Debt and relationships: How one bad decision can ruin your relationships

Debt and relationships: How one bad decision can ruin your relationships

So you’ve finally found the love of your life. He or she is everything you’ve ever dreamed of, financially secure, intelligent, just the right kind of adventurous without being too risk-prone and extremely attractive to boot.

Fast forward, you’ve gotten the wedding out of the way,  paid all the vendors and you’ve been happily married for 3 years now. You’re both young, so you want to wait to have kids and enjoy your marriage a little before running after rugrats. You both have good jobs and after all the bills are split, there’s still a little bit of money left over to save and also ‘do enjoyment.’  

One day your husband comes home brimming with excitement. He tells you that there’s a great business opportunity that’s opened up, it’s a passive investment which means minimal supervision, with promising returns and that you should invest quickly before it’s too late. You’re a little hesitant, you both just bought a house and a new car, mortgage and car payments already take out a huge chunk of your income but you have a sound joint savings account.  Ideally, you have the money to invest, the question is, the risk. I mean, you both have great jobs, no kids, thankfully you don’t have to deal with black tax. Realistically, you could both coast on your pay-checks for a while until you start to see returns. You’ve never really questioned your trust for your partner until now, but you’re leaning more towards the trust-his-judgement  end of the spectrum than towards the this-man-is-talking-nonsense end. 

 You sit with yourself for a minute.

“I’ve known this man for six years: we dated for  three and have been married for three. What could possibly go wrong”  

You tell him to give you the night to think about it. The night passes and the day comes. You pray. You sleep. You decide.

“Babe, we can go ahead and do it. I’m down.” You tell him over breakfast in the morning. 

The very same day, your husband goes to the bank,  takes all your savings and puts it in the investment. He comes home grinning like a kid on Christmas day,

“It’s gonna come back twofold babe. You just wait and see!”

He looks your right in the eyes. It’s the same look he gave you in the day he first said ‘I love you’. A starry-eyed boy who wants nothing but to give you the world. 

“Thank you for trusting me.” He whispers as he kisses your forehead. 

1 year later…

380 days have passed since the investment and you and your husband are neck-deep in debt. The pandemic hit and since his job depends on travel, the company has declared him redundant, which means you have both been surviving on one income for the past several months. Your income. Mortgage payments and car payments have not stopped and it’s been an absolute nightmare because all of your fallback money is wrapped up in that initial investment. You’ve had to take a loan from your place of employment and also from a SACCO. Your credit card debt has reached KES. 300,000. The car needs servicing. The house needs maintenance. You’re considering reaching out to a friend for financial help. Your husband is desperately trying to find employment and talking about finances is a trigger because he feels like all this is his fault, so you have both just been on autopilot trying to survive.  

Every day that you wake up you feel like there’s a huge rock on your chest.

Your marriage is in the toilet. Friday nights used to be going out with hubby to eat at your favourite restaurant. You’d wear a cute cocktail dress, he’d put on some cologne and a dress shirt. Presently, your Friday nights are dedicated to tallying up the week’s finances in your pyjamas and deciding what movie to watch on Netflix. You both sit awkwardly, forcing the moment, but the truth is, you resent him for putting you through this. On his side, he feels like he’s failed you but he doesn’t quite have the words to say talk about it because that would admit failure and it’s not over yet. He doesn’t want to admit it but he’s falling into a depression. You don’t want to admit it but you’re falling out of attraction. 

Where do you both go from here?

The Lesson

You see, from one hasty decision, debt has:

1. Decreased your quality of life

2. Impaired communication between you and your partner

3. Tarnished both your credit scores

4. Introduced resentment into your marriage/relationship

While this may be just a short story, it rings true for many households. As we close this month’s content on debt management, it’s important to remember that It’s important to remember that Debt isn’t just personal and neither is it linear. It’s a very precarious web and when you make financial decisions in situations where your finances are wrapped up in somebody else's, i.e. your partner, it becomes so much more than just owing somebody somewhere some money.  Lastly, as we have seen in this story, it’s important to remember from both a personal perspective and a relationship perspective, that debt should not be taken when you don’t have something to cushion you. Much like the characters in our story, it only leaves you vulnerable to other financial  dilemmas. At Africa’s Pocket, we talk about debt, not to make you uncomfortable but quite the opposite, to normalise conversation about debt and personal financial management. We talk about it here, so you can talk about it at home, to your partner, to your close friends, so as to make money management (and mismanagement) something we can discuss and ultimately improve in our day to day.

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