Talking to loved ones about debt 1

Talking to others about debt can be very difficult, especially with those closest to you. If you are dealing with debt on your own it can impact your wellbeing and make it an even bigger burden to carry.

If you are struggling to deal with debt on your own it is important to remember that you are not alone. Speaking to those closest to you, gives you an opportunity to get the support you need to take steps to improve your financial situation.

We recommend that where possible you’re open and honest with your loved ones about your finances. However, talking about debt can bring with it challenges, including conflict and feelings of mistrust. This can be especially apparent if you’ve never previously talked about your debt with your partner or other members of your family.

Accessing debt advice from organisations such as PayPlan is only part of the solution. Ensuring you have the right level of support in your daily life can make all the difference. Whatever your situation, the following steps can help make your situation easier to manage.

Who can you talk to about debt?

Speaking to a family member or trusted friend who you can talk to in confidence is really important. Having other people to talk to about your debts provides a range of benefits including:

  • Helping you deal with any letters you may be receiving from creditors
  • Assisting you in putting together a budget
  • Sharing their experience and offering tips on how to save money or increase income.

Because so many people experience financial difficulties at some time in their lives, it’s possible that others around you may be dealing with their own debt problems. Talking to others about your debt can be helpful for everyone and it can make you feel less isolated when dealing with your own issues.

Telling your partner about your debt

If you’re in a long-term relationship – especially if you’re married, living together or considering - it is vitally important to talk to your partner about your debt as soon as possible. Of course, it can be extremely difficult to admit to your partner that you’ve been struggling. However, if you’re feeling stressed, it’s possible that they may already have been concerned about you, knowing that something isn’t right.

While talking about debt can bring a range of emotions and negative feelings to the surface, keeping it from your partner is much more likely to make your life more stressful in the longer term which may lead to the relationship deteriorating. It could possibly result in arguments and a lack of communication which may lead to mental health issues such as low mood, anxiety or depression.

Making your partner aware of your debt problem is likely to be uncomfortable, but not speaking to them might be seen as a breach of trust on your part which could damage your long-term relationship.

For example, if you have a joint account with your partner, then their credit file will also be affected by any missed or reduced payments you’re making towards your other debts. If they then need to apply for a credit card or other financial product at some point, these reduced payments may be reflected in their credit file.

Once you’ve decided to talk to your partner about your debts:

  • Reassure them that you’re dealing with the problem. Let them know what steps you’re taking and which debt advice you are accessing.
  • Tell them that you’re making progress. If you’re on a debt solution, you will move closer to your goal of paying off your debt. Any reduced payments you’re making will still be acknowledged on your credit file, meaning your credit file is being repaired over time. Make your partner aware of this. It’s really important that they know the problems you’re facing won’t be around forever.
  • Ask if they can work with you to ease the burden. If you share the household expenses, is there anything your partner would be prepared to do to take some of the pressure off of you? They could do this by:
    1. Reducing some of their outgoings.
    2. Cutting back on things such as cigarettes, leisure costs or takeaways.
    3. Reducing bills such as utilities, subscription services or mobile phone contracts.

It’s important that you feel safe when discussing debt with your partner. If you’re worried that telling your partner may put you in any danger, seek advice from organisations such as the National Domestic Violence Helpline.

Other things your partner can do to help

When you feel stressed about issues such as debt, then it’s likely that other aspects in your life may be making things worse. Asking for support from those around you could reduce the stress you’re feeling. It’s also important to make sure you spend quality time with your loved ones where possible. For example:

  • Could your partner or children help out more with housework? Having an untidy house might contribute to your stress on a subconscious level. It doesn’t have to be spotless. Even if each person helps out with just one task, it makes a difference.
  • Could you plan your meals each week? Not only will this save you money but by inviting the whole family to have a say in what’s for dinner each day, you may be able to get everyone involved. Once dinner’s ready, sit down to eat it together. Encourage everyone to switch off their mobile devices.
  • Make sure you’re taking time to exercise, getting plenty of rest and eating nutritious food. There are plenty of things you can do to stay active that won’t cost you any money. Maintaining your health and wellbeing is really important.
  • Put time aside for you and your partner to spend time together. Go for walks when the weather’s nice, take up a free hobby together, watch a film and then discuss it together. Reinforcing your connection can help you both feel understood and supported.

If you find that talking to your partner is a struggle, you can speak to the retailTRUST helpline on 0808 801 0808 to help you find ways to improve how you communicate with one another. You can also email retailTRUST at [email protected]

What if I can’t tell my loved ones about my debt?

If you feel unable to speak to a family member or friend about your debt, there are many other ways to get support.

  • Contact PayPlan if you need someone to talk to about your debt worries.
  • Your GP is there to support you with anything that may be causing you stress. You should book an appointment to make them aware of the situation. They may also recommend local support groups and charities who can help.
  • Speak to your employer in confidence. By knowing what you’re dealing with, your employer may be able to offer ways to support you.
  • Get in touch with an online community where people talk about their debt problems. Many find this to be a valuable source of support.

If you’re feeling emotional distress which is being made worse by a debt problem, you can talk to the retailTRUST helpline on 0808 801 0808 or by emailing [email protected] 

Other resources which you may find helpful:

Budgeting and organising your finances