How to conquer that first debt conversation with your partner

By Hayley Hemmings

So should you raise the ugly subject of how much debt you’ve got with your accomplice in lurve?

It’s not that easy to bring up the subject of debt, for fear of what your partner might say. If you have a lot of debt, you might even worry whether you’ll still have a partner at all after you’ve had the conversation!

However, if you’re in a relationship, new or otherwise, debt is a topic that really shouldn’t be hidden away for too long. Doing so can lead to turmoil in your relationship and limitations on the way you live your life together as a couple.

You’ll find some good tips in this post that you can use if you’re planning to “fess all” about your debt to your partner. But for starters, let’s look a little further at why you should bother having the conversation at all.

Why secret debt is bad for your relationship

Money is a difficult topic to discuss, that’s for sure. Financial services group, Prudential, recently surveyed over 1000 people and found that 1 in 6 confessed to having debts of £9K or more – debts that their partner didn’t know about.

“Secret” debt sounds so... deceptive and wrong somehow. But if you don’t mention your debt at an appropriate time, it can soon turn from a topic that you haven’t gotten around to mentioning yet, to a topic that you feel you can’t ever bring up for fear of repercussions in your relationship.

Check out the following ways that debt can make life complicated:

1. Carrying too much debt is plain stressful

Too much debt can cause stress in many ways. There’s the emotional stress associated with money being tight for one. Then there are the tangible effects of debt to contend with. It limits the amount of disposable income that you have available to you and puts a spanner in the works when it comes to making big financial decisions, like getting a mortgage.

2. Debt can cause headaches in relationships

These problems are somewhat amplified when you’re in a relationship, because your debt may not just affect you, it can affect your partner too.

Take a look at these financial scenarios below:

Let’s say you both want to go on holiday, but you can’t afford to go because your debt is getting in the way... that’s a financial issue that’s going to affect you both.
If you want to apply for a mortgage together, you might face a rejection because of debt – another financial hurdle that doesn’t just affect you.

3. Debt secrets are emotionally exhausting

If you decide to keep your debt from your significant other, life is going to be much harder. You’ll have to come up with excuses when you can’t afford to do certain things and that can be exhausting after a while.

The worst part about keeping debt a secret though is what might occur when your partner does eventually find out about it. After all, it’s extremely unlikely that they won’t if you’re in a serious relationship.

How will they feel if they’ve been kept in the dark for a long time about something that ultimately affects them - something that they’ve had no control over?

It’s best to be open and honest about your debt when you’re in a relationship, before things get complicated. But when is the best time to have the chat?

Timing is important when it comes to talking about debt

Obviously, talking about financial nasties isn’t something you need to be worrying about on your first date. Nor do you need to be mentioning it even a couple of months into your relationship.
When you get to the point where you see your relationship going somewhere; this is the perfect time to bring up the topic of finances – and debt. You don’t have to make a big song and dance about it, just casually bring it up. Not sure how? Read on…

How to actually broach the subject of debt in a new relationship

If your debt’s bothering you, you might be keen to get the chat out of the way quickly once and for all. However, be careful not to turn your debt into something worse than what it really is when you do so. In other words, don’t solemnly declare something like…

“Look, I really like you. And I just have to confess to you about my debt right now!”

No, no and no. Statements like this will make your new love interest panic. Just start a conversation about your hopes and dreams for the future and weave the topic of finances into it.

“I’d love to take a trip to Australia next year; I just need to tackle a few debts first.”


“I want to really hammer my debt in the next few years and then look at getting my own place.”

See? Ease debt into the conversation, whilst referring to some exciting future plans and it’ll come across in a natural, perfectly normal, nothing-to-worry-about kind of way.

How to bring up your debt later down the line

What about well-established relationships, where you’ve missed an opportunity or two to mention debt and finances? Should you forever hold your peace and keep your fingers crossed that your partner never finds out?

Nope. As we’ve already established, they probably will find out. If you’ve left it late to have the talk about your debt and your relationship is serious, it’s a case of the sooner you mention it, the better.

Plan for the debt conversation

The best way to say something negative is to try to turn it into a positive. So when letting your significant other know about your debt, even though you’ve been together for a couple of years, here’s one way to approach the situation.

First of all, make sure you have time to talk to your partner. Don’t bring debt up on the way out of the door to work or when you’re on the phone to them. Make sure you have at least half an hour, sit them down and then say something (clearly) like…

“I was planning to deal with this on my own, but thought I should probably tell you - I have some debt (tell them the amount truthfully). I’m paying it off (explain how you’re doing this) and it should be cleared by (your deadline here).”
It might be a shock to your partner if this is the first time they’re hearing about your debt, but by explaining how you’re dealing with your finances, it should soften the blow.

Two heads are better than one!

Hopefully, your significant other will appreciate your honesty and may even support and encourage you towards a better place financially. They may even have some debt of their own to tell you about – after all debt is about as common as sliced bread these days.

Bringing up the conversation about debt may lead to further discussions around money. You may find that you both want to work towards financial goals such as saving together or getting a joint account for bills if you live together.

In addition, you might find this article useful for practical tips on how to manage debt in a relationship.

Top Takeaway

No-one really likes talking about how much debt they have or how they got into debt in the first place. But if you’re in a relationship, it’s better to be open and honest about debt, before it feels too late to say anything at all. Keeping your debt hidden can only lead to bigger issues later down the line.

Remember these points below when plucking up the courage to have the conversation about debt with your partner:

The earlier you can tackle the conversation about your debt, the easier it will be.

If you do end up not mentioning your debt until later on in the relationship, it’s always better to have the conversation at that point, rather than not at all!

Once you’ve had the chat about your debt, keep your partner involved with your progress, so that you can both share and work towards financial goals.

What are your thoughts on telling your partner about your debt?


Author Bio: Hayley Hemmings is a freelance writer, blogger and tea addict from Yorkshire. She’s passionate about money matters, frugal living and loves anything handmade. When Hayley’s not writing, she’s most likely to be found enjoying snuggles with her little girl or walking her border collie through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.  

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