Should you ever take on debt for love?
Taking on another person’s debt might seem like the loving thing to do, but it’s rarely straightforward. In practice it can be fraught with a multitude of problems, and could be the cause of problems in an otherwise happy relationship.
Still, when the heart’s involved, thinking solely about financial consequences can feel like a betrayal – as though one is prioritising money over love. Here are some things to think about.
Marriage does not equal debt
If you’re in a romantic relationship, you don’t necessarily need to rush into joining finances. You aren’t liable for the other person’s debt unless you’ve taken out the loan jointly or have acted as a guarantor (co-signed). Even if you’re married, you’re not automatically hitched to your spouse’s debt.
In practice, however, things aren’t this straightforward. If you’ve decided to pool your finances and share income and expenses equally, as many do, then it’s likely that your debts will be similarly shared. If you’ve built up debts between you – or for the benefit of the household – in one person’s name, then it would be fair to assume that those debts should be shared; yet, it would still be possible (and extremely unfair) for one person to disappear, leaving the other with all of the debt.
Taking debts into a relationship
There are very few couples who will find themselves in a relationship with someone who earns the exact amount that they do; income disparities are a fact of life, and someone’s income should have no bearing on the way that they treat their partner or the way that they are treated.
Likewise, very few people will have had the exact same outlook on spending, the same expenses, the same responsibilities or the same requirements.
We all bring different requirements into relationships: for example, I was a single parent when I married Lord Balders, and he automatically went from being a bachelor without a care in the world to having a child to care for. It would have been impossible to keep our finances separate and develop the close, loving family atmosphere that we all wanted.
What about something more than responsibilities – what about cold, hard debt?
It’s understandable that a couple would agree to consolidate old debts between them and move ahead together, but it’s important to realise that this should be a mutual decision and not something that one person demands that the other do.
If your partner or spouse is forcing you to take on their debt, this is a form of financial abuse.
If you do agree to pool all your assets and liabilities as a couple and move forward, then don’t take a step backwards when you’ve had an argument and bring up the debt! (More tips on avoiding arguments over money here.)
If your partner is forcing you to take on their debt, this is a form of financial abuse. Click To Tweet
If you’re the one in debt, the fair thing to do is to disclose your debts to your partner. Ultimately, we may all have our ideas of what our significant other should do for us, but sharing debt is not something that we should automatically expect from anyone else – it has to be the other person’s decision. Whilst most people will be comfortable with helping their partner to clear some debt, most people will likely be hurt by discovering that a debt (especially a significant debt) has been hidden from them.
If you are using jointly held money to pay off your debt without your partner’s knowledge, consider whether that would not make them feel cheated, and ask yourself how you would feel if it was the other way around.
Should you clear your partner’s debt?
This is one that only you can answer – here are some questions to ask yourself first:
- Do you have enough cash to do it?
- Would it make you financially unstable?
- Do you feel secure in your relationship?
- Do you know how the debts were accrued?
- Have you been together for a significant amount of time?
- Have you made any formal commitments to each other?
- Are they asking for cash in hand to clear a debt instead of providing a paper trail?
Should you take out a loan to consolidate your partner’s debt?
Seriously, this is a bad idea. We don’t even have time to go over all the ways in which this could go bad. There are very few occasions where taking out credit for another person – acting as a guarantor for a child who wants to buy a home, for example – could work, but in my opinion, taking out credit for someone else is a nightmare in the making.
Should you take on debt for love?
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to bear the weight of your significant other’s debt will be yours alone, as it will be affected by how well you know them, how long you’ve been together, how stable your relationship is, and whether you can actually afford to help… as well as whether you’ve had a hand in incurring the debt in the first place.
If, however, you find that money is being required in exchange for your partner’s affection, then you need to step back and look at things objectively.
You may well want to do all you can to help your loved one, but you should never feel forced to take on debt for love.