: mortgages) or bad debt (example: unsecured credit). When someone is upfront about their financial history, it helps the family figure out how to resolve any issues from the past and maximize any potential future benefits.
Understand your financial situation
Talk about your income and look over your financial documents, such as your savings and checking accounts, loans, real estate, and other assets. To figure out your net worth, take the value of your assets—cash, investments, and anything else you own—and subtract the value of your debts. Your net worth is one way to tell how healthy your finances are. Don’t make decisions before you have all the facts, and remember that you’re all on the same team and that each of you has your strengths and weaknesses. When you know how much you have, it will give you a perspective on what it is that you can afford and cannot afford. You’ll be able to tackle big financial goals better if you jointly make decisions about them.
Plan and take action to get your finances under control
There is no set playbook for couples’ finances. Certainly, debt and your love life do not have to be a negative combination. First, you need to know everything about your finances, then make a budget that incorporates all your payments and expenses with the addition of a savings account.
Second, it’s preferable for couples to combine their money to manage it better and keep track of where it goes. Some couples can find a good balance between their shared financial responsibilities and their financial independence by having both joint and separate bank accounts. Most bills, like the mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc., should be paid from the joint account. The other small account should be for things like clothes, gifts for each other, hobbies, and other personal needs. Since you are both equal partners, you should have the same amount in your account every month, no matter how much you earn. With this method, you can usually work as a team, but you can also decide on your own how to spend your money.
Third, you begin slowly and methodically repaying your debt. When you start paying back your debts, you should know what kind they are. Are they good debt or bad debt? You can look into debt consolidation programs that assist people in systematically repaying their debts. With these programs, you can consolidate credit card debt, payday loan debt, mortgage debt, personal loan debt, and other debts. You can seek the advice of a financial advisor to determine how to manage them best.
Last, one of you should keep a close eye on the finances and not allow anyone to deviate from the plan. They will ensure that all bills are paid and that no accounts are overdrawn. This, however, will only work if both of you are completely honest with each other. Set a date for reviewing the budget to see what went as planned and what did not, and then adjust the budget accordingly.
It takes time to recover from a setback like this. Maintain your priorities; you must concentrate on regaining financial strength while restoring the trust and security that were lost when the financial difficulties occurred. You must address the damage caused by the debt and proceed from there, repairing one part at a time. At this stage, even the slightest amount of pressure can be harmful to your relationship, so always share every step or action you take. It won’t be easy, but if you stick together, regain your trust, and focus on the future, you will emerge stronger. If you require assistance, you can always seek relationship counselling, which can assist you in positively rebuilding your relationship. Debt and your love life are connected, but you don’t have to lose everything because of your financial situation.
Author’s Bio: Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California. He has contributed to publications such as Entrepreneur, All Business, US Chamber, Finance Magnates, Next Avenue, and many more.