Dealing with Your Partner’s Debt
Surprise: Your Partner has Debt
Committed relationships can have many surprises. Sometimes, it catches you completely off-guard, such as discovering your partner has debt that you and your partner did not know about.
This article is about my personal experience with unexpected debt that was in collections under my husband’s name. It will address how I found out and how I dealt with it.
A little background
This is a story from about 30 years ago*. After a few years of renting, my late husband and I decided it was time to look for a house. We had steady jobs. Both of us working at a large corporation. We had saved some money and along a little help from my mother-in-law, we had 20% for a down-payment.
The next important step towards home ownership was to inquiry about our credit. We started working with a Realtor who pulled our credit reports. That’s because, it was much harder to get a credit report than it is today.
*Note: While this story is 30 years old, not surprisingly, keeping money secrets is on the rise.
The credit report revealed two accounts in collection
I was shocked to find out my husband’s report showed he had two accounts in collections. He, on the other hand, was not so surprised when we talked about it.
He had lived with a woman for a few years before we met. This much I knew. They had combined their bank accounts. And that’s what caused the issue. She had bounced a few checks. My husband said he was unaware of any bills being sent to collections. And he had not spoken or seen his ex-girlfriend in a few years.
I recall feeling angry. Actually, being very mad. I don’t recall the exact amount that was due. One of them was between $200 – 300. The other was around $1400. Collectively, in today’s dollars, it’s about $3,500. Not an insignificant amount for a young couple. I had to contact the two collectors and make arrangements to pay them off.
It wasn’t really that simple
Honestly, it was not that simple. I was quite aggravated and annoyed. This was a person I never met. A person who received goods and services but never paid for them. And I am the one who has to use my money to pay off this debt!
Takeaways and Final Thoughts
What are the lessons here that might be use to you?
This is an example of a situation where you have no control in the beginning. Being emotional, after finding out unknown debt, is a normal reaction. Dealing with money is emotional.
After uncovering that your partner has debt, I suggest that give yourself some time and calm down. No matter what you decide to do, being too emotional will not help you solve the problem. We do not think logically when we are in an emotional state.
I could have remained annoyed and had my late husband deal with it. After seething a bit in anger, I decided I needed to address it for the both of us.
Have you discovered your partner has debt? What did you do when you found out?