As couples enter the union of marriage, they often do so eager to start a fresh, new life together; however, if one of both of the members of the new union carries pre-marital debt, this start is often not as clean as the couple may have hoped. Entering a marriage with pre-existing debt is becoming the norm, according to an Utah State University report that states that 69 percent of women and 74 percent of men enter marriage with some form of debt. To ensure that your new partner's pre-existing debt doesn't sully your new union, think carefully about the impact that this debt may have on your marriage.
Talk About Debt Pre-Marriage
Many couples make the mistake of not discussing issues like debt prior to taking that walk down the aisle. While common, this practice of putting off hard conversations until after you have tied the knot is not wise, reports Bishop T.D. Jakes, author of “Before You Do.” In his trove of pre-marital advice, Jakes encourages couples to discuss things, like debt, before saying, “I do” to ensure that they truly know what life with their partner will be like. When approaching this topic, try to avoid becoming confrontational, as doing so could prevent your future partner from completely divulging the depth of her debt.
Come to Terms with the Debt
If you try to sweep the issues created by your partner's pre-existing debt under the rug, you will likely experience marital problems later. As Utah State University reports, much marital duress can be attributed to financial issues, including debt. Nothing you can do now can change your partner's pre-relationship money habits. Coming to terms with the debt and resigning yourself to the task of having to repay these monies will likely do your future marriage good.
Catalog the Debt
By listing all of the debt that both you and your partner have pre-marriage, you can get a better picture of your post-marriage debt repayment obligations. Make a list of all of the debt that you and your partner have on a sheet of notebook paper, or use the worksheet provided by Utah State University, the link to which you can find in the resource section.
Create a Repayment Plan
While paying the minimums is one way to deal with debt, following this course of action will likely mean that you are left dealing with the debt for an extended period of time. After listing all of your debts, determine how much you and your soon-to-be spouse can dedicate to paying off these debts each month. Decide together how you will allocate this debt-paying-off money. Write out your plan to increase the likelihood that you follow it and don't allow yourself to be tempted to splurge on luxuries before the debt has been paid off.
Consider Holding the Purse Strings
If you enter the marriage with no debt, or less debt than your loves-to-shop partner, it may be wise to keep a hold of the strings of your marital purse. Couples should decide upon one partner to serve as the financial housekeeper. This partner should be responsible for basic financial tasks such as balancing the checkbook and paying bills. If one half of the partnership has a particular problem with money management, it may be wise for the couple to set a weekly allowance for each partner to ensure that neither member spends outside of the couple's means and accrues even more debt post marriage.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.