Is Debt A Deal Breaker for Marriage?

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis. Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband, he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

Imagine finding the person of your dreams.  You swoon at the very thought of them, and over time, fall madly in love with them.  The relationship progresses and builds up to a very special event.  There is romance, a question, and talk of forever.

Except there’s just one catch:

There will be no wedding until you are out of debt.

That’s the situation of a person that commented on a post of mine on another website earlier this week.  She had apparently accumulated some debt during college, and her fiancee didn’t think he should have to pay for her spending indiscretions.  She stated that my post had encouraged her to do something about her debt.
For the groom to be, her debt was a deal breaker for a life of wedded bliss.
I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, how I would I feel about marriage if my significant other came with the baggage of debt and I did not?

The Meaning of Marriage

Marriage is two people with separate lives joining together.  You accept your partner for their strengths and their weaknesses.  You will promise to love them for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  If a person decides to marry someone with debt, you are accepting them, and everything that comes with them.  It would be wise to know exactly what you’re getting into before you make that commitment.

Debt Is (can be) a Temporary Situation

A person can find themselves in debt for many reasons.  They could have student loan debt from an education that they are actively using to make a better life for themselves.  They could have medical debt from a situation that was no fault of their own.  Or, they could have racked up credit card debt over years of bad decisions.  However the debt was accumulated, it can be eliminated a variety of ways including cutting spending, increasing income, or debt relief programs.   The fact is, debt is simply a number, and we need to dig deeper to make an educated decision.

Overspending is a Behavior

Someone that doesn’t handle their finances well may overspend and find themselves in debt as a result.  They may not have admitted that they are headed towards financial disaster, and have no desire to change their habits.  I would be concerned if the person I was proposing to fell into this category.   Finances are the number one reason that couples argue, and this would be starting off a life together with the potential for an immediate and constant strain on the relationship.
On the other hand, the love of my life may have accumulated debt by any of the means mentioned above, but now has a clear plan to get rid of that debt.  They could be actively working towards achieving that goal.  This kind of situation would not be a deal breaker for me.


For me, debt alone wouldn’t be a deal breaker for marriage.  I would have to look past the number and look at the what the other person’s attitude and actions are in regards to that debt, and their finances in general.  The most important thing to me would be a healthy attitude towards handling finances, and working to living within our means.  As long as we have the same viewpoint on how to handle our finances from that point on, the debt wouldn’t matter.
How about you all? Would debt be a deal breaker for marriage for you?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts – I think I am in the same camp of belief as you on this one Travis. Someone merely having debt would not be a deal breaker for me, provided that they are doing their best to pay it off and have or are correcting any spending behavior problems that may have lead to it. Of course, if they still had the spending behavior problem in the first place, I likely would not have been attracted to them during the dating stages anyway…

    ***Image courtesy of photostock /


    1. myfijourney says:

      Depends on the type of debt. Mortgage or student loan debt, probably not. Auto loans, maybe or maybe not. Credit card debt, yes. If a lady carries a revolving balance on her credit card, it's clear that we're going to have very different opinions on our finances and probably should not merge them.
      My recent post Weekend Link Love: Post Valentine’s Day Edition

      • Thanks for sharing myfijourney! I can definitely see where you are coming from.

        I'm curious – with credit card debt, if she was carrying a balance from past financial mistakes but no longer overspends, would that still be a deal breaker?
        My recent post Is Debt A Deal Breaker for Marriage?

        • myfijourney says:

          That would probably depend on the lady and how sincere I felt she was. But I think I'd be hesitant to marry her until the debt was paid off.
          My recent post Weekend Link Love: Post Valentine’s Day Edition

          • If the relationship was serious enough to be in marriage discussions, you would probably have a pretty good idea about the person's spending habits.

            Erasing bad financial decisions can take some time but if my girlfriend had been doing all the “right” things during the time I knew her I would not have a problem marrying her.

          • Gotcha. That makes sense – totally understandable.
            My recent post Is Debt A Deal Breaker for Marriage?

          • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, myfijourney – I generally agree with you, although I think I lean more towards looking at her current plan of action. If she was in the process of paying off her debt, and had a clear plan of action that would be sufficient to remove the “deal breaker” tag.

    2. Good question. It would absolutely depend on their attitude and commitment. I can't say I would be in a relationship in the first place with someone who carried large amounts of debt. Unless it was hidden. Then I wouldn't be in the relationship for other reasons.
      My recent post Free Finance Advice Friday!

      • If I had a large amount of debt, I'm not sure I would share that kind of information with someone until I felt really comfortable with them. Although I 100% agree with the decision depending on attitude towards finances now, and commitment to pay of the debt. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, FinancesWithFunk!

    3. My girlfriend had 80k in student loans when she graduated college. Now it is down below 60k almost 2 years later. If this was credit card debt it'd be a whole different story but since she is taking action and finished her degree I can't complain too much. I don't like it but it is what it is.
      My recent post Finance Carnival for Young Adults Money Life and More Edition

      • Student Loan debt is a bit tricky for me, because it could be viewed as an investment in the future. I know some people really dislike student loan debt but I can really see someone taking that step in order to achieve whatever career goals they may have in life. Congrats on your girlfriend on paying down a significant chunk of her's, Lance – sounds like she's got the right plan in place to eliminate it as quickly as she can!

    4. This is a very hot issue. From my personal experiences: I had loads of credit card debt when I began dating my now husband. He had no debt and lived very comfortably within his means. I was always upfront and honest with him about my debt because I was actively trying to change my situation and because of one major piece of info my now husband informed me of while we were still in the early stages of dating. He broke off an engagement with a woman he had been with for almost 8 years because of debt. Not just debt, but all the behavior that came with it. After they had been engaged, he found out she was being sued by collections for non payment on one of her credit cards. When he asked her about it, apparently she was very upset and embarrassed and told him it was taken care of. A few months after that, she ended up being sued again by collections and this time he got serious. He tried speaking to her about it but she would get angry or brush it off or just say it's taken care of. At this point, he felt like the person he knew and loved was lying to him, what else was she lying about. Long-story-long, he decided to end the relationship because she had a habit of never giving the full story about things (debt and other things).

      When he first told me this, I immediately told him I was in massive debt, that I was working very hard to overcome it and that if he had any questions I am willing to give him any and all info. By the time we were married, I had paid off most of my credit card debt by working over-time and cutting expenses, drastically. We agreed to use some of the money we received as a wedding gift for the final debt payments. I am so thankful that even though my husband was able to trust me after what happened in his previous relationship. He always said that he never had any reason to doubt my honesty and I have always made it a priority to be honest about everything with him.

      I don't think debt is a deal-breaker, rather certain behaviors are deal-breakers. My husband's ex was not honest about a lot of things, not just debt. But it was lying about debt that scared him the most. He says he never wanted to wake up one day and have his cars or possessions taken away because bills weren't getting paid. I still have student loan debt, and we are working on getting that paid down. Whatever the case, if you want your relationship to work – you need to talk about money. If you have no debt, your partner needs to know your feelings about debt, and if you are in debt you need to be honest about it. How you spend money and how you plan on paying for things needs to be discussed, early and often! People often say they feel embarrassed or weird talking about money with their partners, but I think talking about getting a divorce or talking about breaking up because debt was never previously discussed is a whole lot more awkward.

      • First of all thank you SO much for sharing your personal experience, socarr. I'm glad you emphasized that it's not necessarily the debt, but the behaviors and attitudes towards debt that matter. I agree 100%! The other very interesting thing you bring up is that if you STILL need to know our potential partner's feelings about spending and debt even if they have NONE. It's something that all couples need to talk about before jumping into a lifetime commitment.

        Great comment, thanks again for sharing with the readers!

    5. cstirbis1 says:

      Debt would not be a deal breaker for me, but I would consider how motivated the person was, and if they were going to abuse my money or if they were aware of debt and reasons not to be in debt. I also think that people can live happily without getting married for some time, so even if it pushes off a wedding, does it have to be a deal breaker?
      My recent post A Day In The Life Of Francis

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