Love and marriage and debt

Shakespeare coined the phrase “Love is blind,” but if Shakespeare was around today he might be inclined to switch that up to “Love is blind, but not if you have a boatload of debt, in which case love sees that business and needs you to take care of it ASAP.”

The evidence against love’s blindness? A recent poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), which found that a majority of respondents would have serious reservations about taking on the debt of the person they love.

  • 37 percent would refuse to get married until their partner’s debt was completely repaid
  • 10 percent would get married, but would not help pay their partner’s debt
  • 7 percent would simply end the relationship with an indebted partner

The remaining 46 percent of those polled were willing to get married and then jointly pay off their partner’s debt.

Protecting yourself

It makes sense that consumers are, in many cases, putting their emotions to the side and considering the implications of assumed debt. Financial strife has always been one of the leading causes of discontent within relationships. It’s human nature. Too much debt or too little money puts us in a vulnerable position. It makes us feel unsafe and safety is one of our primal motivators.

So finding yourself in love with someone with sizable debt or obviously poor money management skills puts you in a tricky position. The heart says, “Yes,” but the mind says, “About this credit score…” Because in addition to creating feelings of potential danger, your partner’s money problems are going to have a real, tangible impact on your joint life together. As a couple you might find it difficult to buy a home or car. You might have rental applications rejected and face higher insurance premiums.

Does this mean that the 7 percent who would walk away from a relationship because of debt are right? Not necessarily. Here are the keys to making it work.

  • Communication. If you can’t bring yourself to talk about money (especially money problems) you’re just asking for trouble. Keep everything out in the open. Make money talks a safe place to voice your concerns and do your best to really listen to your partner.
  • Compromise. Your attitude towards money is very rarely going to match 100 percent with a potential partner. Be open to making slight alterations to how you use and view money – but just make sure that your partner is equally open to change.
  • Commit to improve. Don’t make the mistake of convincing yourself that you’re right and your partner is wrong. You’re just different. And, frankly, you can both improve. So commit to identifying where you’d like to be as a couple and work towards that goal together.

Love and money will always go hand-in-hand and financial baggage can be heavy, but recognizing and addressing your differences will go a long way toward making happily ever after a reality.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.