‘1 in 6 (16%) of GB adults (8.3 million people) are over-indebted’

‘’UK consumer credit has been growing rapidly – faster than household incomes – and grew by more than 10% over the year to April 2017, its fastest growth rate since 2005. The latest data indicate that 16% of UK adults – 8.3m people – have problem debt (defined as those who find meeting monthly bills a ‘heavy burden’ and/or have missed more than two bill payments within a six-month period).’’ –  Relate

‘One in seven (14%) adults have hidden debt from a partner – and half of these are still hiding it’

Many couples trapped in problem debt experience profound pressures on their relationships.

According to an investigation into debt and relationships by Relate,‘’ Struggling with problem debt can lead to relationship distress, increased conflict, decreased positive communication, partners blaming each other and increasing mistrust, and – as a result – relationship breakdown. When people hide their debt from their partner or family, this can be particularly problematic for both the relationship and for their ability to deal with the debt.’’

Research suggests that ”relationship dynamics can contribute significantly to families’ financial management: couples who make decisions together experience fewer financial problems.

Additionally, the different emotional meanings, values and expectations attached to debt and money that people have can be central factors underlying conflicts within relationships over money”.

But how do you talk to your partner about money?

Talking to your partner about money can bring out strong emotions. Making your partner aware of your debt problem might feel scary. It can also be difficult to admit that you’re struggling. However, keeping it from your loved one could make your life even more stressful. Having a debt problem and trying to deal with it on your own can be a very isolating experience.

Whatever your situation, here are some tips for talking about money struggles:

1. Get all your accounts ready so you can see the whole situation – Find out where you stand. Have a look at all your debts and what the interest rates are in monthly expenses. Think about your attitudes toward money. How do you treat money? Do you spend more than you earn? Why? 

Consider things your partner might ask you:

  • What went wrong and why are you in debt? 
  • Who do you owe money to?
  • Are you being chased by creditors?
  • What do you plan to do to sort the debt?

2. Find a time where you have no plans, no distractions – Arrange a suitable time for both of you to sit down and talk. Turn off your TV and mute your phone. Have plenty of time to go through all details.

3. Take turns to speak and pay full attention to what the other person is saying.

”Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Often we listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.  We tend to filter ‘our story’ against our life experiences and our frame of reference. Consequently, we decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Instead, we should try to seek to understand the other person.

After all, that’s what we all want – to be understood, valued & affirmed. 

3. Be honest and open about your attitude to money – We all have different attitudes towards money. It’s normal to have different perspectives about money as we all come from different financial backgrounds. Try to see your partner’s perspective and remember that most important is how you both manage these differences.

Keep in mind how you can achieve your goals together.

3. Handle this like a business meeting –  Deal with your finances issues as a purely practical matter and try to talk to each other like adults.

4. Draw up a plan together – Set up a plan to manage credit cards, money expenses, budget and savings. Sharing decisions about saving, spending and discussing money issues openly will allow you to avoid disagreements and tension. Money worries can sometimes feel overwhelming but by breaking it down into manageable steps it will make you both feel confident that you can overcome them.

The goal is to agree that money is important to both of you and that you want to work together to help each other with finance.

It’s about finding ways to help each other so you can grow together.

When you’re able to identify a shared challenge and work together to overcome it this can actually be an opportunity to deepen and strengthen your relationship. 

If you’re feeling emotional distress by a debt problem, contact:

  1. Samaritans – Charity aimed at providing emotional support, struggling to cope.
  2. Step Change – Debt charity operating across the United Kingdom.
  3. Toucan –  Online platform which offers a unique online experience for couples, includes a module on talking about money.

Read More: ‘How To Organize Your Employment Information & Work-Benefits’

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