When officially tying the knot, you and your partner pledge to always be there for each other in good times and bad — for better or worse — and of course you mean it. But if one or both of you is struggling with financial debt, it’s important to treat the matter carefully to avoid adversely affecting your happy union.
Talk Openly About It in Conversations
The two of you probably feel like you share almost everything with each other, from the ultra-embarrassing moments of your dorky teen years to the few regrets that sometimes cause twinges of guilt. However, when it comes to finances, you might not feel ready to share the nitty-gritty details. Money is a difficult thing to talk about, and that’s a reality experienced by people in all situations, not just those who are recently married.
Individuals have different priorities that dictate their spending patterns, and many of those are heavily influenced by the paths they take in life. There is also a frequent misconception that happens when people look at their acquaintances, colleagues, friends and teammates and think “Those people seem very financially secure,” even if the assumption is not a reality. After making that judgment, those who are financially struggling may stay tight-lipped about the matter.
Together, all these things might make you feel tongue tied when it comes to money-related conversations, even when the person you’re engaging with is a spouse. By keeping debt-related worries bottled up, you’ll probably feel extremely stressed and may even make your partner wonder if the thing you’re secretive about is a relational matter, not a money issue.
You might not feel able to express yourself as clearly as you’d like, but as long as the focus is on being honest about the situation itself and how you’re coping, it’s possible to start making progress. After all, solving a debt problem is difficult or maybe even impossible if both you and your spouse keep your lips sealed except when it comes to goodnight kisses.
Come Up With a Feasible Plan
Debt-related fears often make people feel paralyzed, so even if they have good intentions of working towards a more prosperous financial future, they believe they are powerless to make actual improvements. If you are feeling that way (whether the debt is your own, your spouse’s or an amount you have accumulated together), disclose the emotional battle to your spouse and confess you’d appreciate figuring out how to become debt free and making it a team effort.
Sometimes, the simple act of bouncing ideas off another person and listening to his or her feedback is enough to generate realistic ways for making the debt a thing of the past. Depending on the amount you owe, fixing the situation may be as simple as downloading a spending tracker app that coaches you to curb how much you buy once the totals in certain product categories get too high. Any important life decision you make together should consider your debt. For example, if you want to buy a house, you need to choose a home that would fit both your lifestyle and budget. And if both of you have cars, maybe downsizing to a one-car family might cut costs. Remember, there are so many things you both can cut costs on as long as you stay open-minded and communicative. In more severe cases, making appointments with a credit counselor may help.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
Like politics and religion, money is a subject that can make emotions run high. That may mean fingers get pointed and nasty words uttered, all in the heat of the moment. If you and your spouse start to lapse into the common pattern of placing blame for the debt, take a moment to step back, breathe deeply and rise above the momentary unrest.
Studies show that money is the top cause of relationship stress, and if you’ve ever had a fight about funds, it’s not hard to imagine why cash creates so much chaos. Even if the reason for the debt lies solely with one of you, remember various factors can combine and make debt a problem. Often, it occurs when a person is trying to do something that’ll eventually result in long-term financial stability, such as seeking a degree for a lucrative career.
Blaming your spouse for the financial strain you’re bearing is not likely to have fruitful outcomes. Rather than fixating on what has already happened, seek out the things that can be done to make positive changes now.
Dealing with debt as newlyweds may seem wholly detrimental. However, realize that the ways you two manage it may make you stronger in challenging situations that span beyond money woes. If that happens, you can look forward to a more nurturing marriage, no matter what comes your way.
Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger and writer. She created and maintains her personal finance blog Current on Currency. You can subscribe to her blog newsletter right here for her weekly updates.