How to tell your spouse about debt

Apr 24, 2020

The false narrative of what a credit card is!

I remember thinking when people would say, “I’ll just put it on my store or credit card” that it meant they had loads of money.
My credit was so bad that I couldn’t put anything on any card.
But when my credit got better, the first thing I did was get loads of different Store Cards, and for the first time, we got credit cards.
Society tricked me into believing that having a store or credit card meant you had money.
My financial problems started when I was an 18-year-old with a £600 debt, no job and bad credit.
Now that I look back I ask myself why I didn’t ask for help or tell anyone.
It happened that for the next 12 years I would go deeper into debt and no one knew as it seemed more natural to suffer in silence.
After all, everyone else had store and credit cards, and they seemed ok. Well, at least that’s what it looked like on the outside.
But I was stressed, having sleepless nights at the thought of how bad my finances were.
I felt completely isolated, and although I had great friends who I could talk about almost everything too, I could not bring myself to speak to them about this.
Anything money related or rather the lack thereof- was taboo.

The TV show that gave me permission to go public

In 2011 I got a promotion at work, which doubled my salary, I decided that it was time to face the many Goliaths of my finances.
I discovered Suze Orman on the Oprah Show and realised that I was not alone, so many other women were experiencing the same shame and incompetence about their finances.
It was my first experience of seeing people talking publicly about money. I became motivated to tackle my debt, especially paying off my student loan for a course I didn’t complete.
Listening to Suze Orman every single day- morning and evenings, and talking about her gave me the confidence to go public about my money situation.
By going public, I became even more motivated to pay off my debts.
I realised that I was not the only one with the store card, student loan debt and bad credit.
I remember at work when I was sharing with a colleague about how bad I was with money and how much I wanted to clear off my debts.
I was in shock when she shared with me about her situation.
It was almost like we were in therapy just talking about it. It was freeing in a lot of ways.

...and the truth will set you free

One of my favourite scripture in the bible is: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32- Contemporary English Version.
There is something about money, where, if you are not careful it will hold you prisoner; allow you to suffer in silence; isolate you from reality, and by the time you know it, you are more rooted in debt.
You will find yourself hiding money, being dishonest about your spending, living a false existence to the point of depression, lack of confidence and fear.

There is no weakness in the truth. Instead, you will find strength!

Telling the truth about your money situation is not about exposing your weaknesses, it is not about how the world sees you. It is about how you look at yourself. How you see yourself will determine your behaviour around money. For as long as you choose to be silent and live in denial is as long as you will be a prisoner of money. What is inside of us will always come out.

I ain’t airing my dirty laundry!

Going public with your finances is not about airing your dirty laundry, you don’t have to do a Facebook post or air it out at your next work or family function.

There are two stages to going public


Stage 1- Going Public with myself:

The first stage is going public with yourself. Start with you.
Are you living in denial about your finances? Do you know the actual figures of your debt? Do you know your net worth? Do you know what your credit score is? Get real with yourself first. Face it.
Look your finances right in the eye and say, “I see you”. Until you are honest with yourself about money, you cannot be honest with the rest of the world.
Tell yourself the truth about your money situation, is it good, bad, a mess or just needs adjusting. Whatever the status of your finances, know it, be aware of it and accept it. Only then can achieve the next stage of going public.

Stage 2- Going public with my inner circle:

Stage two is going public with the world.
Now that you have been honest with yourself, and know the truth about your money, you can now go public with your inner circle.
Depending on your circumstances, this could be your husband or wife, kids, parents, siblings, the family or close friend.
It is such a sad reality when the very people we say we love and that love us are unaware of the things we suffer in silence about.
Unfortunately, suicide is considered by almost 50% of people in debt in the UK often because of the burden of keeping the truth about the debt from their inner circle (
I first went Public with my Husband.
Overall my husband is a very understanding person, but it still killed me inside, at the thought of being 100% honest with him about our finances as the person who was supposed to be responsible for managing our finances. I realised it was more about how I felt about myself and how I assumed he would react, as opposed to anything else.

How the conversation went

I vividly remember our conversation. “John, our finances are not looking good, we have this amount of debt, and our credit rating is appalling.
I have not been 100% honest to you about the status of our finances.
I am sorry! Followed by lots of tears! I feel ashamed!
I have realised that I and we can no longer continue down this path, so I am coming clean to you and want us to work together to improve our finances.
You don’t need to respond now, but I would like us to schedule a sit-down time to look at the numbers and come up with a plan together.”
Oh, freedom! The relief! The liberty I felt was unlike any other.
Going public with your inner circle does not need to be intense. It’s first a disclosure which is followed up with a sit- down conversation.
This allows you to deal with one thing at a time, allowing the other person time to process what you have disclosed and gives them time to formulate any questions they may have.

Recap- Here are 11 tips to going public

  1. Decide that you have had enough and come to terms with how your money is looking.

  2. Bring out the last 6 months of bank statement, look at your bills in the past 6 months, check your credit score- Sign up to money supermarket newsletter and get a free credit report every month.
  3. Know the numbers- income, outgoings, debts, loans, credit card and store card balances, interest rates, length of term on each agreement.

  4. Face it all first on your own- Do this over your best album and some ice-cream or popcorn- I know it’s painful- Don’t be so hard on yourself. This is a big step.

  5. Give yourself a few days to process what you have established. Write about how you feel in a journal. It is essential to know and understand how and why you think and feel the way you do about your discovery.

  6. Find a suitable time to go public with your inner circle. Don’t disclose during halftime on a football game, or in the middle of an argument.

  7. Set the scene, prepare your partner, friend or kids their favourite snack, go for coffee, something light- This conversation is not designed to be heavy.

  8. Plan how you will disclose. You can use the structure in my disclosure. I did not reveal the numbers at the initial go public conversation with my husband. Your partner, family or friend may ask what the numbers are.

    Be prepared to answer questions- But you need to be in control of this conversation- Don’t be scared to tell them- ‘Can we schedule a time to over the numbers together when we will have more time to discuss it, and I can answer more of your questions’.

  9. Because you are in control of the disclose- Your number one goal is to not let it turn into something ugly- an argument etc.

  10. Do something fun afterwards- watch a movie at home, make yourselves a cup of tea, go out to the movies or dinner.

  11. Schedule part two of the disclosure meeting within one week of going public- any longer and it will not happen, and you will both go back to living as if the disclosure did not take place.

 It's a wrap

Sharing your debt problem with a loved one is not an easy step to take. Sometimes you may feel like you have disappointed them or have concerns that they may judge you. 
Sharing how you feel about the debt is just as important as sharing the numbers in the debt. This is because you matter just as much as the numbers. 


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