Ask Molly: “How do I share my debt issues?” [Molly’s Money]

April 18, 2013·

If you’re new here, Molly’s Money is a personal finance series I write talking about getting out of debt, how to maintain a budget, etc. and I also love to answer your personal finance questions. You can check out all my previous posts here.

Dear Molly,

I have $25,000 in dumb credit card debt. I am so ashamed of it and as a teacher in WV I have limited money as well. I am engaged to a wonderful and financially responsible man and I haven’t yet told him how much debt I have. I want to believe I can handle it myself but I also don’t feel right keeping him in the dark. I don’t want him to share the burden of my bad decisions with me and I am afraid at this point telling him be even harder. Any tips or advice? I could really use some. I dream of debt free and maintaining my dignity while doing it. Thank you!


Hey M,

I was once RIGHT where you are – but not engaged (yet, at the time). When my now husband and I were dating, I had this huge cloud hanging over my head – and it was a cloud of shame and debt. I was terrified to tell him about it in the fear that he would leave me or break up with me. He, like your man, is extremely financially responsible, and I was so ashamed and embarrassed of my issues, I avoided telling him for MONTHS.

BUT, once the THOUGHT (read: THOUGHT) of marriage came about, I knew before things went any further that I had to tell him.

So, I did.

I sat him down and I told him everything. I showed him every document and gave him the skinny on where I was financially. I also showed him where I started and how far I’d come in my debt payoff process. I won’t lie – I cried a lot. It was terrifying. But my husband (then boyfriend) was so supportive, so understanding, and instead of running away, he sat down with me and helped me continue to figure out how I was going to get out of debt. And I was blessed enough to get out of debt and become debt free only three weeks after we got married – so it was only “our debt” for a very short period of time.

Why / Why did I do this?

Because, if we were to decide to get married, I didn’t want ANY secrets and because once we said those vows, the debt would no longer be MY debt, it would become OUR debt. Read this post about combining finances after marriage.

That is something that is REALLY tough for some people to grasp, but it is SO important to address is quickly and EARLY.

Now M, you’re already engaged, and I will be honest, you’re a little behind – so the time to tell him is now. Like, seriously. Now.

Just know and understand this: once you say, “I Do,” the debt is no longer YOURS and YOURS ALONE – it is now “OURS” and “OURS TOGETHER.” This isn’t a bad thing or a negative thing – it’s one of the best things about marriage. You’re a team and you have a partner who is there to support you every step of the way.

But when you’re a team, you have to communicate EVERYTHING to your teammate. So, sit him down, be honest with him, be open with him, and tell him everything. He will love you for it and he will appreciate you for it.

You CAN be debt free and you WILL be debt free, but it’s so important to share your struggles and be honest and transparent with your fiance NOW. Don’t be scared, this is a HUGE first step towards open communication with your husband and creating a cohesive team.

What advice do YOU have for M? Have you experienced anything similar?

Do you have a personal finance question for me? You can leave it anonymously in the comments below OR you can email me – 🙂