How Debt Can Destroy a Budding Relationship


#1

Nobody likes unpleasant surprises, but when Allison Brooke Eastman’s fiancé found out four months ago just how high her student loan debt was, he had a particularly strong reaction: he broke off the engagement within three days.

When, exactly, are you supposed to reveal a debt of this size during the courtship? Earlier than you’d disclose, say, a chronic illness?

Even if disclosure doesn’t render you unmarriageable, tricky questions linger. If one person brings a huge debt to a relationship, who is ultimately responsible for making good on the obligation? And if it’s $170,000, isn’t the more solvent partner going to resent that debt over time no matter how early the disclosure comes? After all, it will profoundly affect every financial decision, from buying a home to how many children to have.

nytimes.com/2010/09/04/your-money/04money.html

The article mentions that many prospective couples haven't discussed common scenarios such as the birth of a child, and whether one of them will stay home afterward. And I know that was true for my own marriage. :blush:


#2

In my case debt prevents me from entering into a relationship period, because I decided to pay off my debt ASAP. Which means having more then one job and having VERY little free time (two hours a day Mon-Fri and one hour a day). I could probably do an online relationship because I work in an office and between jobs I’m allowed to be online. HAHAHA. But, yeah, I don’t do online relationships.

Honestly on the one hand I totally understand why someone would run away from huge debt (like $170,000.00! Wow!) but on the other hand can we say he was truly in love if something like that made him run screaming? :shrug:

Plus, in her case, the debt was a student loan. Everyone wants an education, how can you fault her for that?

Oh well. Haha. Lesson is work hard so when you DO have to surprise your fiance with your debt he can see you’re actively working to pay it off?


#3

[quote="Dale_M, post:1, topic:211585"]
nytimes.com/2010/09/04/your-money/04money.html

The article mentions that many prospective couples haven't discussed common scenarios such as the birth of a child, and whether one of them will stay home afterward. And I know that was true for my own marriage. :blush:

[/quote]

Excellent Dale ! I always love how you find these interesting captions of society.

Debt is bondage, as ever. Frankly, the public education system never teaches or trains children to be wise financial stewards. It leaves them daft, dumb and ignorant about the very real and painful consequences of debt accumulation, making unwitting sheep for the wolves of finance.

Any reading of Proverbs - even a once over - will instill a deep sense of at least respect, if not utter fear, for or of loans, and the utter seriousness of a loan - loans and debts, we are taught, are witnessed explicitly by God. Scriptural teaching on money is always extremely serious in contrast to the world's view of the easy-loan, of debt being part-and-parcel of life. God's people are ever warned to beware of debt, and to never trivialize debt - not even a "small loan" should be taken lightly : we are warned, in fact, that regardless of scale, debtor is always servant to lender, and this to the peril of our souls.

The Apostle admonishes us to be freed from earthly bondage if we can be free, in order that we may serve Christ completely. Debt forces us to work, and to work for mammon. This consequently makes man resent work, and even hold wealth in contempt - a natural consequence for an unnatural vice (servitude to mammon). Mammon, not Christ, becomes our master, and the bank - not God - becomes our liberator, our saviour in times of trouble. The Church's condemnation of usury is, in my opinion, best understood in this context - that of the pains it can cause on our relationships, which are ultimately the emanation of our God-given vocations.

Far better, then, is it to be poor, but free and happy, than to be rich, but a miserable slave.

Pax,
Tim


#4

All I will say is this. I’d rather be happy, in love, and complete with someone who has alot of debt than miserable with someone who is better off.

Money really can’t buy happiness. I say that as someone who is fairly well off. No, I’m not loaded, but I’m doing well.


#5

If the debt is going to make it impossible for you to ever be able to have enough to raise a family then you don't really have much choice other than to forget about marriage to that person, they have made themselves unsuitable for marriage and need to concentrate on doing justice to those who have lent to them.


#6

If someone truly loves the other; then they would not break an engagement because of mere debt.

Even a substantial debt such as that should be able to be paid off; particularily if they now have a proffessional job (which you would hope).

That said people who do longer courses should either work hard for a scholariship; or work at another job thirty or so hours a week to keep the debt down.


#7

I think it depends on the circumstances of the debt.

A $170,000 debt with a part time job in photography?? Um, I would call that a red flag. This woman didn't even really know what her debt was when she became engaged because she was too depressed to figure it out. Another red flag. This person is not ready to be married, imo. She needs to grow up, figure out a way out of her debt, like maybe get more work and then we can talk about love. In her defense, she is young and she has time to work this out. I think her fiance made the right choice by ditching the engagement.

The other person in the article is looking at a medical degree. She has a lot more to show for her debt. She will have a way to pay it off even though it will take years. This doesn't seem irresponsible to me. It is a sober choice she is making.

And these are young people.

But what about older people like me? I happen to be married 31 years. If I were to become single again there is no way I would consider marrying anyone with debt. As I age, security becomes more and more important to me. Debt doesn't give me security.


#8

[quote="newf, post:7, topic:211585"]
The other person in the article is looking at a medical degree. She has a lot more to show for her debt. She will have a way to pay it off even though it will take years. This doesn't seem irresponsible to me. It is a sober choice she is making.

[/quote]

Maybe yes, maybe no.

Possibly yes, because it is very rare for someone to get through medical school these days without taking on substantial loans. (According to their web site, tuition, fees, and major medical at Oregon Health & Science University run $40,684 to $54,365 annually. Housing, food, and transportation costs are extra, and obviously this debt is laid on top of any loans necessary to get an undergraduate degree.) If she is successful in getting into an emergency medicine residency, she could earn $200,000 or more annually.

Possibly no, because if she does a rotation in the emergency department and finds she isn't cut out for it, she may find herself in a bit of a pickle. If she decides on a different specialty or finds her job in a small place, she could make far less than that. If she decides to leave medicine, she still has the debt to pay.

More to the point of "no": I have talked to physicians in academics who are appalled at how many people take on their expected standard of living while they are still in medical school or residency! They may call you "Doctor" when you're a resident, but once you make a payment on that student loan, you're barely getting by.

For instance, it isn't unusual for the faculty at a university or medical school to look into the parking lot and see that their students are driving newer and more expensive cars than they are! They hear what kind of restaurants these students go to, what kind of vacations they take, and they quip, "Hey, kid, you'd better watch it. A thousand here and a thousand there, and pretty soon you're talking real money!" :rolleyes:

These are not all rich kids driving mom and dad's car. I've seen the same thing in other fields, too. It is not unusual for a student who has a lucrative job lined up after graduation to start living as if they already have that job. It goes without saying that their debts mount up quickly.

.........

I don't think it is debt that is the primary question. Rather, I'd ask these:
a) does the person have anything like a mature relationship with money AND
b) does the person have a relationship with money that is compatible with their prospective spouse?

If you think your spouse-to-be has a reasonable relationship with money, you might be willing to make many sacrifices in order to help them pay off their debts, no matter how they incurred them. A marriage could survive that. If you think they are irresponsible with money, though, the resentment could mount to marriage-killing heights very quickly, even if they make plenty of money to pay off their debts every month.

Incidentally, this is just one of the topics that are covered in an Engaged Encounter, where couples do a lot of work to find out what they really know about each other's attitudes towards issues that could cause friction in marriage, from what kind of debt is "acceptable" debt, to how to hang toilet paper and whether a dog or cat should ever be allowed to sleep on the bed. In an ideal world, I think couples would go through Engaged Encounter or equivalent intensive third-party counselling before they ever even announced an engagement. It would be a much better exercise if done while a graceful exit was still easily accessible.


#9

I have definite views about money and I have always made them known upfront. And my mom always says that is why I am not married at 40 !

All joking aside, I don’t think debt even begins to scratch the surface. I think spending habits are more important. For example I refuse to buy a car because I can’t afford to pay cash for one. Everyone thinks I am a nut and should just take out a loan. I disagree. I could NEVER marry a man who takes out car loans. If public transit does not go to where he works, he has a reason to buy a car. But he also has a responsibility to save up for the next car

I don’t eat out to save money. In my opinion someone who always buys their lunch to save time has their priorities in the a different place than me.

Now, I am not saying I am right, I am saying this is how I see things. And unless I meet someone who sees things the way I do, a marriage would not work. I know I drop money on things others consider frivolous and don’t expect a man to see that as smart.

So in a nut shell money is one of the biggest reasons for divorce and it should be put on the table once marriage is being discerned

CM


#10

Sounds like she has 2 jobs - it says X-ray tech AND part-time photographer. So I'll give her points on that.
But as someone trying to dig out of credit card debt created in stupider days, I can understand that $170,000 figure scaring him. A red flag to me, is his breaking off the engagement in three days -- it doesn't seem he even considered trying to work through it together. So he may not have been ready for marriage, either.
My 2-cents.

[quote="newf, post:7, topic:211585"]
I think it depends on the circumstances of the debt.

A $170,000 debt with a part time job in photography?? Um, I would call that a red flag. This woman didn't even really know what her debt was when she became engaged because she was too depressed to figure it out. Another red flag. This person is not ready to be married, imo. She needs to grow up, figure out a way out of her debt, like maybe get more work and then we can talk about love. In her defense, she is young and she has time to work this out. I think her fiance made the right choice by ditching the engagement.

The other person in the article is looking at a medical degree. She has a lot more to show for her debt. She will have a way to pay it off even though it will take years. This doesn't seem irresponsible to me. It is a sober choice she is making.

And these are young people.

But what about older people like me? I happen to be married 31 years. If I were to become single again there is no way I would consider marrying anyone with debt. As I age, security becomes more and more important to me. Debt doesn't give me security.

[/quote]


#11

cm you cant possibly be serious that your 40 and dont own a car...are you? unless you live in nyc, san fran or boston this would be a great (and rather unattractive) hardship as well as socially limiting. im 26 and on my second used car...both cash purchases.


#12

Debt and money has been the last straw in many long-standing marriages, so it doesn't surprise me that this stress (and feeling of duplicity, perhaps, on the part of one partner) could damage an engagement to the breaking point. The feeling of being deceived by a loved one is most hurtful. I hate to say so, but I have been there.

I do have to agree with previous posters, though. The point of having the faith and maturity to work on problems rather than throwing hands in the air and saying "it's over" is well taken. We all pass through fires at times. Those who pass through them with someone else sees the truth. They truly understand how steel is hardened. . . AND your relationship, if God graces you in that way.

I thank God every day that I was strengthened and not broken by my trials.


#13

I can understand how he would be willing to break off a relationship because of debt. The article makes it known that he knew about the debt but not the amount -- what concerns me more is she didn't know the full extent of her debt. NOT that that makes her bad or anything but it shows a lack of knowledge of her own personal finances. I have worked extremely hard to get myself into a place where I have no debt and am working on a cash-only basis (ala Dave Ramsey) so to be confronted with someone with such poor personal finance habits would cause me to take a closer look at the relationship.

Now, that being said, I'm not sure that I would immediately drop the relationship. I would probably go through some pre-marital counseling (which they should have already done) and maybe take a class like FPU together to get on the same page -- maybe she had just started to reach financial maturity and he could have helped her along that path -- and maybe postpone the wedding to ensure that they were on the same page financially because that can be a huge cause of disagreement in marriage and lead to divorce.

Another option not mentioned in the article could be that this was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. There could have been other problems that they were dealing with and he just finally said, "I'm done." We don't know because we only got her side of the story.


#14

In the two situation presented it seems:
Woman 1: Debt - 175,000, Degree - Bachelors in Photography, Upfront/Responsible - No
Woman 2: Debt - 250,000, Degree - Masters Emergency Room Medicine, Upfront/Responsible - Yes

It makes sense to me why the guy broke up with Woman 1. For a Bachelor's Degree in Photography no less and $175,000! in debt. That is very irresponsible in today's economy. And granted you shouldn't be expected to disclose your debt on your first date but I can see how something like that is a deal-breaker.

As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. God put many marriage-able people out there for a reason, not just a single particular person out there; there are so many great people out there to choose. If your willing and able to take on the debt, great; but you shouldn't judge too harshly one who is not.


#15

Your case makes a good point: there is debt and then there is debt. There is a world of difference between a student loan on a professional education that you have to pay off at 5%, a mortgage on a house that is costing you no more than rent and is gaining you equity even after taxes (although that is still a debt commitment, don’t get me wrong), a low-cost loan on a car that you need to get to work, and a consumer loan on heaven-knows-what that you just wanted at the time, which you are carrying at 22%. A ten-year loan at 5% will have monthly payments of roughly half of that of the same loan amount at a rate of 22%, or the 5% loan could be paid off in less than half the time than the 22% debt by paying the same amount on the loan every month. Even with real estate, people don’t seem to realize that they have to figure in taxes and closing costs. Students also don’t realize that the rate they paid as freshmen may or may not be the rate their senior-year loan requires.

My kids understood the concept of amortization when they were ten, but I’ll bet there are many, many married people who still don’t. That is scary.

The flip-side of all this debt that few people talk about is that youth is the ideal time to take advantage of compound interest in reaching retirement savings. There is no way you can do that, if you’re digging out from under enormous debt.


#16

My husband and I are in debt. Lots of debt. We probably owe close to $100,000 on various debts, along with our mortage which still has about 20 years of payments. And we're 53 years old, so we don't have many many years to become millionaires and pay it off!

And we're very happily married.

Currently in the U.S., debt is a fact of life.

There are exceptions. The poster above who has never owned a car is an exception to most people in the U.S.

I disagree with many of the "religious" teachers about debt. My husband and I used to watch every penny and strive to stay out of debt.

Then we had kids and bought a house and eventually started figure skating and then enrolled our kids in a private prep school because the public schools in our city are abysmal (not one middle school made the cut for "No Child Left Behind.")

And like many other young people, once we realized how much of our income went to various taxes, we became die-hard Republicans! Yikes, the property taxes in our city are among the highest in the nation. And the income tax just keeps creeping up. And there are entertainment taxes and gas taxes--yikes yikes.

So much for "debt-free living!"

At first we fretted about it. But to be honest, we didn't want to give up our life. We liked our house, which is just an old ranch house, not a castle. We love figure skating. We loved the prep school.

I don't garden or sew or cook very well. My husband can do some handy-man chores, but for the most part, he isn't home much to do them. So we're not very good at "living cheap."

So what we did was say, "Oh, well," and learn to live with debt. We threw out all those books by well-meaning Christian gentlemen claiming that they were teaching "the Biblical view of family finances."

Yes, debt is a burden, but it's a fun burden. The alternative is to live poor, and we really don't want to do that. We like our cars. We like our house. We like skating. We don't live like millionaires. E.g., I only own two pairs of shoes, and that's typical of many of our material goods--we don't own "the best" or "the most."

Maybe we're fools. But I think that living life worrying about debt is not good, either. It's just part of life in the United States.


#17

It’s a fun burden? If you think living poor is less fun when you’re 53, suffice it to say you’re going to really hate it when you’re 73. If you think the schools that can be had for those who have no money stink, you ought to see the nursing homes they get. Those, unfortunately, are paid for by the taxes you don’t want to pay. You had better hope there are a few bleeding hearts left to keep those in operation when you need them.

I hope your kids, after their skating lessons and prep schools, make enough to support you in your age, but ask yourself: is it fair to ask them to do that? What you put into your standard of living now is going to come out of the standard of living they could have had, unless they abandon you to poverty in your old age. It is going to come out of your kids’ abilities to send their own kids to prep schools and college. If not, either it will come out of the pockets of the customers of the banks you jilt (the nearly-usurous rates you are probably paying on any credit card debt, notwithstanding) or out of the tax general funds that will be have to tapped to feed you instead of someone who really could not have done better.

IOW, someone has to foot the bill for your debt eventually. You are probably not the only ones who are going to see the day when your “oh, well” becomes “oh, h—!

Oh, well, you’re in the company of some otherwise brilliant people. Thomas Jefferson did the same thing. He, too, liked fine things, much finer than what you describe. Although he was able to free a few (now believed to be his children), 130 other men, women, and children from Monticello who had been his slaves still had to be auctioned off to help pay the debts of his estate after he died. It had been his hope to have freed all of them.

Someone pays, in the end. Ask yourself: If not you, then who?

Do yourself a favor. At least learn to cook so as to feed your family for less. More importantly, make sure your kids learn with you. If they’re dedicated enough to be ice skaters, they can do it. It is amazing how much money you can save. Maybe you won’t be debt-free, but as I posted earlier…“A thousand here, a thousand there, and pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”


#18

You do make my point very well about marital happiness depending more on being of a like mind about money than about saving or spending some particular amount. If you look at it as “our decision” and “our debt”, then you, with a mountain of debt, can not only endure much more than a couple with no debt who fight over how to use the money they’ve saved, but can be happy doing it. I think you’ll fare better than those, even on the day when the hounds close in. (Although I did say “can be”. The proof of your pudding will be seen on the day when you don’t turn on each other because the hounds have shown up.)

On that point…kudos to you! May you each be a refuge to the other, on the downhill side.


#19

[quote="Cat, post:16, topic:211585"]
My husband and I are in debt. Lots of debt. We probably owe close to $100,000 on various debts, along with our mortage which still has about 20 years of payments. And we're 53 years old, so we don't have many many years to become millionaires and pay it off!

And we're very happily married.

Currently in the U.S., debt is a fact of life.

There are exceptions. The poster above who has never owned a car is an exception to most people in the U.S.

I disagree with many of the "religious" teachers about debt. My husband and I used to watch every penny and strive to stay out of debt.

Then we had kids and bought a house and eventually started figure skating and then enrolled our kids in a private prep school because the public schools in our city are abysmal (not one middle school made the cut for "No Child Left Behind.")

And like many other young people, once we realized how much of our income went to various taxes, we became die-hard Republicans! Yikes, the property taxes in our city are among the highest in the nation. And the income tax just keeps creeping up. And there are entertainment taxes and gas taxes--yikes yikes.

So much for "debt-free living!"

At first we fretted about it. But to be honest, we didn't want to give up our life. We liked our house, which is just an old ranch house, not a castle. We love figure skating. We loved the prep school.

I don't garden or sew or cook very well. My husband can do some handy-man chores, but for the most part, he isn't home much to do them. So we're not very good at "living cheap."

So what we did was say, "Oh, well," and learn to live with debt. We threw out all those books by well-meaning Christian gentlemen claiming that they were teaching "the Biblical view of family finances."

Yes, debt is a burden, but it's a fun burden. The alternative is to live poor, and we really don't want to do that. We like our cars. We like our house. We like skating. We don't live like millionaires. E.g., I only own two pairs of shoes, and that's typical of many of our material goods--we don't own "the best" or "the most."

Maybe we're fools. But I think that living life worrying about debt is not good, either. It's just part of life in the United States.

[/quote]

Cat, I appreciate your honesty but I think you are off base. A lot of people with attitudes like yours are looking at foreclosures and bankruptcy. You may be in debt but it seems you have been able to keep your house and cars. So you are still earning more than your monthly bills, right? That's okay for today, but what about tomorrow? How do you plan to survive retirement years?


#20

[quote="EasterJoy, post:17, topic:211585"]
It's a fun burden? If you think living poor is less fun when you're 53, suffice it to say you're going to really hate it when you're 73. If you think the schools that can be had for those who have no money stink, you ought to see the nursing homes they get. Those, unfortunately, are paid for by the taxes you don't want to pay. You had better hope there are a few bleeding hearts left to keep those in operation when you need them.

I hope your kids, after their skating lessons and prep schools, make enough to support you in your age, but ask yourself: is it fair to ask them to do that? What you put into your standard of living now is going to come out of the standard of living they could have had, unless they abandon you to poverty in your old age. It is going to come out of your kids' abilities to send their own kids to prep schools and college. If not, either it will come out of the pockets of the customers of the banks you jilt (the nearly-usurous rates you are probably paying on any credit card debt, notwithstanding) or out of the tax general funds that will be have to tapped to feed you instead of someone who really could not have done better.

IOW, someone has to foot the bill for your debt eventually. You are probably not the only ones who are going to see the day when your "oh, well" becomes "oh, h---!"

Oh, well, you're in the company of some otherwise brilliant people. Thomas Jefferson did the same thing. He, too, liked fine things, much finer than what you describe. Although he was able to free a few (now believed to be his children), 130 other men, women, and children from Monticello who had been his slaves still had to be auctioned off to help pay the debts of his estate after he died. It had been his hope to have freed all of them.

Someone pays, in the end. Ask yourself: If not you, then who?

Do yourself a favor. At least learn to cook so as to feed your family for less. More importantly, make sure your kids learn with you. If they're dedicated enough to be ice skaters, they can do it. It is amazing how much money you can save. Maybe you won't be debt-free, but as I posted earlier...."A thousand here, a thousand there, and pretty soon, you're talking real money."

[/quote]

My kids are grown up and moved out of the house, living on their own and doing well. The prep school was more than worth it. In fact, my older daughter graduated college a year early, saving tens of thousands of dollars, because of her AP classes from the prep school.

A superior education is worth going into debt for. If that's foolish, well, then I'm foolish and proud of it. A superior education is an investment that will last a lifetime.

As for the skating, our family was and still is the epitome of "cheap" ice skating, saving thousands each year by avoiding such money-traps as "photos" and custom-made costumes. My daughters even wore the same competition dress to the same competitions. The skating was worth it. Both of my daughters were members of Team U.S.A., and earned the privilege of representing the United States all over the world in competitions. That's the kind of life experience that most people never have--my kids had it and it was worth it. You see, our "debt" did not finance shoes and silly stuff--we financed life.

And the skating paid off financially, too. Both of my daughters coaches through college, and made $34.00/hour, much more than they would make wearing a pink dress and a hairnet. They also met great families at their college town rinks, learned to work with small children, and the discipline of getting up at 4:00 A.M. to get to the rink and coach little ones helped them to work harder in school. One of the families that my younger daughter met at the rink was so grateful to her that they donated twenty thousand dollars towards her college tuition. I'd say that pretty much paid back what we spent on her skating.

I know how to cook after 31 years of marriage. I'm just not one of those people who can feed a family of 8 a delicious meal with one chicken raised in their own backyard, like some of the amazing full-time moms on CAF.

And we pay our debts. Never once in the 31 years that we have been married have we ever "jilted" someone and we never will. We both work at good-paying jobs and we make substantial payments towards our debts. If needed, we would work more than one job. And if we die with debts unpaid, our insurance and assets will pay off anything that we owe. We're not freeloaders and you don't have to worry about getting stuck with our expenses.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.