How To Tell Dates You’re In Debt (Without Scaring Them Off)

If there’s anything that today’s abundance of dating sites and apps have taught us, it’s that there’s someone out there for everyone. Whatever your sexual orientation, nationality, profession, religion, size, hobbies or relationship status, someone is into it ― and they’re looking for it.

Your financial status might be a different story. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s out there looking for a partner with tons of debt, even though most of us have at least some.

In fact, 80 percent of U.S. households have some form of debt. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, those under the age of 35 carry an average of $67,400 in debt, while 35- to 44-year-olds carry an average of $133,100 in debt. Those in their peak earning years, 45- to 54-year-olds, also hold the largest amount of debt, at $134,600 on average.

However, each age group typically carries different types of debt. The 35-and-under crowd is most burdened by educational debt, with the average millennial household owing $14,800 in student loans. Older age groups are more likely to hold mortgage debt, which usually isn’t considered a bad thing.

But no matter what type of debt you have or how much, it’s going to come up at some point while you’re looking for love. If you’re worried about how potential partners might react to your debt situation, read on to find out how to bring it up without scaring them off.

Is debt a dealbreaker?

Living with debt has become the norm for most people ― total credit card debt for all Americans reached a record high of more than $1 trillion in 2017 ― but not many say they are willing to consider a partner who has a significant amount.

A recent study by consumer savings site found that nearly 78 percent of Americans think credit card debt is unacceptable in a partner, followed closely by payday loan debt, which about 77 percent said they found unacceptable. Roughly 76 percent of respondents said student loan debt was unacceptable, with $51,000 the average amount respondents said they considered a relationship dealbreaker.

When you’re attempting to play the field with a load of debt to your name, getting past the first couple of dates could turn out to be a challenge if your debt burden limits your spending.

Money determines where you go on dates and what you do for fun,” said Christi Garner, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Movies, dinners, drinks and other common date expenses might not be within your budget, which limits what you can do.

Even though debt doesn’t always limit a person’s dating budget, prospective partners might still be wary of getting too involved with someone who could bring a lot of debt into a long-term relationship. A 2015 survey by Bankrate found that more than half of young adults ages 18 to 29 delayed major life milestones such as buying a home or car, getting married and saving for retirement due to their student loan debt.

But that doesn’t mean you can only find love if you’re debt-free.

“If those amongst us looking for love were to dismiss anyone with debt, we would find our dating pool greatly limited,” said Jennifer McDermott, a consumer advocate at Finder.

Here’s how to deal with debt while dating.

Although some people consider any and all debt a relationship dealbreaker, you will find that many are willing to accept it. It’s all about how you present your situation. Here’s some advice:

Start the money conversation early.

Relationship advice expert April Masini said it’s perfectly appropriate to talk money on the first date. “You don’t have to exchange FICO scores before the first kiss, but do talk about where you each live, your rent, your mortgage payments, your careers and what’s on your bucket list for travel, future, etc.”

Having these types of conversations right away can help you and your date figure out if your lifestyles and aspirations align, and if it’s worth seeing each other again. And you don’t have to be blunt about it.

“You can easily compliment a date and find out about his or her finances by saying something like … ‘I love the neighborhood you live in, is the rent really high there?’” said Masini.

Once your date has opened up about their financial situation, you can feel more comfortable sharing some of the details of yours.

Talk about debt specifically.

If your first couple of dates go well and it seems like you two are on the same page when it comes to money, it’s time to dig into the specifics. It’s important to not only get a feel for your date’s debt tolerance but find out what their situation is, too.

“It’s uncomfortable, but you need to get used to it,” said Masini. In fact, she said talking about debt is just as important as discussing sexually transmitted diseases and birth control with a potential romantic partner.

“This should be a cakewalk compared to those topics,” she said, suggesting you ask relatively innocuous questions such as “Do you have a lot of debt from student loans?” to get the conversation flowing.

Disclose your number.

No, we’re not talking about that number. If you see the possibility of a future with the person you’re dating, it’s a good idea to disclose exactly how much debt you have to each other before things get too serious.

“It’s unfair to waste your time or your partner’s time if you’ve got dealbreaker debt and they don’t,” said Masini. “On the other hand, someone without debt may appreciate your candor in disclosing it. They may overlook the debt because of the circumstances and your wanting to pay it down.”

That’s why it’s important to be honest about not just how much debt you have, but what steps you’re taking to deal with it. Acknowledge what decisions led to accumulating the debt and what your plan is for paying it down. Knowing that you have a plan in place will be a lot more reassuring to romantic partners.

Know when to move on.

They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince or princess. If you have significant debt, it’s important to understand that you might be the frog sometimes ― and that’s OK. It’s better to get on the same page early and realize that you aren’t compatible with someone than keep your debt a secret and spring it on them later.

“In reality, love doesn’t conquer all, we have to be responsible for accepting what kind of money story we have and what kind of story we want to make,” said Garner. “Then decide how to build with someone else and find a balance that works.”

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