With almost 45 million Americans currently holding student BridgePayday provides a Same Day Loans, chances are at some point in your dating life, student debt — either your own or your partner’s — will become a puzzle piece that you’ll have to consider. Dating someone in debt can have consequences on how you spend time together and shape the decisions you make as the relationship progresses.
Finances can affect everything from what kind of an apartment you can qualify for together, how you travel together, or even just where you’ll eat on Friday night. Let’s look at the following topics and how best to deal with this sometimes sensitive topic:
- Dating someone in debt: How to approach student loans in your relationship
- How to deal with a partner in debt
- Dating if you’re the one with student loan debt
Whether you’re dating someone with a lot of debt or dating someone with financial problems that seem relatively minor, one thing is certain: Finances are a major component when it comes to measuring your compatibility long-term.
Not even the bedroom is safe from the impact of student loans — survey results show 32% of student loan borrowers report having a decreased sex drive. Here’s what to know about how to approach the subject of debt in your dating relationships.
Here’s how you can begin to face the topic of dating and finances directly so you can work toward relationship health in this area:
1. Talk candidly about your finances
2. Assess your partner’s attitude about their student loan debt
3. Keep an open mind, but recognize your boundaries
4. Consider how student loan debt will impact your future together
Financial transparency and honesty in a relationship are crucial when it comes to building a serious partnership that both members can equally engage in. “It should be part of the conversation because it is part of life. Debt is normal, it happens,” says Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group, a debt solutions firm headquartered in New York City. “Just as it is important to talk about if you’re having children, want to live in the city or suburbs, how you feel about travel, the financial piece is a huge part of your relationship.”
But knowing how to find out if someone is in debt in a tactful way that doesn’t damage the relationship can sometimes be a struggle. “I’ve only been remarried for two years, so these topics came up often when I was dating,” says Tayne. If you’re wondering how to check someone’s financial status, here are some ideas that Tayne has used both personally and professionally in her work with clients:
- Begin the conversation with your goals: “One way is to talk about where you’re at,” says Tayne, adding that you might start the conversation by saying something such as ‘‘I rent my apartment, these are my goals, this is what I’m looking to do.” This could be an easier way into the conversation instead of opening aggressively. “It’s really important to be non confrontational about it and find the right environment to talk about [finances]. It’s really more important to talk and ask questions,” says Tayne.
- Dig into potential patterns: It’s important to understand how your partner got into debt and whether it was strategic debt, such as taking on a mortgage or student loans or unorganized debt, such as consumer spending on credit card bills. “I once dated someone who had 75 pairs of jeans,” said Tayne. “To me, that is a little bit of a red flag.” But Tayne also cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “Do you have the same pair [of jeans] you had in your 20’s and you never got rid of anything?” While that might signify it’s time for a closet overhaul, it doesn’t necessarily point to out of control spending. Asking the right questions and getting honest about spending habits is the best way to the bottom of these potential red flags.
- Be respectful: Different opinions on personal finance can cause emotions to flare, which could be one reason student loans factor into the divorce rate, but Tayne cautions couples to take the conversation slow and make sure it’s healthy for both individuals. If discomfort arises she suggests asking something along the lines of, ‘‘I sense that you’re being super-hesitant, is this not a good time or is this not a topic you’re comfortable with?” If your partner is never comfortable talking about personal finance, this could be a deal breaker.
Not all debt is necessarily bad debt, and often the reason your partner got into debt may be informative. For example, did they plan carefully for an advanced degree or overspend student loans in college? Have they been responsible for paying off their loans on time? The reasons people get into debt are varied. If your boyfriend has financial problems, understanding what led to the problems and if he has a plan to get out of them could make the difference on whether or not you feel comfortable proceeding with the relationship. Here are some ways you can assess your partner’s attitude about their debt:
- Use a questionnaire: Magdalena Johndrow, a financial advisor at Johndrow Wealth Management, often has couples fill out the same questionnaire separately before coming together to review their answers. “When you understand why we have a relationship with money, you can be more empathetic to your partner,” says Johndrow. “If debt really scares you, and your partner told you they have student loans, you might have a visceral reaction because debt scares you.” Understanding your history with money and your partners, can help illuminate your respective attitudes about financials. If student loan debt is an overwhelming concept for one person in the relationship, a questionnaire could be a straightforward way to uncover that.
- Understand the purpose of the debt: “You have to think about, ‘What sort of debt do they have?’” says Johndrow. “Student loans in many ways are considered good debt because you invested in something that ideally will get you a more lucrative career. If you have credit card debt, that tends to be seen as less good debt.” She recommends asking why the debt was taken out. “I think the underlying reason for the debt is very important. Was it because of an emergency or one-time expense or is this a pattern that you wouldn’t be OK with?” Having a debt management plan in place can also help show the attitude your partner is taking toward dealing with their debt.
- Look for honesty: Even though you would hope your partner would be forthcoming about their financial situation, not everyone feels comfortable discussing particulars which could cause them to omit details or mischaracterize circumstances. “One guy I dated had trouble getting a car,” says Tayne. “I finally realized it’s because there’s a financial issue.” Tayne cautions that not everyone will feel comfortable detailing why they’re having trouble taking certain financial steps, which illuminates their attitude toward their debt and finances. “That person might not be willing to discuss why they’re having trouble getting a car. They might not be 100% honest with you.”
Knowing your partner’s attitude toward student loan debt can give you an idea about how they’re likely to behave with their finances later on. If their attitude shows a pattern of poor money management, it’s likely that this will continue even if you take on the role of managing the finances in a relationship. It could lead to problems sticking to a collective budget later on in the relationship.
Figuring out whether you are comfortable dating someone in debt, especially if you have different attitudes about it, is an important step in creating your own boundaries. While it helps to keep an open mind when it comes to financial situations, finances can also be a valid reason to end a relationship, especially if your partner seems irresponsible about their debt. Breaking up with a boyfriend because of money is a reality many people experience. Here’s how to develop boundaries that tell you whether it’s safe to proceed or if you need to figure out how to get out of a bad relationship financially.
- Respect your own life circumstances: Understanding what your goals are in life can help determine your financial boundaries in dating. “I’m a successful business woman, I wasn’t willing to take on a situation where someone needed significant help,” says Tayne. “That’s not where I wanted to be and not where I was in my life.”
- Assess how much help you’re willing to give: Not all partners with debt will want or need your help, but on the flip side are those partners who expect or demand it. “What level of help do you feel comfortable offering and where is the line in the sand?” says Tayne. If your partner has a significant amount of debt and there is an expectation that you will help with it, this could be a red flag. “Then you might want to take a step back and ask, ‘Why is there an expectation?’ Someone could take advantage of your willing nature to be helpful,” says Tayne.
- Understand the impact of debt on your life: Helping someone deal with their debt could significantly alter your lifestyle and you should be prepared for these changes if you decide to go down this road. If you get married, you could become legally responsible for your partner’s student loan debt. “Even though couples sometimes have separate money and everything is kept separate, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact the other,” says Tayne. “That means if you’re splitting things, one part of the couple might not be able to do what the other person can do.”
Developing financial values and boundaries can make your decision about staying in the relationship increasingly clear. If your partner pushes your financial boundaries, this could be a sign that it’s time to exit the relationship.
Your partner’s debt will impact your future, and someone else’s bad financial situation — whether it’s a low credit score or an overwhelming amount of debt — can hamper your own. What happens if you marry someone with bad credit? “The question becomes, what’s the impact on your life? Your family? Your finances? Are you going to be able to maintain a house, children, other expenses?,” says Tayne. “Those are things that have to be discussed.” Here’s what you should consider before heading toward marriage with someone who has significant debts:
- Will student loan repayment plans change? If your partner is on an income-driven repayment plan, filing joint taxes could affect their payments. If combining your finances is an important financial value for you, there could be some further necessary discussions about how you’ll navigate student loan repayment.
- Will your credit be impacted? Dating someone with bad credit and marrying that person are two different ball games. There could be certain purchases or expenses you’ll want to take on together after you’re married that might be difficult if one partner has bad credit. For example, if you want to put both names on a lease or mortgage, your partner’s bad credit could significantly impact what you qualify for. Also, joint credit card payments could pose a problem. “If your partner has a low credit score because they have been missing payments or not making them in time or racking up interest, if you take out a joint credit card and they miss a payment, your credit will be affected,” says Johndrow.
- Can you reach your financial goals? Your financial goals will change depending on what stage of life you’re in. If you have children nearing adulthood, for example, you might already be focusing on how to help them with student loans and adding your partner’s debt onto your plate could change the way you help your children. “If someone has debt, you have to decide ahead of time what you’re going to do with it,” says Tayne. This includes understanding what financial goals might be untenable for your partner’s risky financial situation begins to impact your own. If your partner has bad credit and you haven’t taken your financial goals into account, this is important to do before your big day.