It’s no secret that money is a leading cause of stress — both for individuals and couples. In fact, Business Insider reports that money problems are the biggest culprits behind divorce, with couples citing opposing attitudes toward money, major impulse buys and of course, credit card debts are one key conflict component in their love life. This worrying trend is set amidst rising personal debt across countries in the EU, and isn't limited to the region, either. Across the pond, three quarters of Americans consider this a deal-breaker in relationships, too, as credit card debt hit an all-time high of nearly $1 trillion at the start of the year.
Although we might like to believe that love conquers all, money problems are making a pretty strong case to the contrary. Though money definitely isn’t everything, it can impact big decisions that couples will have to make together at one point or another — questions of where to live, how many children to have (if at all), or when to buy houses and cars are just some of them. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at why credit card debt can be especially lethal for romance.
‘Til debt do us part?
The thing about debt and relationships is that it’s almost never about the money itself. Often, pressure and conflicts arise out of how a couple deals with debt, which serves as a catalyst for unearthing other, more complicated issues in a relationship. It doesn’t help that money is often seen as a taboo topic, and different people have different unspoken rules about how to discuss the issue.
This brings us to one of the biggest reasons why a credit card problem can lead to the end of your relationship: dishonesty. Shame is the inescapable side effect of debt in a culture where money and material possessions are associated with success — in other words, debt isn’t exactly something you want on your Tinder profile. But hiding the issue for too long only makes the problem worse over time. You might end up spending more (and making it worse) to keep a debt-free image, and the repercussions for when your partner finally finds out, will only grow. In this regard, Fatherly’s Adam Bugler goes on to say that financial infidelity is worse than actual cheating. More than their credit, a lying partner also ruined their credibility in a relationship, causing distrust and feelings of betrayal outside of money.
The other major reason why credit card debt can end relationships is the fact that dealing with the debt itself is incredibly stressful. The Simple Dollar highlights how stress can cause depression and anxiety, anger, and regret — all things that can have a profound effect in everyday life, from how you approach problems at work, to how you relate to your loved ones. Moreover, the stress of having to make ends meet on top of debt payments can also seep into your relationship and, if left unchecked, can tear even the happiest couples apart.
All is fair in love and credit
However, it’s important to note that credit cards aren’t actually the enemy. In fact, Petal Card outlines how they’re an important part of financial wellness — from letting you buy things more easily (as long as you pay for them later), to letting you build your credit score. This is crucial for most other areas of adult life you’ll likely build with a partner, like renting or buying a home, getting a car, or starting your very own business venture. The key, then, to dealing with credit card debt in relationships is not just to crunch numbers. It’s in finding the right words.
Contrary to the statistics above, it is possible to prevent credit card debt from ruining your relationship — and it all depends on how you and your partner communicate. It’s important to practice mutual respect, and to try and look at things through each other’s eyes. And just like our response to the all-important question of ‘Can Money Save Love?’, working through a debt problem might just bring you closer to each other than you were before. Managing conflict is something that couples have to learn together, and just as debt can sew suspicion and discontent in your relationship, it can also urge you both towards growth. When you sit down properly and treat debt as something you can work on collaboratively and not as an individual fault, it might just be the start of an even stronger bond.
Instead of focusing on your debt, look towards strategies for alleviating it and reaching financial wellness. Perhaps it’s more stringent budgeting and getting a side-hustle, or you can even decide to allocate your money to better investments with more returns — whatever it is, communication is key.
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Exclusively written for ibanwallet.com by Jessica Barnes