Happily ever after? Your relationship and debt

Every solid, long-lasting relationship is built on open, honest communication. But when it comes to money, it seems that not all couples are willing to lay their cards on the table. Literally.

A recent report from the Bank of Montreal found that 30 percent of respondents choose to keep at least an aspect of their finances secret from their partner.  While many of the respondents said that this secret-keeping is motivated by a desire for independence, it’s not much of a leap from this lack of financial transparency to financial infidelity.

Some key findings of the poll include:

  • Only 28 percent of Canadians share all of their finances with their partner
  • 46 percent of respondents admit to lying to their partner about their finances at some point in their relationship
  • 17 percent of respondents say that they argue about their finances with their partner at least once a week.

“It’s no secret that finances are one of the leading causes of divorce. There is a certain element of trust that comes around money management. If money is tight and debt loads are high, the stress level ramps up as well. And then, if you throw in a lack of honesty on one or both sides or a differing of views on how to manage your household money, it’s no wonder that money is such a relationship hot button,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director at the Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

“Money or debt troubles don’t necessarily have to lead to a relationship breakdown. But you have to be aware of the pitfalls and be proactive in managing your relationship alongside managing your money.”

Get on the same page

It’s time for full disclosure. The only way you are going to effectively be able to tackle your debt and to build your finances together for the future is to know what you’re up against.

Get out all of your credit card and bank statements. All of them.  If all of your accounts are not joint, make sure that all of those accounts are presented as well.  It’s a good idea to have copies of your credit reports on hand as well to gauge damage, if any.

Peel back the layers

If your debt load has ramped up, or if you are spending beyond your means, try to determine why in a non-blame assigning way.

Does one of you shop, shop, shop while the other favours saving? Are you together living beyond your means? Is there something else more serious at play- like a gambling problem or other addiction? Don’t be afraid to get outside support, like marriage or debt counselling. Help is there- and could save your relationship.

Identify goals

You need to ensure that you and your partner are committed to the same things financially. You need to lay out common goals- paying down debt, saving to buy an item etc.

These need to be clearly delineated with a specific plan in place on how to reach them. And then you both need to commit.

Transparency

If you can commit to total financial honesty, you will be taking a huge step towards tackling your debt and preserving your relationship.

Transparency breeds trust, which breeds respect as well. Give each other some space to be financially independent within the framework of your goals, but do it on a cash basis that fits into your budget.

Is your debt load putting a strain on your relationship? Are you or your partner committing financial infidelity? You need to create a clean slate today. We can help. Call one of our trained credit counsellors or check out our free online debt analysis tool to get started

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