Everything’s perfect. You’re engaged to the love of your life. The wedding planning is going great. You can’t wait to call your sweetheart your spouse.
Except there’s one tiny problem: Your sweetheart comes with a pile of consumer debt.
If you’re debt-free or well on your way, the thought of marrying someone with debt can be a little scary! So what do you do?
Well, before you do anything, take a deep breath. Then, continue reading while keeping these three things in mind.
1. Consider Your Beloved’s Attitude
Debt isn’t a deal breaker. Yes, you read that right! Marrying into debt is okay. What matters more is your betrothed’s attitude toward debt. Are they motivated to pay it off and are actively working toward that? Or maybe they want to, but they don’t know how.
As long as the desire’s there, you can show them the ropes. In that case, ring those wedding bells! You know that you’re on the same page about money, and you’ll get through it together.
But watch out for red flags. If your beloved is just fine staying in debt, that may be a reason to postpone or cancel the wedding. If they can’t take control of their lives and manage their own behaviors, you won’t be able to fix them. And—if they don’t have self-control—they may never get out of debt, and they’ll drag you down with them.
If that’s your spouse-to-be, they’re not marriage material.
Statistics show that one of the leading causes of divorce is money fights and money problems. In fact, one 2013 study out of Kansas State University showed arguing about money is the top predictor of divorce (1). Keep that in mind as you work through this.
If you want to make it work, consider going as a couple to a premarital counselor and a financial coach so you can talk through your problems. That’s a great idea anyway, since there’s safety in wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14). These experts could possibly help you get on the same page. If nothing else, getting counsel can help you determine if the relationship might not work, and you can save yourself heartache and headaches by backing out before you say I do.
2. Keep Your Finances Separate Before Marriage
If you know your future spouse is determined to pay off their debt, that’s a great start. But don’t be tempted to rush out and pay toward their debt for them. Until you get married, there’s no ours when it comes to money. It’s mine and yours.
Combining finances before marriage is a great way to mess up your relationship. If it goes sour during the engagement period (and it does happen!), you’ll never see that money again. We don’t want to be pessimistic, but we do want to be wise. No matter how much you love your sweetie, just don’t pay toward their debt until you’re Mr. and Mrs.—but you should be their biggest cheerleader as they pay down their own debt!
3. Commit to Paying Off Any Debt ASAP
The person with debt needs to clean up as much as possible before the wedding day. That demonstrates they’re committed to bringing as little debt into the marriage as they can. It says: “I think so much of you, I love you so deeply, and I care so passionately about our future that I’m going to sacrifice things I care about for the good of us as a couple.”
Then, after the wedding, you need to be committed and willing to work together to pay off whatever’s left. After all, the preacher said, “And now you are one.” That means you combine your lives, including your debt.
If you’ve entered into a healthy marriage with common goals and the same views on money, the combining of your finances as an exciting adventure—your first of many as a married couple.