Asking For A Friend: I'm in debt, do I need to tell my new partner?

Asking For A Friend is the series where we answer the questions you don’t want to ask.

Everyone and everything has been impacted by the cost of living crisis — including relationships. 

Whether it’s not being able to afford dates or feeling antsy about mounting credit card debt, we’re all having to find new ways to navigate money conversations in relationships both new and established.

While some are less tricky (a free date like a trip to a park of museum can be cute and wholesome) others are harder, particularly those that centre around debt. 

If you’re one of the approximately 10 million people struggling with debt, you may wonder whether it’s worth telling a prospective partner. With so much stigma and shame surrounding it, there’s no wonder 70% of those in debt don’t talk to anyone about it. 

But, the truth is, it’s likely better to get everything out in the open, especially if you want your relationship to go anywhere. 

‘Not only can the stress of keeping the secret affect you and your relationship, but it can also make it more difficult for you to manage the situation and can lead to more problems later down the line,’ Georgia Galloway, finance expert at Finbri, tells

‘If your new partner has no idea about your financial issues, they will continue to make plans that you can’t afford, which can lead to adding to your debt by putting things on a credit card, just so you can pretend the debt doesn’t exist — the vicious cycle will continue, until you have the conversation.’

You don’t need to open up about your financial circumstances on the first or even the third date, but Georgia says its best to tell them when things are getting serious enough that you want to tell them, but early enough that it won’t start affecting them negatively – like if you’re planning to book a holiday or move in together.

So, now we know we should tell a new-ish partner, how do you go about having the conversation?

Georgia recommends finding the right setting, ripping the plaster off and being ready to answer any questions. 

How to open up about debt to a new partner

Don’t procrastinate

‘Prolonging the inevitable will only make it worse — rip off the plaster and get the conversation over and done with, so you can continue without it being constantly in the back of your mind,’ says Georgia.

Honesty is key, so be sure to tell your partner everything they need to know, lest it come out in the future (always a lose-lose). 

‘Be honest about your emotions but be aware of their emotions too, and give them space if they need it,’ adds Georgia.

Get the right setting

As Georgia says, timing is important, and it’s not a good idea to wait until the very end of a date, otherwise questions may be left unanswered.

‘Choose a time when you have a whole day ahead of you, rather than when you have plans later in the day and will have to cut the conversation short,’ she says.

‘Let them know that you want to talk about something serious and you just want them to listen, so they can be prepared, and choose somewhere to talk where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.’

Be prepared

‘Prepare what you’re going to say so you can get it all out and tell them everything you need to,’ says Georgia.

Try to brainstorm some questions they might ask so you have the answers ready, that way you can avoid any confusion and get straight to the point. 

Some questions to think about, says Georgia, are: how you got into debt in the first place, how long it’s been going on, how much is left to pay, or whether there is legal action being taken against you.

It’s also a good idea to tell them about your progress, like whether you’ve got a payment plan in place and how you plan to deal with the situation. 

Let them know how they can help

Finally, it’s okay to lean on your partner for emotional support and to offer them the same. 

‘Ask them to support you emotionally and keep this communication open, without judgement,’ says Georgia.

‘Now they’re aware of what’s going on, they’ll be able to take your finances into account when making plans, and help you stick to your budget.’

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