The Effects of a Credit Card on Your Marriage

by David Bakke

weddingThe following is a guest post from Fred at Credit Card Finder.  He is a regular guest contributor to this blog.   He helps people to compare credit cards and to choose the best low interest credit cards.

We’ve all heard the statistics – over half of all marriages end in divorce, but more unfortunate is that 80% of those divorced couples cite financial trouble as the main reason for their marriage breakdown. While financial troubles don’t always center around credit card debt, bad debt is bad news for couples before and during marriage, so make sure your credit card doesn’t leave your marriage in its aftermath.


How Credit Card Debt Can Get into Your Marriage


Of course credit card debt comes into your marriage because you invite it in, and once it’s made itself comfortable in your favourite chair, it’s hard to budge, and the arguments can start. Watch out for credit cards creeping into your marriage:


  • Pre-marriage credit card debt. Before you get married you are likely to have lived your own life and you may have built up a little spending on your card, or you may have debts from student loans. When you get married your credit card debt and credit report does not change – it doesn’t become merged with your spouse’s where their good behaviour evens out your bad, and ladies, just because you change your name when you marry doesn’t mean your credit card bills can’t still find you.


  • · Funding the wedding with credit. When you get swept up in the excitement of planning a wedding it can be easy to forget about the marriage you want on the other side of the big day. As a result couples can enter their marriage with a lot of credit card debt hanging over them and before you find yourself in that situation, consider whether that big dress and those extra dessert options are really worth the interest repayments when you could be enjoying your new life.


  • · Overspending as a couple. Once you’ve made it through the wedding day you want to start settling into your marriage, but many couples think that this requires a big house filled with expensive furniture and two new cars in the driveway. This sort of credit card debt is not just a problem for marriages but it is especially pertinent when it can have a negative effect on your marriage. Even if you don’t realize you’re doing it, you may find yourselves putting a new dining table on credit because you have to have a dinner party with all your other married friends, or charging new curtains in the bedroom to match the sheet set from your bridal registry – before you know it your marriage is in debt.


The Effects of Credit Card Debt on Marriages


Credit cards can be most devastating because most marriages will consist of a spender and a saver. The spender is the one upgrading the curtains and fleshing out the glassware collection, while the saver is wondering why yet another bill has to be paid on credit this month. The effects of credit cards on a marriage include:


  • · Finger-pointing and blame. Because of the differing attitudes of the spender and the saver, the saver blames the spender for using the credit card for unnecessary purchases and the spender becomes defensive. These attitudes build tension and disrespect within a marriage and while you or your spouse may not be an extreme spender and the other an extreme saver, when a couple spends joint money individually relationships can break down.


  • No time to develop a married relationship. If a couple has entered into the marriage with credit card debt or has quickly accumulated it furnishing their home and their life, finances will soon take priority in the relationship. Both people will work longer and harder to pay the bills and money and credit card repayments will be the topic of most conversations. As a result finances come before the relationship and a marriage is a time that a couple should grow together, rather than be pushed apart by financial stress.


  • · Avoiding the issue. When credit cards consume a marriage it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand. However, ignorance is not bliss in this case and the longer you ignore the spending habits and credit card debt within your marriage, the harder it will be to control, and the more likely it is that your marriage will deteriorate. By ignoring the financial issues in your marriage you are also ignoring the marriage itself, and more importantly your spouse. Learning to manage joint finances and being able to slowly build a home and a life together affordably is part of learning to be in a marriage and if you ignore that, a part of your marriage and relationship will be missing.


How to Avoid the Effects of Credit Card Debt


It’s easy to say ‘just don’t get into credit card debt’ but it’s not always as easy to follow that advice. Instead, here are some things to remember to help you avoid financial stress in your marriage:


  • · Don’t go for the end until you have the means. When you are first married there is no need to buy the big house to accommodate the children you’re going to have, and you don’t have to try and accumulate a house full of belongings right off the bat either. Instead, start out in a smaller house and upsize when you are ready to start a family and can afford it, and remember – your parents didn’t fill their home in their first year of marriage so don’t try and recreate something which has probably taken thirty years to build. Instead, buy pieces of furniture as you can afford them, and get over your vanity if your plates don’t all match just yet.


  • Minimize your debt. Look at why you might be driven to use your credit cards and decide whether you can do without two new cars and save money with a second hand car you don’t need a loan for, can you shop for clothes just at the sales and do you really need all those pay TV channels? If you learn to live within your means in your marriage, you will be able to avoid turning to the credit cards during a tight week, because there will be fewer tight weeks.


  • · Be honest in your marriage. If you are bringing individual debts to your marriage be honest from the beginning and outline a plan with your spouse about how you plan to pay them off, or whether you’ll need to pay them off as a couple. Then you can work together to create a budget to manage your finances and see just how much money you have spare each week to pay off those debts, and eventually buy new furniture or move to a bigger house. If you work together on your finances instead of battling from opposing sides, it can actually give you a closer marriage.

As always, your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated below.

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Personal Finance Buzz
March 17, 2010 at 7:47 am


1 Debbie March 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm

You are so right with this post. A lot of people need to read it. I do not understand all the young people today that feel they need everything at once when the get married. Maybe it is because mom and dad have always make sure they have the best.

There wouldn’t be so many people in such financial trouble if they would take your advice.
Thanks for trying to get the word out. Hope some will listen to you
.-= Debbie´s last blog ..Whatever Makes You Happy, Not What Makes Society Happy! =-.

2 David/Yourfinances101 March 20, 2010 at 1:44 am


I couldn’t agree more. This post has a lot of things in it that simply need to be said. Especially for the yoounger crowd.

Thanks for commenting
.-= David/Yourfinances101´s last blog ..Easy Ways to Save Money on Printer Paper and Ink =-.

3 Josh March 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Credit can be a very useful tool, but articles like this wouldn’t be necessary if we only bought what we could afford. If you don’t have the money for it, and you don’t need it, please, do your future self a favor and don’t buy it.

4 David/Yourfinances101 March 23, 2010 at 6:03 pm


You are absolutely on point. It is actually a little sad that so many people miss out on such a basic concept.

Thanks for commenting.
.-= David/Yourfinances101´s last blog ..De-cluttering: Know Your Options =-.

5 Judy Viljoen February 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm


Very insightfull, but I have a question that I hope you can answer.
Me and my husband is married within community of property without any contracts. I get that his debt is mine. How come he can make debt without my signature.
Another thing, I have applied for a job and they are doing a credit check on me. We have struggled immensly over the 5 years to pay everything and I am sure we don’t have a good name. But all of the debt is what he made without my signature. Will his debt show on my name aswell and will they hold it against me if it is for a document controller job that I applied for at a corporate business that is listed on the stock exchange?

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