Love and Money: 1 in 3 Americans Has Relationship Debt

Couple arguing

Debt can ruin a relationship. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

Being in a loving relationship can provide emotional support and comfort. However, there are also some drawbacks that come along with relationships. When it comes to finances, one of those drawbacks is debt.

A new study conducted by found 1 in 3 American adults (30%) bring debt into their relationships. Consequently, these adults have amassed roughly $250 billion collectively as a result of a being in a romantic relationship. This equals roughly 74 million people who have taken on the responsibility for all or some debt from a current or former partner. The average debt is roughly $11,485 per person.

Key findings

So, what’s the primary reason for getting into this debt mess? The top reason for getting saddled with debt is marriage. This accounts for roughly 28% of survey respondents. After marriage are purchases made in an individual’s name (25%), purchases through joint accounts (20%), secret spending by a partner or former partner (16%) and divorce settlement (14%).

Credit card trouble

Many respondents are drowning in credit card debt. This is the most common type of debt carried by those in a relationship. An estimated 37% of survey respondents said they have taken over their partner’s credit debt. The next most common type of debt is auto loans (19%) and student loans (14%).

The generation most likely to take on relationship debt

Who is the most likely to take on debt from a relationship? When it comes to who is most likely to assume a partner’s debt, each generation trends differently. The survey found Generation Y (31%) was most likely to take on a partner or former partner’s debt after marriage. After that, Gen Xers (26%) and baby boomers (24%) were the most likely.

A deal breaker?

If you’re dating and you have a lot of credit card debt, you might have a tough time meeting that special someone. Some daters decide debt is something they don’t want to deal with when it comes to a romantic partner. More than 3 in 4 Americans say too much credit card debt is a deal breaker. About 77% of participants said the debt became unacceptable once credit card balances reached $11,525.

Tips for dealing with relationship debt

  • Make sure you and your partner sit down and discuss your individual debts. Don’t surprise him or her after the wedding. Have an honest dialogue about your finances and map out a plan for dealing with debt as a couple.
  • Look for a debt strategy and commit to it. There are several ways to pay down your debt, including the debt avalanche, debt snowball, and debt tsunami methods. Read up on each strategy and decide which one works best for your financial situation.
  • Don’t be afraid to call in the professionals. If your financial situation becomes overwhelming, make an appointment with a financial planner. He or she can assist you with figuring out a short- and long-term plan for your debt.

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