7 Ways To Deal With Spousal Debt

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2012-04-2016

What if your partner is racking up the credit card debt, and having a hard time putting a halt to their unnecessary spending? Then it can get pretty dicey. If your personal or spousal debt is starting to look unmanageable due to a spending addiction, here are a few ideas that you may try out to get your finances back on track.

How To Deal With The Debt Of Your Spouse Or Partner

#1 Be careful about the debt solutions you undertake. You know yourself best, so when you’re solving your own debt problems, you have only yourself to worry about. But having to deal with someone else’s issues may pose some uncertainties, and there are more factors to consider. For instance, be especially careful about converting credit card debt into home equity debt. It’ll just free up your cards so that you or your partner can inadvertently do more damage. Unless you freeze or cut up those cards and commit to paying down debt, any loan modification efforts will only lead to increased spending temptations and additional debt.

#2 Seek debt and psychological counseling. While you may be open to taking action for yourself, it may be trickier if you try to encourage your spouse to go this route. Have you ever seen the show on television called “Intervention”? You can only instigate change if you desire to. Unfortunately, many people don’t see their debt as a problem and continue to be in denial.

#3 Don’t bail your spouse out. Discuss the possibility of separating your finances with your partner who cannot manage their debt. See if you can work out an agreement wherein you keep separate financial accounts.

#4 Approach the issue with sensitivity. Be supportive and provide a positive attitude and loving approach to your spouse’s problems. Dealing with change can sometimes be tough (it’s easy to fall off the wagon), so making this a team effort is advisable. Of course, your family’s dynamics will determine whether you can realistically make this a successful joint effort.

spending addiction, credit card debt

#5 Become your household’s main financial manager and give your spouse a spending allowance. In effect, this would mean relinquishing financial control and assigning the financial responsibilities to someone in the family who can handle them. Can you make your spouse cooperate and agree to a financial plan? You’re both basically imposing strict limits on your household spending, and though it may be an uncomfortable arrangement, it may be worth doing for at least, the short term.

#6 Gain more of a financial education. Work to increase your financial IQ. You can also help your partner by providing them with financial resources such as books and articles on how to manage one’s money.

#7 Visit a financial professional. A debt counselor or a financial planner can help straighten out your financial issues and provide valuable input, third party observations and expertise to address your concerns.

I’ve realized that the only way you can break a bad habit is to make a commitment to deal with it head on. You’ll have to dig deep to find the discipline to make those changes but over time, it gets easier as you develop healthier financial habits.

For additional pointers on this subject, you may want to visit our frugality section, where you can find a lot of helpful discussions on saving and cost cutting.

Created September 21, 2008. Updated April 20, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Fortin September 21, 2008 at 10:28 am

That must be one of the most divisive problems a couple can have. If both are on the same page (even if that means neither has a handle on their money) then problems can be solved.

But in almost any situation where a couple disagrees about how to approach something important, it’s a recipe for a disaster.

My parents had financial problems; while my mother was very frugal, my dad liked to spend money when they had it. It took them a long time to find a balance that they could live with, and I remember a lot of tension about money when I was growing up.

Michael Stuttenburg September 21, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I like tips number 3 and 5. I do agree that bailing your husband or wife out would be such a big mistake, and that educating them on finance and controlling spending is the better way to go.

Cheers, and thanks again!

Angelina September 22, 2008 at 5:01 am

I like all the tips but #5 tip is really very interesting. Thanks for these tips.

Paige September 22, 2008 at 6:25 am

Looks like bail-outs don’t work out for families. I wonder if they will work for the country.

Mr. Mos September 22, 2008 at 11:39 am

I think that this is becoming more and more of a problem every year. There has to be some other means of help, because the bail-outs don’t seem to be working in these cases.

Mike's fleeting thoughts on addiction September 23, 2008 at 9:12 am

It’s tough when one half is good with money and the other is horrible…these tips are really good, but what it boils down to is communication and getting your significant other to play along without putting him/her on the defensive.

Rick September 23, 2008 at 9:19 am

Having any credit card debt shows bad or no money management skills. It’s ok to spend a lot of money you already made, not what you assume you’re going to make.

Joe September 23, 2008 at 11:00 am

The only thing I can add is
#8 Make the spouse help you balance the checkbook, let them know, by the numbers, how much the CC debt actually costs.

Stephen McFarlane September 23, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Great list! I think number five is best approach to make your spouse responsible about financial matters and number six and seven are good to minimize your spouse’s credit card debt and spending addiction.

Rich October 2, 2008 at 12:40 pm

This is quite a revelation:

“main financial manager and give your spouse a spending allowance.”

But, if this happens, what will happen to modern retail?

My Debt Free Plan October 29, 2008 at 6:45 am

I agree with a lot of the ways to approach and solve a spouse’s bad credit card habits. However, in many cases the children can drive some of these bad habits, especially during holiday seasons. I think the education needs to be for every family member.

John Cummuta November 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

The key to avoid financial infidelity is to have open communication about money. The best way to avoid this problem is for both partners to get involved in the family finances. There should also be an agreement about how much each partner can spend using joint funds before they need to run it by the spouse. Great advice!

Neil December 7, 2008 at 8:33 pm

What a financial nightmare! You provide some excellent material to digest if needed.

I have a buddy with a wife that can’t stay out of stores and charges hundreds of dollars every day.

Needless to say he’s a basket case with bills and has recently filed for divorce after trying to get her to stop. It certainly is a relationship killer!

Take Care,


Paul October 27, 2009 at 10:26 am

I totally agree about #7. The best way I got out of debt was contacting a professional.

Valerie April 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

Great list! I think 3, 4, and 5 are key. My husband was never terrible with money, but his habits weren’t the greatest. We agreed that we wouldn’t get a house together until he had no more credit card debt, and I would manage our household finances after that. We both get an allowance of spending money now, and are very happy with the system.

Harold - CA@SPWCA April 25, 2012 at 3:43 am

I think you need to decide how bad you want this. You are not in agreement with each other. And of course, you should also not try to control your spouse by seizing control of all the finances and withholding his or her paycheck.

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