Portland Marriage Counselor: Handling Debt After “I Do”

February 12, 2014 by

The average cost of an American wedding these days is around $26,000. That figure isn’t too far off from the average student loan debt for college graduates, which was around $28,000 for the class of 2013. Unfortunately, couples need to be realistic and consider both those sums of money before getting married.

According to a recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 37% of Americans say that they would not marry a potential spouse who had a lot of debt. 10% said they would marry but not help pay the debt and, sadly, 7% said they would end the relationship altogether. The remaining 46% of respondents said they would marry and pay off the debt together.

As a marriage counselor, I believe that debt shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent from marrying the person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with. However, you do need to come up with a plan for how you’re going to handle your debt. Here are a few tips to do just that.

Tips for Managing Debt in a New Marriage

Sit down and have The Money Talk. Nobody likes talking about their financial situation, but it’s something you need to do before getting married. Think how you’d feel if your partner suddenly announced they had $60,000 in student loans after you were married; they probably wouldn’t be happy if you did this to them, either. Be frank about your finances and discuss how you want to handle money after you’re married.

Be a team. If your partner brings more debt to the marriage than you do, you don’t have to help them pay it off… but combining your finances and helping shows that you support them and are on the same team. Remember, you’re marrying someone for better or for worse, even when that “worse” means loans. You’ll also most likely be able to pay off loans faster if you work together.

Make a budget. Feeling like you’re constantly on the verge of overdrawing your bank account can be a huge stressor on a new marriage, so make sure that you and your partner draw up a budget and figure out where your money is going every month so that you can manage it better.

Be supportive, not resentful. If your partner has more loans than you do, think from their perspective and try to understand why they needed to take out those loans. Maybe they weren’t able to get as much financial support from their family or as many scholarships as you and needed to take out student loans to finance their education. Instead of holding their debt against them, support your partner and keep reminding them that as long as the two of you make your monthly payments, you’ll eventually get those loans paid off.

If you’re interested in discussing the subject of shared finances further or want more relationship help, you and your partner shouldn’t hesitate to make an appointment with a Portland marriage counselor.