Sign In
Get Started
Get the App
Finance for Parents

How to Talk Debt With a Partner

By Anna DaviesApr 3, 2018

When you’re just starting to date someone, talking money can feel taboo. And when you begin to talk about next steps like moving in together, getting married or combining financial obligations, finding out that your partner isn’t on the same page as you, credit-wise, can seem like a shock.

Add it to the list of serious questions to ask your boyfriend or girlfriend.

If you're not exactly proud of your financial history, copping to significant debt can be an emotional undertaking. And if your partner hasn't been forthcoming about something like bankruptcy or debt, this might make you second guess your connection. It's no wonder that money is a top cause of relationship problems.

The good news: Being open to talking money, even when it's difficult, is a sign that you are connected and able to work through problems. “If someone is willing to talk about their financial vulnerabilities, it can actually be a sign that they trust you,” notes dating coach Cynthia D’Amour.

That said, “Hey, what’s your credit score?” isn’t exactly a romantic line.

Whether you're in the early stages of a relationship or looking for a financial refresh in your marriage, we found ways to maintain open dialog about money.

Talking Money: Ask the Lotto Question

General conversations about how you like to spend money can help you understand someone's values and open up a dialog about what matters to you.

One way to get the convo going is to ask, "If you won the lotto, how would you spend the money?"

Obviously, it’s a fantasy question, so you shouldn’t read too much into their answers, but talking about what you would do with a windfall is a good way to introduce the topic of money without putting too much pressure on either of you to talk about your actual cash.

It can also be a good jumping off point to explore concepts like charitable giving, family obligations, dream travel and more.

Focus on Values, Not Price Tags

Navigating money and relationships can be tricky. Let’s say your partner likes to drop a few hundred dollars on an expensive meal at your regular date night.

While the bill may drive you nuts, try to focus on why he values this experience. Is he a foodie? Does he love being in-the-know? Does he want to impress you and show you how much you mean to him through buying gifts?

Similarly, ask yourself why this bothers you. Does it say anything about your willingness (or unwillingness) to go with the flow? Is it because your parents were frugal? Is it because you prefer to invest your money? Is it because you feel like you don’t need fancy dinners to cement your bond?

Whatever the reason, the more you’re able to pinpoint and discuss the origins of both your feelings, the more you can start talking money in an honest way that helps you move forward.

Important for Money and Relationships: Be Honest

You may be tempted to hide the exact number of your debt, or downplay the financial struggles you’ve had. Don’t.

What becomes a deal breaker in many relationships isn’t the number itself, but the dishonesty and lies that might make a partner feel like they can’t trust you. “Omitting information can also be seen as lying, so don’t do it,” says dating expert Bonnie Winston.

Try to find an opportune moment to share a bit of your financial history and your savings goals for the future. Let your partner know that while talking money is hard for you and you may want to take time before sharing all the gory details, you want her to understand where you're coming from.

Look to the Future to Avoid Relationship Problems

Let’s say your partner has some pretty major financial red flags.

Deep breath.

While it can be shocking, it’s not uncommon. This doesn't necessarily mean relationship problems are in your future. Before becoming too alarmed, you might try to suss out why your partner got into financial trouble in the first place.

Was he paying for school? Was she living in an expensive city? You’re not looking for an excuse so much as a sense of whether this type of spending is likely to continue in the future.

Finally, look to the future. Does your partner have a plan to pay down this debt (without your assistance)? How will you and your partner align on money goals moving forward?

Set Up a Shared Account, but Keep Two Separate Ones, Too

Many couples—even married ones—decide to split their accounts into yours, mine and ours, where both partners put money into a shared bank account to pay for expenses like housing. That way, you can still spend (or pay down debt) independently.

If one or both of you are paying down debt, it can be smart to connect with a money counselor or financial coach, who can suggest ways for both of you to approach money and reach your financial goals. Seeing a professional at the beginning of your relationship isn’t a sign of weakness—it is a way to get on secure financial footing to make your relationship even more stable.

Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.

Write a free will online with Fabric in minutes!

This material is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific financial advice or to serve as the basis for any decisions. Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on-the-go who want a easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Written by

Anna Davies

Related Posts

Finance for Parents

Your Winter Checklist: How to Prep Your Finances for the New Year

No time + needing to look after the ones you love = a quarterly checklist to help keep you on track, so you can get back to wiping boogers and giving snuggles.

By Allison Kade
Finance for Parents

What Is Life Insurance Laddering?

Life insurance needs can fluctuate over time. Find out if laddering multiple policies makes sense to fit coverage to your needs.

By Jessica Sillers
Finance for Parents

Here’s How Quitting Smoking Can Affect Your Life Insurance

Smoking is a relevant factor when underwriters figure out whether they can offer you a policy and at what price. Here’s what it means if you quit.

By Jacqui Kenyon

Fabric Picks

Parenting Hacks

How Spending 13 Minutes a Day on Self-Care Changed My Life

I created the Mental Health and Wealth Challenge to engage in self-care that was meaningful, simple, and free -- and only takes 13 minutes a day.

By Melanie Lockert
Finance for Parents

Who Needs a $1 Million Life Insurance Policy?

A $1 million life insurance policy sounded excessive... until my partner and I considered everything we wanted to provide for our family. Is it right for you?

By Jessica Sillers
Finance for Parents

5 Questions to Ask About 10-Year Term Life Insurance

Wondering if a 10-year term policy might be right for you? Ask yourself these questions about your family's financial situation.

By Ashley Abramson

About Fabric




Subscribe to our newsletter

© 2021 Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC

Fabric Instant is an Accidental Death Insurance Policy (Form VL-ADH1 with state variations where applicable) and Fabric Premium is a Term Life Insurance Policy (Form ICC16-VLT, ICC16-VLT19, and CMP 0501 with state variations where applicable). Policies are issued by Vantis Life Insurance Company (Vantis Life), Windsor, CT (all states except NY), and by Vantis Life Insurance Company of New York, Brewster, NY (NY only). Coverage may not be available in all states. Issuance of coverage for Fabric Premium is subject to underwriting review and approval. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of Vantis Life.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC (FIA) is an insurance agency licensed to sell life, accident, and health insurance products. FIA will receive compensation from Vantis Life for such sales. The NAIC Company Code for Vantis Life is 68632. See the Terms of Use for additional information regarding FIA.

Plan like a parent. is a trademark of Fabric Technologies, Inc.