The Stress of Debt on Marriages

When two people marry, their lives are merged into one unit. This means that each of them brings aspects of their personal life into the relationship thereby affecting both people. Bringing substantial debt into the marriage could place the relationship on shaky ground.

What Debt Can Do to a Marriage

According to a recent study by Ramsey Solutions, a leading company in financial education, nearly two-thirds of all marriages start in debt. The study showed that 43% of couples married 25 years or more started off in debt, while 86% of couples married five years or less started in debt.

Then in the first few years of marriage, a couple will most likely gain even more debt as they purchase and furnish a home and began having children.

This increasing debt can lead to increased stress on a couple’s marriage. The study by Ramsey Solutions concluded that the larger a couple’s debt, the more likely they claimed the money as the top issue they argued about. The study claims almost half of couples with $50,000 or more in consumer debt claimed money problems as the major reason for arguments. 

Money issues not only led to arguments but also to spouses keeping secrets from one another. According to the Ramsey study, one of those who said they argued with their spouse over money admitted to hiding one or more purchases from their spouse because they feared their partner’s disapproval.

Unfortunately, all the stress and secrets over money issues can strain a marriage to far and lead to divorce. The Ramsey study and many other leading studies on money and marriage agree that money problems are the second leading cause of divorce.

Saving Your Marriage from Debt Problems

Communication is the key to solving debt problems. It is very important that couples discuss their financial situation openly and honestly. According to the Ramsey study,94% of those who said they had a “great” marriage discussed their money dreams with their spouse, compared to only 45% of those who said their marriage is “okay” or “in crisis”. Also, 87% of those who claim to have a “great” marriage said that they work together to set long-term financial goals.

The best time to discuss your individual finances is before you are married. You certainly want to openly discuss finances with your soon to be spouse when you get engaged. Even if you are well into your marriage it is not too late to begin working toward common financial goals. 

No matter when you start the conversation about your finances, you need to do so with understanding and patience to avoid conflict. Here are some questions to explore to help better understand your financial situation:

  • How much debt do you each have individually and/or jointly?
  • What types of debts do you have?
  • What are the interest rates and monthly payments on the debt?
  • How do you plan to repay the debt?
  • Which debts should you pay off first? 
  • Do you need to create a budget? If so, how much money will go toward each debt?
  • Who is responsible for physically paying the bills or will it be a shared task? 
  • How will you handle day-to-day purchases? For example, do you both need to agree on making purchases over a certain amount of money?
  • What are your financial goals i.e. purchasing a home, saving for retirement, saving for children’s college education? How will you work toward these goals?
  • What are the bad financial habits you both need to break? How will you help each other break those bad behaviors?

Bankruptcy Could Help Save Your Marriage from Debt Problems

Sometimes one partner’s debt or a couple’s combined debt can be so complex that simple budgeting and debt repayment cannot relieve it. In this situation, bankruptcy might offer you and your partner the solution you need to relieve the strain of the debt burden. 

There are many factors for couples to consider when deciding to file bankruptcy. Each couples’ financial situation is unique. If you and your partner are considering filing bankruptcy, you may need help from an experienced bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy attorney can help evaluate your financial situation and how filing bankruptcy can affect it.

Brock & Stout’s bankruptcy lawyers have over 20 years of experience helping couples with their debt. Contact us for a free evaluation to see if we can help save your marriage from the stress of debt.