How to Cope With Your Partner’s Debt

by Chonce Maddox

managing debt, debt tips, coping with debt

Debt is a sticky subject that can affect your life in so many ways. If you have debt of your own, you know how it can cripple your finances and hold you back from doing the things you truly want to do.

If your partner has debt, you must realize that you’ll have to confront it and cope with it sooner or later. Here are some ways to go about handling your partner’s debt.

Get a Clear Picture of the Situation

If you’re in a committed relationship with someone or even married, it’s best that you understand ever aspect of their financial situation including their debt. Sit down and talk about how much debt each of you owe, how you accumulated that debt, what the interest rate and minimum payment look like, and so on.

It’s also important to have the credit conversation. If you’re wondering about what will happen to your credit when you get married, you’ll want to know where your partner’s credit score stands and how debt affects it because it could affect your ability to do things like get a mortgage in the future.

After you learn all the facts, then you can decide on a game plan for handling the debt.

Decide Who’s Responsibility It Is to Pay Off the Debt

This is the tricky part, but you can’t treat your partner’s debt like an elephant in the room. Odds are, they already feel responsible for it and may not want to burden you with it at all.

For some couples, both people have debt and decide to take full responsibility for their share. When I was dating my husband, he has student loans and a car loan and so did I so we each just made progress on paying off our separate debts.

If you use this route, make sure both of your are pleased with the decision and have worked out your budget for other regular expenses as well. For example, if your partner has a minimum student loan payment that is $1,000 per month and you only have a small amount of credit card debt, you may be able to take on more of the living expenses like an extra utility bill so your partner isn’t spread so thin.

Work With Them to Pay It Off

When you get married, everything becomes combined, there often isn’t any ‘you’ or ‘me’ and it’s more about ‘us’. With that being said, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. Their name may be on the account, but some lenders may even see it as your responsibility if they aren’t able to make payments for some reason.

This is why it’s a great idea to understand your partner’s situation early on and work with him or her to pay off the debt. Two heads are often better than one, and if you have an income, you both can put your money together to get rid of the debt faster.

When I got married to my husband last year, I knew he has credit card debt and I didn’t. I also knew we had bigger goals for our money and paying off his credit card debt would help raise his credit score and free up more of his income.

We decided to start living off one income for a few months after marriage and managed to knock out his credit card debt in full by the end of the summer. Now, we both have a little extra money to focus on the rest of our financial goals while we continue to work toward debt freedom.

Discuss How the Debt Makes You Feel

If your partner’s debt makes you feel unsettling, be sure to voice your concerns. If they don’t seem like they are taking debt payoff seriously, having a heart-to-heart could really help. Explain how the debt makes you feel and be completely honest.

When I got married, I viewed my husband’s debt as a setback. I’d worked very heard the year before to free myself of consumer debt (my car loan) and managed to pay off $11,000 in debt. Now that our debt totals were combined, the amount we owed increased and I wasn’t happy one bit about the credit card debt.

My husband listened to my concerns and it motivated him to have the same motivation and drive as me to get rid of his credit card debt. That’s how I truly believe we were able to pay it off so fast.

When it comes to coping with your partner’s debt, there’s definitely a right and wrong way to do it. Try to be honest about how you feel but avoid sounding too harsh – it’s not necessary to get your point across. Also, focus on creating a game plan and do what you can to help your partner pay off their debt because their financial win will be yours as well.

How have you coped with your partner’s debt?

Disease Called Debt


Mel @ brokeGIRLrich January 14, 2017 - 5:33 pm

I was actually really lucky to be in a relationship with a super financially savvy guy for most of may 20s, which helped me get my act together and pay off all my debts. The relationship didn’t work out, but I’ll aways be grateful for that.

Jamie January 14, 2017 - 3:51 pm

I am glad that my husband had minimal amount of debt and he is very transparent to any financial challenge he is going through and I am to him. We help each other out to work out our problem as soon as possible. And, if there are any misunderstanding, we try to know where one is coming from so that we can give solution to our problem.

Gary @ Super Saving Tips January 14, 2017 - 12:50 pm

When my second wife and I met, we each had a small amount of credit card debt which we quickly paid off. We didn’t view it as yours and mine, but ours. It’s definitely something people in a committed relationship should talk about and make a plan for.

emily @ johnjanedoe January 14, 2017 - 7:39 am

My husband and I met through e-Harmony, and we both put “Financial Responsibility” high on our lists of must-haves, so luckily neither of us came in with a bunch of debt. I had a mortgage and a car payment and a solid income, he had less income but no debt (and very frugal ways.) It’s nice to be on more or less the same page going in, but it’s also good to learn from each other as you grow together. I know I’ve learned to follow a lot of Jon’s frugal ways (if not his passion for Top Ramen) and may never ever buy another new car.


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