Coping with Your Spouse’s Secret Card Debt

by John Stevenson on February 27, 2011

Finding out that your husband or wife has secretly accumulated a considerable credit card debt is not one of the nicest surprises that one can experience. Still, this issue, unpleasant as it is, could be resolved calmly and peacefully, before it has presented any threat to the stability and tranquility of your married life. Here is how this is done.

Address the issue ‘tactfully’

Acknowledging the existence of a problem is the first step towards its solution. In this particular case, you should use a candle but not a torch if you decide to shed some light on your spouse’s credit card debt. Debt is something that one could not be proud of, so breaking the news in the middle of a family dinner on Christmas Eve is hardly the appropriate time or place to address the problem. Instead, you should raise the question in a calm voice during a private conversation with your spouse. You might be surprised how hard it was on your spouse to keep the debt a secret. They had to come home from work first so that they manage to shred the bills before you saw them. It is easier if they used paperless billing, using their gmail account and having the bills sent there. Unless you wanted to share the same account and saw these.

The power of constructive criticism

Once your marital partner has admitted the existence of his or her credit card debt, you should not add insult to injury by heaping reproaches on him or her.  Remember what Mary Poppins says: “A small lump of sugar helps the medicine go down.” To make your partner feel more at ease, you should show understanding and support, and think of some good ideas to resolve his or her financial predicament.

Exodus from credit card debt 

Once your partner’s credit card debt is no longer a secret, you should search for and employ some efficient debt reduction strategies to get your household out of this wretched state.  If you have some savings, and provided that your spouse’s credit card debt does not exceed them, you can lend him the money to pay off his debt, as to save on interest rates. However, chances are that since your partner has accumulated a considerable debt on his or her credit card, he or she may accumulate a fresh debt once they get rid of the existing one. To prevent this vicious circle, you should insist on your partner filing a request to have their credit card account closed prior to bailing them out.

Alternatively, you may seek the assistance of some credit counseling company, which will take control over your partner’s financial matters until his or her credit card debt is paid off. Note that more often than not, the commission fees of these companies are really serious.

A few don’ts

Whatever you do, do not max out your own credit card in order to pay off your partner’s, because using debt to pay off debt results only in a higher debt.

It is mostly men who have secret credit cards. And both, hiding debt and overspending are signs of a power struggle in a relationship. In any case, do not ask your affluent family to pay off your husband’s credit card debt. Even if you think you have the most generous, understanding, and supportive parents in the whole world, this will be a serious blow to his personal dignity and self-esteem.

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