Relationships tend to work best when everyone involved commits to being honest. After all, relationships built on false pretenses—whether familial, platonic or romantic—have a much higher chance of falling apart down the line.
But there’s one area in which it can be difficult to be honest: finances. Why? Well, many consumers feel protective of details they see as personal. Furthermore, it’s becoming increasingly common to carry larger debts, which can lead some people to feel shame, guilt or anxiety—all of which can take a toll on a relationship.
As CNBC reports, more than 3 out of 4 Americans “consider too much card debt a relationship deal breaker.” The average amount at which debt becomes unacceptable is around $11,525. Considering nearly half of U.S. credit card holders carry a balance from month to month, it becomes apparent debt can go so far as to make or break a relationship.
So, how can people overcome debt-related problems in their relationships? Here are some suggestions.
Talk About Money Honestly
Many relationship problems arise because two people simply aren’t on the same page. Housemates may fight over finances before rent is due. A married couple may disagree about how much to spend and how much to save. Someone in a new relationship may feel the need to conceal how much debt they’re carrying so it doesn’t affect the other person’s initial impression of them. A parent may feel pressure to lie to their child about their debts so as not to worry them.
Even though broaching the subject of money can feel awkward at first, honesty is always the best policy. Both parties should disclose their debts honestly as necessary, including the amount and nature. This is a good time to “air out financial dirty laundry,” so to speak. Make sure to approach the conversation from a place of mutual honesty and respect so it doesn’t turn into an argument.
To end things on a positive note, discuss short- and long-term financial goals. This puts the focus on what each person hopes to achieve, providing motivation to get out of debt—together.
Get a Debt Relief Strategy
Next, it’s time to strategize on exactly how to get out of debt. There’s no easy one-size-fits-all solution here; it depends on how much debt you’re carrying, what kind, how much money you’re making, your lifestyle and more. Here are a few potential debt relief options to consider during these planning stages:
- Debt consolidation: A consumer takes out a personal loan, uses it to pay off debts with high interest rates, then pays back the loan at a fixed rate over time.
- Debt settlement: A consumer saves up a certain amount of money then attempts to lower the amount owed by negotiating with creditors, either alone or through a professional service like the Freedom Debt Relief program.
- Balance transfer: A consumer transfers a high-interest credit card debt to a card with a lower APR for a fee.
- Cash-out refinance: A homeowner refinances his/her mortgage, using the extra money to pay off debts and repay the mortgage over time.
- Do-it-yourself approach: A consumer methodically pays off debts, often making lifestyle changes to free up money to contribute toward debt
- File for bankruptcy: A consumer undergoes the legal process of filing for bankruptcy, alleviating themselves of debt obligations but potentially loses their assets and property in the process.
Whichever strategy you choose, prepare to commit to getting financially healthy. Truly overcoming debt is a marathon, not a sprint.
Share Moral Support
One of the highlights of running a marathon is seeing your family and friends on the sidelines, cheering for you every step of the way. Carry this mentality into your relationships. Provide support and encouragement. The journey out of debt can strengthen your bond rather than create a wedge to drive you apart.
Overcoming problems related to debt in relationships is a matter of speaking honestly about finances, choosing an effective debt relief strategy and supporting each other through the process.