real life

'I've been living with my boyfriend for a year. He has no idea I'm thousands of dollars in debt.'

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

I have a debt of between $6000-$7000 strewn across two credit cards that are maxed out, and my boyfriend doesn’t know about it.

I’d like to say I’m paying it off, but I tend to pay back the minimum and mostly ignore it. My debt has always felt intensely personal, like telling someone the number of sexual partners I’ve had. It just feels like irrelevant information that only really impacts me, but I’ve been living with my boyfriend for over a year now and I’m wondering: should I tell him?

I didn’t originally plan to keep the debt from him. It just didn’t feel like any of his business for a long time. We were simply dating, and our bank balances didn’t come up, and then we moved in together.

Watch: 5 money lessons your parents told you that you should probably forget. Story continues after video.

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Sure, we’ve shared our salaries and our basic financial goals, but we live in the expensive inner city, so big dreams like buying a house aren’t exactly near in our future. We do talk about day-to-day money, like who’s paying for what and how we want to split certain things, but still my debt hasn’t come up.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Maybe you should bring it up! But I’m not sure. Should I? When does the money I owe become relevant to him? I suppose my reluctance stems from not wanting him to judge me about how I spend my money or even what I splurge on.

Then there’s the emotional side of it: admitting I have debt, feels like admitting guilt and, to some extent, failure. "Look at me, I can’t manage my money!" And I suppose I’m just not prepared to face his reaction. Logically, I know he's a sensible, reasonable and kind person, and he’d probably approach my debt with fresh eyes and see it as something we could get rid of.


Still, that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable too. Weirdly, I don’t like the idea of anyone taking ownership of my debt but me. This debt has been with me for years now, through break-ups, degrees and even the occasional break-down. Somehow, it feels like something I want to solve on my own. 

I also don’t tell him because I know the amount of money I owe isn’t crazy. I know plenty of people are in way more debt than me, and I also figure eventually I’ll buckle down and pay it off. It isn’t such a huge debt that isn’t ultimately very manageable, but it is enough that now it feels like I’m hiding it. 

It doesn’t help that my boyfriend is very good with money. The kind of guy who always packs his lunch for work, scrimps on small stuff, so he can enjoy the big stuff and has a nice chunk of savings in his account for a rainy day.

The truth is, money stuff is hard to talk about at the best of times, and sharing my debt with him feels like sharing a giant vulnerability. Still, not sharing it now feels like maybe I’m hurting our relationship. Will he find out one day and be mad at me? Will he just not think it is a big deal? Will he judge me?

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I feel strongly that in this relationship, it is so important for me to keep my financial independence. But I wonder, is that clouding my judgement and stopping me from sharing something I should?

For now, I believe that until we need to combine our cash for a house or to raise children, it probably really isn’t any of his business.

Would I feel the same way if he was the one with the debt? That’s a question I’m not so sure about. But I don’t give the impression to him that I’m a financial guru, so I don’t think he’d be too surprised.

At least for now, it is my secret, and I’m keeping it.

Feature Image: Getty.

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