When you find out your partner has debt, you may be filled with anxiety. What are their expectations of you and how should you best support them?
While your first instinct may be to offer them some financial assistance, they may not always be the best decision for your own financial situation. Solving their problems by contributing your own money could promote bad financial habits, involve awkward conversations and even put your own finances at stake.
Instead, it may be more beneficial for both you and your partner if you offer non-financial support. Below are our three best ways to help your partner in financial debt, without getting your own finances involved.
Tip #1: Be Honest
The truth is, finding out that your partner has debt can be hurtful. You could have difficulty trusting them, and you may even look at your relationship with them differently. They’ve had all of this debt and didn’t tell you up until this point, what else could they be hiding? Or you begin to think of them as less mature and possibly incapable of handling tasks as well as you. If they can’t handle their finances, you may start uninvolving them in other important decisions.
Doubt and uncertainty can quickly turn to resentment for your partner, which won’t do either party any good. Instead, be open and honest with your partner. Let them know about the uncertainties you’re feeling, and what they need to do to earn your trust back. With all the cards on the table, you can both begin moving forward in a more positive light.
Tip #2: Determine Together How Much Is Owed
You want to know exactly how much debt your partner is facing, and there’s a real possibility they may not even know themselves. If your partner has told you they have debt, don’t be afraid to take it a step further. They’re confiding in you for a reason, and you can’t begin to help until you understand what you’re up against.
It’s not an easy question, but ask exactly how much debt they have. If they don’t know the amount, set aside some time to look together into how much they owe and across how many channels. They may have multiple credit cards opened or interest on student loan debt accruing so quickly they can’t keep up. Let them know the details are important to you, and you need to know exactly how much they have to tackle.
Tip #3: Discover the Root of the Problem
The root cause of your partner’s debt could be an even bigger problem than the debt itself. If your partner has racked up credit card debt, but is earning regular income and working to pay it down, that’s one issue. If your partner has racked up credit card debt, but is not actively earning an income or concerned with paying it down, that’s another issue altogether. It’s not easy, but understanding how your partner got to this point can help you help them break their financial bad habits.
It could be an issue of your partner living above their means, spending frivolously or simply lacking in financial self-awareness.
Even if your partner’s debt is due to unavoidable debts like student loan payments, looking at the root of why those loans exist and how actively your partner is working to reduce them can tell you a lot about their situation. A well-educated person who has no interest in paying off their debt or is content to ignore their financial issues has serious growth to do. It may be more helpful for you to know about and address those problems now rather than later.
These tips are designed to help you and your partner navigate your relationship as financial concerns get complicated. It can be difficult to have a partner in debt, but the most important things to remember are how you feel about them and what you can learn from this experience.
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