How to tell your partner you’re in debt

Written by Payplan on 29 June 2017

Approaching the subject of debt is hard at the best of times, but when you need to discuss any big money problems with your partner, we understand that this can be particularly scary – especially if your relationship is just entering a more serious stage.

But many people are currently suffering with problem debt, so you are not alone and help is available. In fact, in Britain we borrowed £16.4bn on credit cards just in April 2017, according to a report by the Bank of England. This suggests that more and more of us are falling victim to borrowing money and the high interest that may suddenly start being applied.

However, it’s so important you have support when you are trying to sort out any financial issues and while the subject may be a tricky one, it’s still a good idea to let your partner know about your troubles.

Here, we take a look at the best way to approach telling your partner about your debt.

Why should I tell my partner about my debt?

Debt can have a bad effect on your mental and physical health but having your partner’s support can make things feel simpler and even take a load off your shoulders.

It’s also important to tell them if you are considering making a life changing decision together, such as buying a house or getting married, because your finances will be looked at by credit agencies and mortgage lenders and this is when issues can come up.

If they are unaware of your debt and you are rejected when applying for credit this could impact your relationship and put a hold on your future plans, so discussing your problems beforehand is really important.

What will my partner want to know?

Your partner will probably want to know:

  • the reasons behind your debt
  • how much debt remains outstanding
  • if you are being chased by creditors and if legal action is being taken against you
  • what you are doing to sort out the debt – such as a debt solution and how this impacts your credit.

Have all the answers for these questions ready and let them look at any documents or letters, so they can properly understand the situation. Be as honest as you possibly can.

You should also be able to tell them how you expect to get rid of the debt and your plans for a solution. You could also ask them what they would do in your situation for ideas, they may be able to offer a new approach that you hadn’t thought of before.

How should I tell my partner?

We think the best way, is to:  

  1. Find a time where you have no plans for the rest of the day to allow you enough room to discuss the issue in real detail, without any interruptions.
  2. Talk to your partner in a calm, controlled way. Some people like to rehearse what they are going to say before hand but ensure you have answers to any questions they may have.
  3. State the facts and be sure to reveal everything. Complete honesty is very important during this conversation.
  4. Offer to show them evidence of your debts and also what you are doing to fix the problem – so perhaps the details of a debt solution you have taken on such as a DMP (Debt Management Plan) or IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement).
  5. Do some research into how your debts could affect your lifestyle and relationship, let them know how it affects them too.

We think it’s best to let your partner know beforehand that the conversation is going to be serious, so they can feel prepared for it. Try not to approach the subject in a casual way, such as on the sofa on a Saturday evening.

Instead, ask if you can have a chat about something important later that day and ensure you are the only people in your home.

How will my partner react?

You are probably a little nervous about their reaction but if they are your long-time partner, after the initial negative response, they will actually want to help you to get debt free in the future.

They may seem angry or upset at first but they will also understand that it took a lot of courage to sit them down and tell them, and so they will also want to help. Remember, they may feel hurt, because you didn’t trust them with this information sooner, so they will need time to think about the situation.

If your partner needs space, then leave them alone and let them pick things up again in their own time.

You may also be upset by their reaction, as well as feel vulnerable now that your secret is out. It’s normal to feel guilty in such a situation but you are doing the right thing talking to them about the problem.

Talking to your partner about your debt can only increase the amount of trust between you in the future and could even make your relationship stronger once you have overcome the issue.

Will my debt affect my partner?

No, if you have no joint credit accounts together then your partner will be unaffected, but bear in mind that this is a question they may ask you. However, any future credit applications will be affected, which could impact your relationship. Reassure them that you are working to improve your credit score and get back on track before you take on any joint credit together in the future and they should feel better about the situation.

It’s worth noting the joint credit applications that could be affected – if you have not cleared your debt – these include mortgage applications, joint loans and finance deals. No matter how good your partner’s credit score is, applications will be rejected if your score is poor or you have a history of missed repayments.  

What should I do after telling my partner about my debt?

It’s important to have a plan of action, of how to tackle your debts, if you haven’t got one in place. This is something you can do together, as a way of rebuilding the trust in your relationship. Here are three things you must do after your conversation:

  • You need to work on changing your behaviour and proving to your partner and yourself that you can manage money or ask for help sooner – especially if you buried your head in the sand about a debt problem.
  • Look into a debt solution that allows you to pay off your debts in a controlled manner, with a potential future date to look forward to of when you will be debt free.
  • An IVA is an excellent solution – but bear in mind your credit score will be affected during the five-to-six-year repayment period and this is why many people opt instead for DMP. There are pros and cons to both – see this article for more information.
  • Continually seek your partner’s advice and support during the process – knowing that they are trusted with information about your debt problems will only improve your relationship.

Talking to your partner about your debt is a conversation you should not put off; organise it as soon as possible, remain positive about your future together once you are debt free and prove to them that you are in control but simply require their support.

Our team here at PayPlan can offer further guidance if you need to tackle your debts. Get in touch for free, impartial advice today and take the first step towards truly living again.


Filed under Living in Debt

This article was checked and deemed to be correct as at the above publication date, but please be aware that some things may have changed between then and now. So please don't rely on any of this information as a statement of fact, especially if the article was published some time ago.

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