Telling a loved one you are in debt

One of the most common problems in relationships is a lack of communication—particularly when it comes to money. If you are hiding money problems from a loved one, you are probably riding an emotional roller coaster that is impacting every aspect of your life. Being in debt is hard enough without the fear, anxiety, shame, and guilt associated with keeping secrets.

While it is natural to want to protect the people you love, most hidden money problems are eventually discovered adding an unhealthy layer of distrust to your relationship. The obvious answer is honesty. However, telling someone you’re in financial trouble can be easier said than done. Following are some suggestions to help you communicate with your loved one about your financial situation.

-Take a minute to self-reflect. According to Dr. Brene Brown, author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” (shame) and “I did something bad” (guilt). Shame is about who we are and guilt is about our behaviors. It is important for you to recognize that debt is a result of actions and not an indication that you are a bad person.

-Be honest with yourself.  While the truth may be hard to face, it is important to take some time to assess the situation.  You can't move forward until you get a true and accurate picture of where you stand today. You can expect your loved one to ask questions; “I’m in debt” is not enough information.

-Create a plan. Once you have clear picture of your financial situation, think about what you are willing to do to improve it. Avoid making promises to anyone (including yourself) that you cannot keep. Discover all your options, but be flexible; your loved one will likely have ideas of his or her own.

-Be committed. Making a plan and taking action are two different things. It may take time for your loved one to see that you are serious about sticking to your plan. Regardless, you should be 100% committed to improving your situation because it is the right thing for you.

-Be transparent. Consider allowing your loved one to have access to your financial information on an ongoing basis. While it may be difficult to relinquish total control, it is a good way to build trust and assure that you are both making informed decisions.

-Get help. It may be wise to seek the help of a neutral third party, such as a relationship counselor, to help you create lasting change and rebuild trust.

Remember, sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.


Did you know?

According to a study by Harris Interactive for Lawyers.com and REDBOOK magazine, one in three U.S. adults ages 25 to 55 who are in a committed relationship say they have been dishonest with their partner about spending habits


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Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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