‘Debt rolls a man over and over, binding him hand and foot, and letting him hang upon the fatal mesh until the long-legged interest devours him’.
HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit
Many people in the world today are living in debt and a large percentage of them are hiding their debts from their partners.
Many debtors also admit to losing their partners or even divorcing them because of debt. This shows the seriousness of being in debt and not sharing it with your partner or even engaging them. Sometimes it helps to just share with them your current situation, they may not help a lot but a problem shared is a problem half solved.
Here are a few suggestions to help you keep on track during stressing times and also keep you sane (debt and stress go hand in hand).
1. Be honest about your debt
Communicate with your partner, and be honest while at it. Surveys carried out have found that one in four respondents wouldn’t tell their partner if they were experiencing financial difficulties. Yeah!! Don’t be a statistic – you should decide on a time when the two of you can sit down in a neutral environment and then calmly discuss your finances including all your debt. This is no time to criticize or assign blame – just assess your position financially. Debt and stress go hand in hand and this is made worse when people keep everything bottled up. Speaking out about your feelings can help you feel less lonely and release the tension built up by debt worry. It will also help deepen bonds with those you love, as you’re giving them what they need to know in order to support you.
2. Be optimistic
If you feel overwhelmed by negative feelings due to debt, it’s very important to take a break and remind yourself of the positives.
An optimistic person is also more likely to look at their relationships and focus on making each one as healthy and joyful as possible.
3. Plan how to manage joint finances After discussing about your money situation, including full disclosure of your earnings and debt, talk about your spending patterns and your individual payment plans. Now you can discuss if and how you will pool your financial resources. Will you both pay off your credit cards and get a joint one? Will setting up a joint bank account be proper or will separate accounts suffice? If one of you owns property, will you put your partner’s name on it? (If you do, talk to a legal professional, please).
4. Set expectations about debt repayment First things first, make sure you’re on a level ground about the importance of getting out of debt. Then come up with a payment plan that will allow both of you to pay off your debt as quickly and affordably as possible. Include factors like re-negotiation of interest rates as part of the plan.
4. Consider your dreams and obligations Most of the times, people probably won’t agree on everything when it comes to money management, but try to find a mutual ground. Start with your priorities when it comes to spending on big ticket items, and move on to other goals you may have. E.g., one of you might want to travel while the other prefers to indulge in a hobby. However, both of you might want to pay off your student loans before taking on a mortgage. Find common ground and start from there.
5. Jot down your goals This is a point that has to be stressed. Once you’ve had an honest discussion about your debt and have planned out your payment schedule, write everything down and keep track of it. You might be surprised at how satisfying it can be to watch the debt numbers come down!
6. Share the load
If you have stress in your life, it’s possible that you’re simply taking on too much and not asking those around you for help. For example, if you feel that your partner could do a little more in the house to support you, make sure you tell them in a constructive way. Yelling or guilt-tripping them will only make both of you feel worse.
Approaching the matter calmly with a more positive style (for example, “I always appreciate it when you help with the baby / do the dishes”) reminds your partner that you notice when they do nice things for you.
7. Reach out for support
“No man is an island” 16th century poet John Donne once famously wrote. Up to date, his words still ring true. Friends, family, colleagues and support groups can all give you a sense of belonging and will offer a different viewpoint to any problems you may have.
Emotionally healthy people are able to adjust to and solve problems, and in doing so they help others as well as themselves to get satisfaction out of life.
Following these steps will not only help you avoid arguments but will also set you on the road to financial freedom. Instead of worrying about the “for poorer” part, you can focus on “for richer,” because debt can be reduced.