Americans owe too much money. It is estimated that 40% of households have some sort of consumer debt. However, if you talk to your friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else you know, it may seem as though just about everyone is drowning in debt.
Debt may include car loans, student loans, credit card debt, personal loans, and medical bills. Many people also have mortgages, but these are often considered “good” debts. While a little bit of debt may be no big deal, when you are constantly racking up debt with no way to pay it off, it gets burdensome. And it seems as though those who have debt are carrying around $5,000 to $7,000 worth of it. With high interest rates, that could take many years to pay off.
This burden transfers over to marriage. If you are struggling with debt, chances are, your spouse is, too. You may have suffered through countless arguments over your debt, which may have been caused by poor money habits. And if your debt amount is continually rising, then your risk of divorce is increasing, as well.
How? Research shows that taking on credit card debt results in lower marriage satisfaction. On the other hand, paying off debt tends to increase marital satisfaction. Financial stress can harm a marriage early on. When new couples took on more debt, they often fought more and spent less time together. They also felt things were unfair in terms of how money was handled in their marriage.
While married couples may fight about numerous topics, fighting over money is one of the top reasons for divorce. Fighting over money is more problematic than fighting over in-laws, chores, and sex. When couples fight unproductively and in an angry manner, this is also likely to lead to divorce.
Why is Debt So Bad?
Debt is bad in a marriage because when one person spends too much money, it affects the other person. When a person is too busy trying to pay off their debts, it affects how much they can contribute to the household. This means the other person has to put more money toward household expenses and this can lead to bitterness and resentment. These emotions can then lead to full-blown arguments.
Debt negatively impacts relationships. Nearly 40% of couples skip date nights due to debt. Some people have such negative feelings about debt that they will do anything to avoid it—even avoid marriage. In fact, 60% of people have considered putting off marriage so that they do not have to be responsible for their partner’s debt.
Debt also keeps couples from reaching their goals. The person who is in debt cannot contribute as much toward goals such as buying a new car or saving up for a house. The person who is not in debt may not be able to get to their goal quickly enough, which can cause bitterness in the relationship.
Debt is also bad because in most cases, it is often the result of poor money management. Some people ignore these debts altogether, which only makes things worse. It can cause a person’s credit score to go down or lead to repossession, such as a default on a vehicle loan. In extreme cases, it can even lead to bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is such a serious, drastic step that it often leads to divorce. Some couples may even start both processes at the same time.
How to Avoid Divorcing Over Debt
The good news is that not everyone with debt goes through a divorce. There are some things you can do to keep your relationship in check.
- Communicate. One of the best things you can do is talk to your partner about your spending habits. Do not try to hide purchases or act covertly. Talk about your desires and what you both feel is a good spending limit when it comes to discretionary purchases. Also, you and your spouse should come up with specific goals together and actively work toward them.
- Avoid new debt. In order to get out of debt, you have to pay it down and avoid it. So do your very best to avoid overspending so your credit card bills do not continue to climb. While medical debt may be the exception, focus on paying down debt and saving as much as you can.
- Make a budget. Use an app or spreadsheet to keep track of your spending. See where you are spending your money and where you can cut back. This will allow you to create a reasonable budget.
- Get rid of unnecessary expenses. Don’t watch TV? Get rid of cable. Eat out too much? Pack a lunch from home instead.
- Ask for a lower rate. Call your credit card companies and lenders and ask for a lower interest rate. This will help you pay down your balance quicker. The worst they can say is no.
Seek Legal Help
Money issues are the root cause of many divorces. Nobody wants to be saddled with anyone else’s debt, even when they are in a romantic relationship with that person.
Dealing with high amounts of debt can be stressful for couples, leading to divorce. If money woes have threatened your marriage, Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you with the divorce process so you can work toward a debt-free life. Schedule a consultation with our office by calling (954) 398-5712 or filling out the online form.