It's natural to want to show your best side to your future spouse so it can be tempting to hide any debt issues you have. You may feel embarrassed about the problem or it may be difficult to explain how you got yourself into such a mess in the first part.
However it's important to remember that honesty is key to a long lasting and happy partnership. Finances are not an insignificant issue and will play an important part of your future life together. If you hide something so key early on in your relationship it has the potential to cause long lasting damage.
But a fascinating new study by the Debt Advisory Centre reveals that thousands of people are doing just that and risking their future happiness by keeping their debts a secret from their partner.
The research shows that:
- 1 in 5 people haven't told their partner the full extent of their debts.
- 7% admitted that they don't know if their partner has any unsecured borrowing.
- Women were twice as likely to hide their debts as men.
- Over 50% of respondents who plan to get married say they owe money on credit cards, loans and overdrafts.
- The average amount owed is £3,200 but 20% admit to owing more than £5,000.
There are many reasons why people don't want to tell their partners including embarrassment, pride, fear of bursting the romantic bubble and also worrying that they should have mentioned it a long time ago and that it will cause irreparable damage to the relationship.
I recently received an email from a 39 year old woman who, after years of searching for her soul mate, was about to get married. She was so grateful to have finally found her partner that she had avoided telling him that she had run up large debts on credit cards over the last 10 years. She was worried he would not want to marry her anymore; especially as she was debts were due to excessive clothes shopping. Buying new clothes had made her feel better about being single whilst all her friends had got married but her shopping had spiralled out of control. She had tried to tell him several times but was embarrassed and never had the courage to go through with it. Now she felt so terrible for hiding it for so long that she felt it was almost impossible to come clean.
One third of respondents in the Debt Advisory Centre study say they hide debt out of embarrassment. A further 17% say they are not comfortable sharing their financial situation with a partner.
Incredibly 7% felt it was better to save the revelation about debt until after their honeymoon. But even more worrying is that a third of those who are married or planning to get married didn't feel it was important to tell their partner about their debts at all.
Money problems put a lot of stress on relationships and if the information was withheld it can cause huge trust issues. Financial challenges can be overcome if dealt with properly however if you sweep them under the carpet the damage to your marriage may be irreparable.
I see many clients in my Divorce Clinic who believe their problems started with disagreements over money. The frustration and resentment built up and spread to other areas of their relationship driving them further and further apart. It's always best to face up to your true financial situation and deal with any embarrassment before you take your wedding vows. If they are the partner for you they will work with you to find a solution. If not then better you know now than face the divorce courts later on.
My advice is to be open and honest with your partner as soon as possible. Tell them everything and explain all the reasons you found it so hard to tell them. If you are worried it may be helpful to get a mutual friend to be present to help keep things on track.
Your partner may be able to help you find a solution to your debt problems and you may be pleasantly surprised at how your partner reacts.
Being honest isn't always the easy option but in my experience it is always the best option.