Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: On Debt and Love

The New York Times ran a story not too long ago about one woman’s high student debt and her engagement.

“When Allison Brooke Eastman’s fiancé found out four months ago just how high her student loan debt was, he had a particularly strong reaction: he broke off the engagement within three days. Early on in their relationship, [Eastman] told her fiance she had over $100,000 of debt. But, she said, even she didn’t know what the true balance was…as the couple got closer to their wedding day, she took out all the paperwork and it became clear that her debt was actually $170,000. ‘He accused me of lying,’said Ms. Eastman, 31, a San Francisco X-ray technician and part-time photographer.”

With Valentine’s Day 2017 a few weeks away, do you know how your student loans are affecting your romantic relationship?

High student debt is scary for the person burdened with it, and even scarier to share with a new romantic interest. Most of us are already nervous about dating; romance tests the very core of our self-esteem. Add to that mix how high student debt triggers low self esteem around money, and no wonder we cringe at the very idea of sharing financial information with a new love. Many of us might even back away from falling in love to avoid having to have such a conversation.

A recent survey by Country Financial Security Index showed that 91 percent of Americans want to know early in a relationship how their date feels about money, debt, credit and more. Millennials are, however, more flexible on accepting their loved one’s debts than their older indebted counterparts.

  • 78 percent advise single people to be concerned with how their love interest spends their money or how much debt they have
  • 53 percent say finances have caused tension in their relationship.
  • 38 percent think debt should be a deal breaker in a romantic relationship.
  • 64 percent of Millennials are okay with their valentine having debt under their belt. They’d rather date a graduate with significant student loan debt than someone who never earned a degree.

So, what is the best way to go about introducing the subject of high student debt within a budding romance?

Most experts recommend talking to someone within the first few months if the relationship is becoming serious. Of course, there’s no need to disclose anything if you’re just having fun and dating casually.

  • Beginning the conversation can be as easy as bringing up the more general subject of growing student debt in the country. You can then ascertain a lover’s view on debt well before you introduce your own personal situation.
  • Discuss what your family thought about money. Tell some stories about your past. This opens our hearts to the subject. I discuss the money stories of my childhood in my upcoming book: Lazy, Entitled, Narcissists: How To Pay Off Six-Figure Student Loan Debt by Beating the System and Acting Like the 1%. For me, looking at how debt was viewed by my parents and how that affected me have been a big part of my healing journey around money.
  • Go deeper into the subject of high student debt as the relationship deepens, giving more details around your personal debt. Encourage your new partner to discuss their views on their debt.
  • If you plan on getting married, then it’s time to get out the paperwork, review both parties’ debt in detail, and discuss financial plans for the future. Money issues are the number one cause of divorce in the U.S. Those who discuss money and debt openly prior to saying, “I do,” have a greater likelihood of matrimonial success.

If you’re still not sure about discussing your six-figure student debt with your new love, just know that across this nation, Millennials in every state and every city are having this complicated conversation. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. This is a national issue, not just a personal one.