What to do if your partner is in debt
Money is something that affects many relationships, especially when couples feel ready to take the next step – whether that is saving for a wedding or buying a house. If poorly managed debt gets in the way, it can feel like a huge hurdle to overcome, but those that do can be stronger for it.
There are a lot of emotions associated with debt. Excessive debt can be controlling and restrict people’s lives. There are many reasons why people might get into debt, yet there is still stigma associated with it, regardless of whether it was under the person’s control. People that are unable to manage their debt often tell us that they feel guilty or ashamed or that they have let people down.
They may fear the future, wondering how others will react, whether they will damage their relationships or even lose their home. It can be an embarrassing and frightening situation.
The effect of your partner’s debt on you
Learning your partner is in debt can put a strain on your relationship, especially if they have been keeping it a secret for a long time. You may wonder why they have kept this a secret from you and be concerned about any dishonesty or the potential financial impact on you.
Keeping debt a secret can be mentally exhausting. However, if your partner has confided in you, it may have taken a lot of trust and courage. By offering your support, you may be able to help them get back on track.
When your partner owes a significant amount of money, it can severely impact your day-to-day life. If you have joint credit you will need to look into ensuring the repayments continue to be made on time and in full on this. You may also be affected if you wish to apply for joint credit in the future, such as a mortgage, as both your credit reports will be reviewed.
If you are married, your partner’s debts do not automatically become your problem too if they are only taken on in their name.
If you’ve recently learnt about your partner’s debt, read on to find out what you can do to support them and reduce any impact to your own finances.
Ask for more information
Explain to your partner that it would be helpful for you to understand how the debt came about and who they owe their debt to.
It’s very important you approach the subject of debt carefully. Try to put aside any negative feelings you have and avoid sounding like you are judging your partner. You might want to avoid questions including the word ‘why?’ as this can appear accusatory and prompt people to defend their actions, rather than provide the details of the situation. Instead, reassure them that you want to support them and understand their situation.
Find out how they are coping with their debt
There are many reasons why people borrow money and being in debt isn’t cause for alarm, if it is well-managed. Your partner may be managing their debt effectively. However, it’s important you find out if they are struggling and what can be done to ensure they don’t fall behind on repayments.
You may want to ask:
- How much debt do they still need to pay off?
- How long have they had this debt?
- What are they doing to pay it back?
- Has it impacted their credit rating?
Once you have a better understanding, you can start to assist them with clearing the debt.
If your partner is struggling to repay debt:
Offer your support and seek external support
It’s important that your partner feels like they can turn to you and that you will support them, when it comes to tackling their debt. You may find it beneficial to get external advice and there is support that you can seek together.
The type of support you need will depend on your personal circumstances. Some examples include:
- Samaritans – For help with suicidal thoughts and mental health, the Samaritans offer a safe space to talk.
- Mind – To talk about your mental health, mind can help with treatment and support.
- Gamcare – This organisation helps those who have been affected by problem gambling.
- Age UK – This charity, working with older people, can offer support and advice on money problems.
- The Trussell Trust – This trust runs a network of food banks, available for those who need additional help.
- Carers UK – if you are a carer, Carers UK can offer advice and assistance around your situation.
- Alzheimer’s Society – If you or your partner is living with Alzheimer’s, this charity has been set up to offer support and advice.
- Addaction – This organisation supports those living with addiction, including alcohol and drugs and can offer advice on recovery options.
- Macmillan – If you or your partner are living with a terminal illness, Macmillan can offer advice and guidance on a number of everyday issues.
Seek free financial advice
Reach out to an expert who can review the situation and offer some free advice on how to go about clearing debt. This can help provide some clarity on the situation and the options of support available, as well as demonstrating that you are willing to help your partner find a solution.
Our team here at PayPlan, for example, offer free, impartial advice that can point you and your partner in the right direction.
Help them find a solution
As well as accessing our budgeting tips, there are some solutions to consider that may help your partner get out of debt:
Debt Management Plan – This is an informal solution, that allows you to repay debts in one monthly repayment. However, because it is informal it is unlikely debts and charges will be frozen, which means it can take a long time to pay off.
Individual Voluntary Arrangement – This is what is known as an insolvency solution, and is an alternative to bankruptcy. It freezes all debts and charges and combines everything into a manageable monthly repayment that is based on your income and expenses and what you can manage after your bill payments.
Debt Relief Order – For those who do not own their home but cannot make even the minimum repayments on debts, a debt relief order takes a year to process and effectively wipes debts at the end of this. However, it will remain listed on a credit report for six years from the date it was created, and impact your ability to get credit.
Bankruptcy – Considered to be the very final resort for those unable to repay their debts, bankruptcy involves the sale of your assets – such as your home – to clear a large portion of debt, then after 12 months the remaining amount is waived.
Together, you can work out how they will impact your life and your plans for the future, and choose one that works best for the both of you.
Should you help pay towards the debts?
You may now be wondering if you should contribute towards the debt repayments. It may help speed things up or even remove large amounts of what is owed, but everyone’s personal circumstances are different and it is something you do not have to do.
In fact, if it worsens your financial situation it’s important you do not pay towards their debts to avoid running into trouble yourself.
We have a comprehensive guide here on the site to help you and your partner get a better understanding of how to resolve debts.