11 Tips for Talking to Your Partner about Debt

5 Tips for Talking to Your Partner about Debt
BY John Russo
May 15, 2018
 - Updated 
Jun 13, 2024
Key Takeaways:
  • Couple need to work together to solve debt problems.
  • Honesty about income and spending are key.
  • Credit counseling can be helpful for couples in debt.

Once you’ve found the person you want to spend your life with, you’ll want to do what it takes to keep your relationship strong. And sometimes, money problems and debt stress can make that tricky.

Even though talking about your finances can be scary, bringing it up now could help you avoid future relationship or marriage issues and foster a deeper and more supportive connection between the two of you. Here are some simple tips for talking to your partner about debt so you can overcome it and build a better life together.

1. Be honest

When you’re in a serious relationship, —especially when it comes to money issues. Letting your partner know about your money problems is important if you want a relationship based on honesty and trust. Plus, being truthful about your debt could lead to more open communication in all areas of your relationship.

If you keep your debt a secret, you could be creating tension in the relationship without even realizing it. Talking openly about student loans, credit cards, personal loans, and other forms of debt with your partner could help bring you closer. And chances are, they may have some debt of their own to talk about.

These discussions don’t have to be too serious, either. Why not make a date of it? You can each get a free copy of your credit report and go over them together.

2. Identify wants and needs

Aftertal king to your partner about your debt situation, sit down with all of your bank and credit card statements and identify unnecessary expenses together. This is a problem you can solve together.

  • Look through your statements and highlight “Needs,” like your mortgage, car payments, and insurance in one color.

  • Highlight “Nice-to-Haves,” like gym memberships, cable, or high-speed internet, in another color.

  • Finally, highlight “Wants,” like entertainment or expensive restaurants in a third color.

Once you’ve created these three categories, discuss which expenses you can afford to cut as a couple. Then, plan out how much you’ll put against the debt each month.

3. Support each other

Budgeting, cutting back, and paying off debt isn’t always easy. But knowing that you have someone on your side who supports you and wants the best for you could give you the extra motivation you need to get out of debt. By talking to your partner about debt, encouraging each other, and committing to a common goal, you won’t just improve your financial wellbeing—you could also strengthen your bond as a couple.

4. Set goals and reward yourselves

Getting out of debt could take a long time, so it’s important to break your ultimate goal into smaller, more manageable ones—like staying on track with your monthly budget, paying off a credit card, or reaching other milestones in your debt repayment plan. After achieving each of your goals, reward yourselves with a night out, a bottle of wine, or a special home-cooked meal. Just remember to stay within your budget.

You could even make a game out of the weekly goals you set for yourselves. For example, one week you could have a contest to see who can save the most money. Whoever wins could get to choose the next movie you watch, get a neck massage, or have a pass from doing their least favorite chore for a few days. Celebrating your victories together can help keep you and your partner motivated throughout the process of solving your money problems.

5. Know when to seek help

Why do couples fight about their finances? Because money problems put pressure on each person in the relationship, creating feelings of guilt, fear, and anxiety that can make them lash out or act irrationally. If you’re worried that debt is starting to negatively affect your relationship, it may be time to get professional help.

Some people try financial counseling for couples, where you and your partner talk to financial expert or a representative from a credit counseling agency about how to deal with your debt. Using this method, a credit counselor may be able to reduce the interest rate on your credit card debt if you enroll in a debt management plan.

6. Seek professional help for debt management

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is ask for help from a professional. Taking care of your financial health is not unlike taking care of your physical health. You’d visit a doctor if you weren’t feeling well. If you don’t feel great financially, call in the experts. Debt counselors and financial advisors can give you tips and support to manage your debt. You could learn new ways to handle your money that make a difference. Getting advice from experts shows you’re leveling up your financial game.

7. Create a joint debt repayment plan

Making a debt repayment plan together shows you’re working as a team, not as opponents. Start by listing all your debts, then decide which ones to pay off first. Work together to create a budget that covers your needs but leaves room for paying off debt. The more money you can put toward your debt, the sooner you’ll be free of it. Getting out of debt isn’t quick or easy, but you’ll feel better about making sacrifices if you’re both committed to the same goal.

8. Expect emotions, and react with empathy

Talking about money and debt can trigger intense emotions. Be kind and understanding with your partner. If one of you feels stressed or upset, take a break and talk about those feelings. Be patient and supportive. Remember that you’re in this together. You’re working together to find solutions, not to find blame. Turn tough conversations into a chance to support each other and grow stronger together.

9. Schedule regular money talks 

Managing debt isn’t something you talk about just once. Your financial life as a couple requires regular check-ins. Schedule times to talk about your progress and your challenges. Give yourselves the chance to change plans if needed. Celebrate small wins. Your money talks don’t have to be long and heavy. They’re just to make sure you’re both on the same page, there are no surprises, and you’re both still committed. It’s also a great time to give each other a pat on the back for sticking with it. 

10. Implement effective communication strategies

Good communication is key to managing debt as a couple. When you’re scheduling those money talks, choose the time and place carefully. Have your talks somewhere private and quiet. Use “I” statements to talk about your feelings. Listen carefully to what your partner says, and say it back to them so you both know you understood. Ask questions and encourage your partner to do the same. Look each other in the eye, and avoid crossing your arms in front of your body. Set goals together and keep track of your progress. Good communication helps avoid misunderstandings and makes both of you feel more connected and supported.

11. Foster openness and transparency about finances

Be honest about your financial situation and ask your partner to do the same. Don’t keep financial secrets from one another. Share your financial details, like income, expenses, and credit reports, with each other. Transparency builds trust and heads off unpleasant surprises. Create a habit of talking about money openly. It’s important to build an atmosphere where you both feel safe discussing sensitive topics without fear of judgment. Honesty strengthens relationships and can help you make better financial decisions together.

And… understand your debt relief options

However, if you and your significant other are experiencing a financial or life hardship, or struggling to make minimum payments on your debt, it might be time to go another route. To that end, Freedom Debt Relief is here to help you understand your options for dealing with your debt, including our debt settlement program which could help you reduce the total amount of debt you owe. Our Certified Debt Consultants can help you find a solution that will put you on the path to a better financial future. Find out if you qualify right now.

We looked at a sample of data from Freedom Debt Relief of people seeking debt relief during June 2024. The data uncovers various trends and statistics about people seeking debt help.

FICO scores and enrolled debt

Curious about the credit scores of those in debt relief? In June 2024, the average FICO score for people enrolling in a debt settlement program was 583, with an average enrolled debt of $24,376. For different age groups, the FICO scores varied. For instance, those aged 51-65 had an average FICO score of 587 and an enrolled debt of $25,386. The 18-25 age group had an average FICO score of 573 and an enrolled debt of $21,487. No matter your age or debt level, it's reassuring to know you're not alone. Taking the step to seek help can lead you towards a brighter financial future.

Manage Your Finances Better

Understanding your debt situation is crucial. It could be high credit use, many tradelines, or a low FICO score. The right debt relief can help you manage your money. Begin your journey to financial stability by taking the first step.

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