Don't Get Torn Apart by Debt

It's a sad fact that mismanaged funds have often been the downfall of otherwise happy unions. Sometimes, both partners mishandle funds; in other cases, it's one partner who has extreme difficulties managing money, and the other partner suffers financial injury as a result. Money woes aren't worth damaging your most special relationship. Successful debt management for couples includes not only addressing the financial issues, but examining the dynamics pertaining to how the couple handles money as a single unit.

The stress of being behind in payments is trying enough without having to also endure the pain and suffering of a terse relationship with your significant other. For healthy relationships to thrive, it is critical that couples get on the same page when confronting debt, dedicating themselves to seeing it through together. Failure to address debt as a couple can bring about disastrous consequences.

Debt's Dangers

Debt itself is a danger to relationships, but surreptitious attempts by one partner to conceal either the existence or the level of debt from the other partner is a recipe for a relational catastrophe.

The first mistake some people make is telling themselves that, if they keep quiet about a debt, they'll be able to clean up the financial mess before their partners find out, and they'll avoid a row. This plan almost always backfires. The spouse invariably discovers the overdue bill or the extraordinary expenses, and then, besides dealing with financial problems, the matter now includes the infusion of additional problems, such as betrayal, anger, bitterness, separation and emotional and/or physical revenge.

So, why try to hide the financial faux pas? Because no one likes to be branded a failure. This is especially true for partners who feel anointed for financially leading the household. For these people, failing to maintain the household budget and provide for its family's needs can be not only financially troublesome, but personally shaming. The shame leads to guilt, and the guilt can lead to isolation, both of the person and in attempts to cover up overdue bills and missed payments. The isolation then grows into covert actions that divide the partnership, erode trust and lead to a broken relationship.

Or, the household financier might respond with anger and blame, as a self-defense mechanism to place the stain of failure elsewhere. Spouses and partners most directly suffer the wrath spewed out by those who are particularly caught up in a tangle of debt. Whether an angry barrage is unleashed deliberately or not matters little; either way, the venom is just as poisonous to the relationship.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how a single day-late utility bill hidden from a partner could exponentially spiral into the collapse of the relationship. If that sounds a bit dramatic, look at statistics and see how many people break up over money troubles. [1]

Joint Attack

For couples, the most effective tactic is to confront the matter of debt management together as a single unit. Make the conscious decision to put aside the blame game, even if one partner is overwhelmingly responsible for the money problems. Choose to address the debt as a kind of third party that's invading your relationship.

This is not to imply adopting a Pollyanna view of the situation. Clearly, if one or both partners have mismanaged finances, a correction in methodology must be put into place, both to pay down the debt and to ensure the situation never arises again.

The key is in making a commitment to work through the issues together as a couple. Hold each other accountable, without allowing that to turn into a nasty practice of finger-pointing. Focus on the debt itself and your joint plan to resolve it. Lift each other up with encouragements; recognise and remark on any positive steps and celebrate improvements. Proceed with utter transparency, perhaps by hanging a giant whiteboard in a room to openly track expenses, rather than tucking data into a ledger that can be hidden away.

Create a colorful poster together that depicts your dream reward for getting out of debt: perhaps a collage of tropical locations, with pictures of you and your partner inserted into the scene, frolicking in waves lapping up against a pristine, sugar-sand beach. Display your couple's dream getaway as a constant visual reminder of your joint goals.

The fruits of approaching debt together include improved trust, enhanced bonding and a more nurtured partnership overall.

Don't Be a Statistic

The problem of debt strikes far deeper than the ability to buy nice things. It can gouge into the heart of your most precious relationship, corroding trust and partnership, and fomenting bitterness and resentment. Don't allow this poison to permeate your union. Debt management for couples requires a full and open participation of both people to take on the common enemy of debt together.

Financial Harmony

Debt-Proof Your Marriage Workbook: How to Achieve Financial Harmony
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