Is your spouse getting you into a debt trap?

You are in a love relationship. And the relationship is starting to get serious. You are contemplating marriage or some other form of long-term commitment. Suddenly, as you are planning your engagement, your partner reveals the huge debts he or she has. Well, you decide to bail them out. But six months down the line after marriage, they have accumulated fresh debts. Some of the things bought out of the debt are there for you to see and use but the rest are exclusively self-gratifying. Minus the massive debts, they still remain the loving and charming partner you have always known and wanted. Should you still share in their debts or just agree to keep them separate— in short, everyone attends to their own debts, and only God for us all?

Quite often today, people are bringing or accumulating significant debts while in relationship—sometimes without the other knowing. However, regardless of who actually owns the debts, they are now shared debts. When you are married, your money effectively becomes a shared pool, whether or not you directly share that money or not. If one of you has a debt, the money to pay for that debt comes out of the shared pool.  Matter of fact, even if you were to keep your debts separate, the reality is that the consequences of those debts will be shared. If the consequences are shared, then it follows that the responsibility for paying off the debts ought to be shared as well.

Which brings me to my next point: once you acknowledge the debts as essentially shared, the optimal way to get rid of those debts is to consider them all. It should no longer matter who has the worst debt. What matters is that the worst debt is the one that you both focus on first. Doing all of this successfully requires complete openness. You can’t hide debts from each other. You can’t hide money from each other. You can’t hide spending sprees from each other.

Whenever you spend as a married person without your partner’s knowledge, know that you are taking money out of that shared pool which could have helped you both get what you want from the future. You are also being dishonest with your partner and, likely, you are not just undermining your debt repayment plan and other financial plans for the future but trust too. This type of dishonesty is acid to any relationship. It opens the door to other forms of dishonesty that can completely destroy a relationship.

Any relationship where things are not completely in the open is a relationship that is eventually asking for problems. If you are not comfortable with that openness, then your relationship needs work. This goes beyond mere finances. It is an indication that there are trust issues in your relationship and as long as those trust issues exist, you have got a gigantic fault line in your relationship that can easily erupt into an earthquake.

Simply put, when in a partnership, debts can no longer belong to an individual but to you both as partners because the consequences will surely affect you both. So don’t hide debts accumulated from each other— always let your partner know before you accumulate the next debt. Regardless of who brings the debt to the table, you share the consequences, so you should also share the effort of eliminating them. This can also help you to pay them off in a more optimal fashion—ridding the ones having highest interest rates first.

A blessed week-end to you and yours as you build a transparent debt accumulation and management plan.

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  • Mbonga Matoga

    I have been with my wife for almost 18 yrs and we have never been in an argument about finances in our house, and I will tell the reason why.
    I as a man in the house takes care of the house mortgage and school fees and clothes for the children, three in total.
    My other half takes care of food, her clothes and utility bills and its been like this for 18 yrs, with no quarrels, no arguments whatsoever…..
    I don’t even know how much she gets every month from her work and she doesn’t know my salary either. I don’t care whether she sends her parents money every month or put some money in her bank accounts, so long as she is meeting her commitments in the house that’s alright with me.
    We have been happily married for 18 years becoz she can do whatever she wants with her money without my interference.
    So if at any point she decides to take a loan or end up in debts, that’s entire up to her to sort it out…..why? well becoz I would expect my wife to be matured enough to understand how to manage her finances full stop….

  • Gerald Mabveka

    This is a wonderful advice on financial literacy on debt management for families and those in relationships that would lead to marriage.