How to Talk to Your Partner About Debt

By: Natasha Knox

In general, keeping secrets is bad for relationships. When it comes to debt, that secret is especially bad. What your partner doesn’t know actually can hurt them…and you, financially.

Many people find that debts such as mortgages are easier to speak about than debts such as back taxes, credit cards, or lines of credit. Those types of debts can bring out the fears in all of us. We worry that will be scrutinized and judged. It’s no wonder that it is so common for people to lie to their spouses about money.

Building a life together must rest on a realistic understanding of your respective financial foundations. If your partner doesn’t know about your debt, they will have lifestyle and savings expectations that might be reasonable based on household income, but completely unreasonable based on your debt levels.

This can quickly lead to one of two outcomes: You’ll fess up about the debt and work through the fallout, or you’ll continue to struggle to keep up appearances as the debt spirals out of control. This will probably lead to your partner finding out, anyway, when the debt becomes too much to manage. This pattern leads to even more fallout, both emotionally and financially.

It doesn’t have to be like this. There is a better way.

How to have the conversation.

Separate finances are fine. Secret finances are not. Whether separate or joint, the important elements are trust and honesty. So, how do you take the big step to open up about your debt?

[Related: The Five Conversations You Need to Have With Your Financial Advisor]

Make time.

Know all the facts.

[Related: Top Five Things Generation X Women Need to Know about Their Money]

Have a plan for paying off the debt.

Start implementing the plan before the conversation.

Your partner will likely have some questions. Be prepared to answer them fully and honestly. He or she may also have ideas. Be open to them. Arriving at a solution together could lay a positive foundation for solving future financial issues in your relationship.

[Related: Prenuptial Agreements and Advising Your Client’s Adult Children]

Natasha Knox is the founder of Pax Financial Planning and Education Inc. She helps people think, feel, and act better with their money.

Originally published at

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