You are in a relationship. That relationship is starting to get serious. You are contemplating marriage or some other form of long-term commitment. Now what? Quite often today, people are bringing significant debt into relationships with them. Credit card debt. Student loan debt. Auto loan debt. Should you keep these loans separate from each other? How much debt should you really share?
First of all, regardless of who actually owns the debts, they are now shared debts. When you’re 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. What’s left in that shared pool is smaller, reducing your opportunities as a couple to build towards other financial goals.
Even though you may want to keep your debts separate, the reality is that the consequences of those debts were 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 together. 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 cannot hide spending splurges from each other.
Whenever you do these things, you are taking money out of that shared pool that helps you both get what you want from the future. You’re also being dishonest with your partner and, likely, you’re undermining your debt repayment plan and other financial plans for the future.
This type of dishonesty is toxic 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 sunshine is a relationship that’s eventually asking for problems.
If you’re not comfortable with that openness, then your relationship needs work. This goes beyond mere finances. It’s an indication that there are trust issues in your relationship and as long as those trust issues exist, you’ve got a gigantic fault line in your relationship that can easily erupt into an earthquake.
Simply put, share your debts. Regardless of who brings them 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.