How Does Debt Affect Marriage?

by Maggie McCormick, Demand Media

    Debt can bring big problems to your marriage. Nearly 80 percent of the couples who get a divorce cite financial difficulties as one of the major reasons, according to The Dollar Stretcher. Despite the potential for problems, you can work through money problems, and you'll find that you're a stronger couple for working together.

    Marital Problems

    Any number of marital problems can arise from debt. You may struggle to reach compromise if you can't agree on a way to handle the finances -- if one of you wants to pay the debt off, while the other keeps spending, for example. Debt can also breed resentment if it's mostly incurred by one person, but both are working to pay it off. Furthermore, the stress that you might feel from having debt can hinder communication and decrease your sexual desire. Any of these could eventually lead to divorce, if you don't take action to resolve the issue.

    Running on the Treadmill

    Everyone wants to get ahead in life. If you have debt, you might feel as though you're stuck on a treadmill -- covering your expenses, but never really getting ahead. With debt hanging over your head, you're not able to save for other things, like a comfortable retirement, nice things for your children, or even a trip to the Bahamas.

    Who Owes What

    The state you live in affects who owes the debts. In most cases, any debt you incurred before marriage will remain your debt, but the debts that you acquire during your marriage may be the responsibility of both partners. This is true in community property states, where everything is 50-50. For example, if you took out loans to help her get through medical school, responsibility for those loans falls on both of you, even if you get divorced. In other states, debt that clearly belongs to one person -- like education debt -- would be the responsibility of that person.

    Overcoming Debt Problems

    When working on debt, it's important to keep the lines of communication open and to present a united front. Meet together and lay everything on the table -- before marriage, if possible. Decide on what you are going to do to get rid of the debt. In most cases, it will require a bit of sacrifice to get rid of the debt, but being debt-free is a feeling that you both can enjoy.

    About the Author

    Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.