With the average UK household debt rising to £54,636 in April 2016, it’s hardly surprising that money worries are one of the biggest factors in relationships breaking down.
You may have already been carrying a significant amount of debt before you entered into the relationship, or it could be that it has been built up together. Either way, when money gets tight and the bailiff or debt collectors start closing in, the strain it puts on a relationship can be suffocating.
The average debt per adult in the UK was £29,210 in April − around 112% of average earnings.
Unfortunately, talking about money is still taboo in the UK yet without communicating with someone your debt is likely to get worse. Seeking help and talking to your partner may seem like a daunting task, but it will almost certainly help lift the burden from your shoulders.
My partner doesn’t realise I have unmanageable debt
It’s a tricky one and not everyone feels they will ever be able to speak with their partners about it. Over the years, ClearDebt staff have spoken with thousands of people, many of whom felt they could not tell their partner about their debt. We understand that is not always possible, which is why each case is handled sensitively, and dealt with according to the customer’s needs.
However, we would always recommend that you do speak to your partner if you can. Sit them down and apologise for not telling them sooner and explain that you are serious about seeking advice and tackling the problem head on. Debt is always much easier to deal with when you are able to be open with those close to you.
Work out what you owe and seek advice from a free advice service (you can find sources of free advice through Money Advice Service), or talk to us. ClearDebt will always point you to sources of free advice if an Individual Voluntary Arrangement isn’t the most appropriate solution for your circumstances.
The chances are they have already noticed that you are not yourself, which could lead them to the wrong conclusions. If you feel you can talk it through with them do so − it is difficult for anyone in a relationship to make long term plans when one of you is staying silent over a big problem. If not though, don’t worry, you wouldn’t be on your own, but do seek help.
We have joint debt but my partner refuses to do anything about it
Not everybody has the confidence to tackle money problems. It can seem like a black hole, from which you just cannot escape. Try to be supportive rather than authoritative, but at the same time you still have to get your point across strongly enough to make them realise that the problem will not simply go away.
It could also be that they are suffering from mental health problems [link to recent approved blog] due to the stress of the situation, so remain sensitive. Your partner doesn’t have to come to the phone if they are anxious about discussing their money issues with anybody but you.
If we have their permission you can talk on their behalf, so reassure them that you can still tackle your debt and free yourselves from the stress it brings.
If they still won’t budge then you can tackle your own debt to a certain degree and it could be wise to show them that, with a bit of effort, things can change. However, joint debts are going to need cooperation and you must strongly advise that they allow you to seek help on behalf of you both.
I don’t want to pay my partner’s debt
You are not legally obliged to take on half of your partner’s debt, whether you’re married or not − it is your prerogative. You do, however, need to consider whether this is a forever relationship and if so, you may want to consider a few things in order to maintain a happy marriage and household.
If some of that money was spent on things for you, or both of you, you may want to consider taking on some part of the debt by helping out with payments. If you are willing to take on your fair share then your partner may have the necessary funds to start tackling their debt. If you dream one day of leading a happy, debt free life, this would be realised much quicker if outstanding debts are cleared.
My partner took out a loan to help with my debt
In this instance you should be helping out with the repayments. They have taken out the loan to help your financial circumstances after all. However, if you’re struggling to find a way to pay back the loan, you should seek help immediately.
Ignoring debt will only make it worse and if you have failed to keep up with the repayments after consolidating your debts once, it’s highly unlikely you will be able to manage it by attempting it again.
Remember, don’t bury your head in the sand. Speak to a trained advisor who can talk you through the options available to you.
We are separating and I want to tackle my half of the debt
There are very clear definitions of who owes which debt. For example, if you had a credit card account and added your partner as a card holder, they are not legally obliged to pay anything towards that debt. Even if they have used the majority, or all of your credit limit.
If you took out a loan for a joint purchase, or maybe you bought a car for you partner, the debt remains solely yours and they are not legally obliged to take on half of the debt.
If you have taken out a debt in both your names − a joint debt − then a creditor(s) is perfectly within their rights to chase either of you for the outstanding debts. The debt would never be halved to allow you to both pay back your own share. Seek advice to see what options you have.
When you have separated discus any joint debts as soon as possible. If your ex-partner has indicated they are dealing with a particular debt, request to see evidence as you don’t want any nasty surprises further down the line. A bank will need permission from you both to close any joint accounts.