Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Oct 31, 2012

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Oh love! True love fosters poem writing, romantic notions, and heroic gestures, but many modern citizens question if it can withstand an important issue: debt.

People have been forced to deal with debt problems throughout history, but the societal issue of debt has never been as strong as in the past few years. Couples young and old must deal with personal loan debt, student loans, auto loans and mortgages, just to name a few. The repercussions of debt can impact career choices, living arrangements and now even relationships. Money is the number one problem in marriages, so it seems likely that money issues would be pervasive in budding relationships too.

According to an NPR article, both women and men must decide if personal loan and college loan debt is a deal breaker. A woman, who anonymously wrote into a advice column, expressed concern about a relationship with a man who has $150,000 in debt, mainly from student loans.

“He was explaining his money stress to me, and I started crying because I saw the future I want falling away,” the woman wrote, as published on NPR.

While some responses to the column warned the woman that she should leave the relationship, others were more hopeful. “There was a lot of backlash, saying, ‘Hey that’s unfair. You guys are clearly not thinking about how student debt works in this country. So many people are in debt like that, that you can’t just get rid of a good relationship because of it.’”

One way counselors suggest overcoming these issues is to keep finances separate. NPR reported that many survey respondents said they have avoided marriage so that the other partner isn’t liable for their debt. Although items like student debt and personal loans acquired before marriage do not legally transfer to the new partner, it does affect them in the relationship. Large amounts of unpaid debt and personal loans can lower credit scores and make large marriage decisions more difficult—decisions including having a child, saving for retirement and buying a home. If one spouse has poor credit, then the slack will likely be picked up by the other partner.

Bill Driscoll, a financial planner in Massachusetts, told NPR that his 30-something clients bring up these issues frequently.

“It’s causing uncertainty and tension because it’s an impediment to them moving forward on a lot of fronts,” he said. “If they go to buy a home and they’ve got $65,000 in student debt, that’s going to undermine a lot of the possibilities for getting financing.”

Although debt can be a deterrent for some couples, others decide to plan ahead. When consumers borrow money for personal use, they should shop around for the best offers. This is especially true if they see their relationship moving to the next level in the near future.

For those that wish to pursue a traditional form of marriage with joint bank accounts, there is always a prenup. A prenuptial agreement can establish rules for divisions of property and support in the event of a divorce or separation. Although prenups usually come with a negative stereotype, it can force a couple to have financial discussions before marriage, which is always a smart idea.

If a relationship is strong enough to overcome the stress of mounting personal loans and student debt, then it was likely meant to be. But no one should go into a marriage without knowing about their partner’s financial situation. Talking about finances might not be the most romantic discussion to have, but notifying a partner about outstanding personal loans and credit issues before a marriage is better than finding out about it later on in the relationship.