Would You Marry Someone With A Lot of Debt?

Yesterday a patient of mine came in to see me who I haven’t seen in 18 months. She is one of my favorites so I was excited to have the time to catch up a little. When she mentioned she was moving to the UK at the end of the year to do a short term work term over there I asked if her boyfriend was going with her.

There was no longer a boyfriend. Opps.

As long as I’ve known her she was vomit-worthy, head-over-heels in love with this dude so I was a little taken aback when she told me they split. She explained that while they were dating (four years) he managed to accumulate almost $40,000 in debt from pursuing his Master’s degree (she didn’t say what in), and once he finished he had a hard time finding work.

According to her, she couldn’t be with a man long-term, and eventually marry, who had debt. Plain and simple. If he wasn’t working in his field and paying off his debt before they wed, she simply couldn’t be with him.

{Let’s assume there really was nothing else wrong in this relationship, because there likely was, and run with what she so point-blankly said to me. She refused to marry a man who had debt.}

Everyone is individual, I get that, but debt from pursuing higher education is no-go? Really?!

I would totally understand if she got spooked because she found out he racked up 40k in credit card debt from frivolous spending and uncontrolled gambling, but he didn’t. It was debt he took on for education. Yes, debt is debt, but how one accumulates it should be taken into consideration shouldn’t it?

I came into our marriage with a TON of debt. Mike had very little before he married my deficit bank account. Since we’ve been together since we were 16 my debt was never a secret, he knew every penny I took on when it happened, so transparency was never an issue with us. I don’t think he ever considered not marrying me because of this debt load though.

We were in love (still are!) and wanted to get married. We’re proponents of 100% combined finances so our money goes towards our life and goals. One of those goals being paying debt off-together (though I’m not suggesting method this works for all couples).

Though Mike and I are pretty much even in terms of income there were times it was lopsided one way or the other but we still never thought about it as more or less per person. It was total coming in for our household. If Mike made 110k per year and I managed the other 20k it wouldn’t matter to us. This mentality from the get-go has made our lives much easier. I don’t think I realize or appreciate how many arguments we’ve managed to avoid in our marriage because of this.

While I could pay this debt off on my own if I needed to, working towards such a huge goal with my spouse is sort of nice. Though I was the one who took the debt on, we both reap the benefits of my well-paying job- possible because of this debt and what it signifies (two university degrees).

When it comes to relationships and bringing debt into the equation I really think it needs to be looked at as an individual basis and not a black and white scenario as my patient was making it out to me during our conversation but everyone is different… How about you, would you/have you marry someone with a lot of debt?

Enjoy Plunged in Debt?


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  1. All I can do is laugh until I cry.

    I married a man who had over 100k in student loan debt, had never worked a real job in his life, and whose degree starts off paying about 20k a year to highly qualified graduates, which he was not. So off he went to grad school after we married, still with no plans to work, assuring me that he’d easily make $65k upon graduation. 10 years later and he barely makes what he promised would be so easy. I love him, but there are many days I wish I hadn’t married him.

  2. I think it matters a lot how much debt and where the person is otherwise. If there were no other issues, I wouldn’t think twice about marrying $40K of education debt! I share your suspicion that there must have been something else going on there. But I have a friend who married a guy who (when she met him) already had $180K in student loans for a pretty low-paying field. Together they have over $200K in student loan debt and they’re both educators — it’s not like one or both are lawyers or doctors. I don’t know what I would have done in that situation. I’m glad I haven’t had to face that kind of choice.

    • Catherine says:

      Hmmn yes at some point you have to take things into consideration…i cant imagine 200k in non mortgage debt!

  3. I’m in a similar boat as you: I married my high school sweetheart and before I came along he was almost Scrooge-like in his frugality. When I went to school we had to support each other and accept the debt that came along with it to the tune of about 200k. He’s never made me feel guilty about it and we work hard to pay it off together. We’ve recently been putting his income towards all the household expenses and mine towards paying off the loans ASAP, but we also believe that a combined income household runs more effectively. It’s all about budgeting and reassessing as we go on our journey together. I can see where someone who didn’t know me well would have balked at the staggering amount of debt and ran, but because we always talked it through we knew what we signed up for and don’t really fight about it, just work hard to remove it!

  4. I don’t think $40k is that unreasonable compared to many stories. I think, as you mentioned, that there were other likely issues going on as well. When my wife and I got engaged, we started going through things. She had student loan debt which I knew that she had, but I didn’t know how much. I figured it was around $20k just based on really nothing more than my guess. It turned out to be $30k. Obviously I would have been much happier had it been $10k instead but at no point did that ever make me want to change my mind about marrying her.

  5. Wow that is crazy, especially since the debt came from a degree. I know someone who debated breaking up with their fiance because he had $1,500 in credit card debt. I still can’t believe it.

  6. I sure wouldn’t want to be “discarded” dating-wise because I still have debt. I wouldn’t “discard” someone who has debt, but I would be concerned if the person had no plan to pay it off or intended to rack on more.

  7. I think perhaps “it depends” is how I feel. If the person kept wracking up debt & had no intentions of paying it back or trying to live within their means, that would be a deal-breaker. But student loans? No.

  8. Wow to each their own I guess!!! We definitely had debt and knew about each others when we got married. But maybe I would be bothered by it if it were credit card debt and I was getting married now at 27 knowing more vs. at 22 when I just couldn’t wait to tie the knot lol.

  9. I am happy that I married my wife who is really a saver and debt-free. I feel so lucky that she accepted me even though I had some debts like in credit card, car loan, student loan. Now, I have kinda adopted her attitude when it comes to financial.

  10. Wow! Interesting post.

    I didn’t even know enough about debt until after I had already married a man who was in the process of accruing more student loan debt!

    I do think there are a couple of considerations, as others said:

    1) Consumer debt is different from student loan debt – because $40,000 of credit card debt isn’t just a bear to get out from under, it may also indicate that there are other issues going on with that person (unhealthy relationship with money, for instance).

    2) Does the debtor have a plan? If someone is carrying around $40k of debt, is s/he actively trying to find a way to manage that debt and avoid taking on more debt?

    To be honest, my husband and I had student loan debt when we started dating, and we weren’t actively trying to get out of it. We were young and pretty much assumed that everyone had mounds of student debt, and that’s just the way it was. However, we did manage to grow together and communicate about how we were going to deal with this.

    I do imagine that there are other things going on with your particular client’s relationship, but if I focus on just the idea of marrying someone with that much debt (especially at this stage of my life), I would be looking at how actively the person is trying to get out from under that debt….

    Thanks for making me think today. 🙂

  11. Wow, yeah, that definitely seems harsh. I think there´s so much more to assess, it can´t possibly be that black or white, can it?? I certainly agree that if it had been $40k in credit card debt in just a couple of years, that might be a sign of something really amiss, but even then… I think it´d be worth uncovering the reasons behind it. Maybe he was paying for sweet granny in a nursing home, or who knows! But this was student loan debt, which is in theory not recurring, and more importantly, not the sign of something amiss–in fact, the opposite, hopefully. BUT well, if they weren´t on the same page about it, good thing this came up before they got married or had children, I guess.

  12. Wow, I would never have gotten married if Mr. Tre felt that way about debt. I guess one question is what type of Master’s degree did he get? When he finally gets started in his career will he earn enough to repay the debt?

  13. I agree there was probably more to the story, and leaving someone over education debt seems somewhat harsh. But I suppose if someone had $150k in student loans for a “basket-weaving” degree with no plan for how to turn that into a career, I might have second thoughts. My larger concern would be with someone who had a lot of consumer debt and no motivation to pay it off and end the cycle. Of course, being as frugal as I am, they’d probably not be interested in me in the first place! Fortunately my wife and I had similar financial outlooks (which have grown even closer over time) and the slight amount of debt she had at the start was not a concern.

  14. I think it depends on where the mindset of the guy. If he says to me “Michelle, I want to be honest and tell you that I have debt and here’s my plan to kick it’s a@@ I am working like crazy, have cut my expenses, and am rocking free stuff” Then that’s a man with a plan and we can move forward. If he’s like “Hey! I just leased a new BMW. Still have college debt and I haven’t really thought about retirement, and I don’t really read about money.” Then, I’m running away from that guy as fast as I can.

  15. It depends. Sometimes people are burdened with large unexpected expenses and did not know where to raise the money to meet these need. In this case, you have to take a tough decision while choosing your life partner.
    Sometimes in this scenario, the best solution for you would be to get a cash advance loan, but before you commit,. you should know exactly what they are and how they work. http://blog.cashinasnap.com/can-debt-consolidation-end-financial-despair/

  16. What about a guy that is recently divorced 2 kids ( so child support ) , no degree but has student loans of 26k, and now owes IRS and state taxes of 60k? Knew he needed to set aside inherited IRA money to pay taxes, but opened up a business with all of funds and hopes business will take off . A business in fitness equipment that won’t be a huge money maker . Would you run or not?

    • Catherine says:

      probably lol.

    • Ummm not divorced yet but sounds like my ex. Mine left his family cause of his reckless spending and he cheated. He’s in major debt even after getting money from the house sale. Owes support for two kids. He will never be out of debt even if he married rich. He would buy a luxury car for each day that he couldn’t afford. Run girl. I have no idea how a woman would want my ex after what hecdid to his family. Goes to show you what he’s capable of. Best of luck to you and pre nup if you marry. Trust me after 25 years together never thought divorce was an option.

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