Hidden debt - How to approach the sensitive topic of debt with your partner

Friday 19 October, 2018 Families

Debt can be a sensitive topic to discuss with people choosing to bury their head in the sand and avoid any conversation related to debt in which they may have to disclose information about their financial situation. Debt in today’s society is rife and there has been an abundance of research carried out in relation to it, research has found that one in seven people have hidden debt from their partner. This can have damaging implications for a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Debt can cause feelings of shame and anxiety to manifest which can result in high blood pressure and lack of sleep to name a few. Personal relationships can also suffer at the hands of debt with one in four people admitting that debt has had a negative impact on their relationship. It is imperative that we break the stigma which surrounds debt by discussing debt problems with our nearest and dearest, as the saying goes ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’.

Why do we choose to keep our debt hidden?

One of the most obvious reasons why people choose not to talk about their debts is due to embarrassment, people tend to let their debt define them. Does debt reflect a lack of self-control? Does having hidden debt make you a bad person? Certainly not! It is all too easy to become ensnared by the viscous cycle of debt. Struggling to keep up with credit card payments? A small loan could help me pay this off! Before you know, you are struggling with the interest rate on this small loan and you’re back to square one. There is no easy way to admit that you are in debt, it may seem easier to say nothing at all but owning up to it and facing reality is the first step towards recovering your finances.

Perhaps you do not want to unload all of this ‘baggage’ on to your partner in fear or losing them and would rather sort the problem by yourself. You may worry about what they will say and whether they will reconsider their future plans with someone who is ‘bad with money’. Choosing to keep your debt hidden may have more damaging effects on your relationship than being open and honest and tackling the problem together, in situations as such, honesty is the best policy.

Honesty is the best policy – the benefits

97% of debt advisers said it is important for financial health that people in relationships make decisions together. As relationships progress it is inevitable that couples begin to discuss the prospects for the future;

  • Marriage
  • Buying your first home
  • Starting a family

Having hidden debt may put these plans on halt and put a dampener on all of the positive things that you wish to work towards and achieve with your partner.

Keeping your debt hidden can be emotionally crippling and as a result you may become detached and distant from your partner. There is a strong link to depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with debt and if you’re alone in your battle with debt, this is going to be an extremely difficult time for you. Therefore, by confiding in your partner you may feel that a weight has been lifted from your shoulders and improve upon your mental health which may have suffered. Sharing this information with your partner could help you to get back on track, in most cases your partner will be completely understanding of the situation and they could help by reviewing your financial situation and helping you to draw up a repayment plan. In addition to this it may even strengthen your relationship, how you deal with this situation could stand as an indication of how you and your partner work together to overcome tumultuous situations, which all serious relationships will inevitably face.

How and when is the right time to discuss your debt with your partner - Tips and advice

Every partner is different and it may seem that there is never a right time to discuss your debt, however, pre-empting some questions your partner might ask and preparing answers to go along with them will make the process of explaining your debt a lot less daunting. Make sure that you have a clear picture in your mind of your current financial situation, be aware of;

  • The amount of debt in which you owe
  • The creditors you are in debt to
  • How you got into debt
  • How long you have been in debt
  • If your debt will affect your partner
  • How you plan to eradicate the debt

By showing that you are aware and have plans in place to get yourself out of this situation will be reassuring for your partner and may soften the blow, the best way to say something negative is to try and turn it into a positive. Be sure to set aside some time when you are doing this as it is likely that your partner will have questions. Find a time that is suited to you both when you will have the day free to allow for further discussions without being interrupted. Remain calm and try to avoid becoming defensive and agitated when you speak, be sure to take into consideration how your partner may feel at first and hopefully your significant other will appreciate your honesty and will support and encourage you towards a better place financially.


It is advisable that you be honest with your partner about your hidden debt as early as you can in the relationship, communication is key. It is much better to deal with a situation head on to prevent it from spiraling beyond your control so that you can deal with the consequences and move forward towards a brighter future.