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Page 9: Living: Your Partner.

Partner trouble - please read on.

According to Relate, the marriage guidance experts, money is the biggest single cause of rows between couples and can be a direct cause of relationship breakdown. Couples argue over money whether they have it or owe it.

As a part of a couple, your money is inextricably linked. Your relationship can suffer when you're being dragged down by Demon Debt. Partners can have a real problem admitting that they have a spending problem. Like alcoholics, many hide their habits away from partners, making any questioning of their lifestyle seem like unwelcome intrusions on their personal freedom. There are some steps you can take to help your partner face the music but you're going to have to do a fair bit of work by yourself and use stealth tactics to successfully persuade them to at least hear you out.

Get out your Calculator

Before you do anything, you need to work out the numbers. There's no point in shouting about how she shouldn't have spent money on that pair of shoes or how he shouldn't have bought a new DVD player if they haven't been given a chance to see why you can't afford it. Use our Money Surgery Money Controller or a simple spreadsheet, to work out your income and your outgoings. Total up every one of your debts. You need to know exactly where you stand financially so you can show them absolute proof that there is a problem.

Plan of Action

Next, figure out a plan of action. The ideas scattered around Money Surgery will give you inspiration. Consider remortgaging, swapping credit cards, stop spending on what you both might consider to be luxuries and decide together that the roof over your head is more important than things that you cannot afford. Take a look at the Money Surgery Interest Rates section for great balance transfer credit card and personal loan deals but remember that credit cards can tempt people to increase their spending. "Just this once" can easily turn into a whole series of purchases and you end up with even more debt than you had before you got the card.

Only then tackle your partner. Try to be positive rather than negative about it: "I've been thinking about how we can afford that car/new kitchen/holiday and I've been doing some numbers. Can we go over them at the weekend to see what you think?"

Try and have a calm conversation, using your calculations to illustrate the financial position you're BOTH in. Use whatever tactics you know might work, after all, you know your partner better than anyone. For example:

  • Play on the fact that you may not have remembered all the income and expenditure items and that you really need their input. Flattery can work sometimes!
  • Show them how much is going on interest payments every month. Even at a low rate, it's probably still a substantial amount. If you can point out that, say, £500 is being wasted every year just on servicing the debt and that you could get a cheap package deal to Spain for that, it might help to gently push the point home.
  • If they don't like their job, point out how many hours of work they're putting in just to service the debts. "You're busting your gut all week just to pay off the laptop that you bought two years ago and don't even use anymore".
  • Try to get them to suggest ways of tackling certain debts. Show them your own plan of action and ask if they think it would work and what they think could be better.

Working as a team

It is important to try and sell the idea that the two of you are a team fighting the rest of the world and that if you both work together, you will be able to have that new car, kitchen or holiday. Not yet though, but eventually. Stress that the life changes you need to make are only temporary and that it will be worth it in the end.

If you can agree that action needs to be taken, then start talking about how you're going to do it. Get them involved, even if it's just in a minor way: "I'll sort out the application for a lower interest rate credit card and see if we can get a better deal on that loan. Can you sort out switching the gas company?"

Be creative about saving or making money. Look around the house and sell whatever you no longer need or use. What you consider junk is someone else's treasure. Consider stopping smoking. Can you live without your car? If your finances are really dire,then consider getting a second job. It's not something we tend to do so much in the UK, but in the States, another job is how a lot of people deal with financial problems, as it's one of the fastest ways of getting shot of debt. While it may sound painful at first, there's almost always time in the day or night when you can find a few hours where part-time work is possible. The income you bring in will make an incredible difference to your debts.

Importantly, don't tie the noose too tightly. Work out a budget and sick to it but reward yourself modestly now and then. If your partner doesn't feel rewarded in some way for their efforts, they'll be more inclined to spend again. If you both plan these things into the budget, then your partner won't feel as if you're trying to restrict them.


Above all, COMMUNICATE. Show them when you've managed to pay off a credit card so they can see that both your efforts are paying off. Praise them when they've resisted the temptation to buy something they really wanted. Share the successes and failures so that you keep each other motivated. If you can say to your partner that getting rid of debt will allow you both to enjoy life and be happy again, they'll be more inclined to help.

If all else fails...

If they still don't listen after going through all the steps we've mentioned, if your partner continues to live the way that they want to, ignoring all your efforts, you have to ask yourself one question. "Is it worth staying with this partner?" If the answer is no, ditching the partner may be the only way to ditch the debt ...and be happy.

Please read on.

For Richer, For Poorer

(Saturday 19th February 2005 news story)

The average UK wedding costs a colossal £14,000. It's a little cheaper abroad, at £3,000, and includes the honeymoon, of course. This may come as sobering news to anyone who proposed on Monday 14th.

The thought of a £14,000 special day is enough to make your Valentines roses wilt.
And, though we think they would be ever so useful, life does not as yet come with an undo button.

Your Ideal Valentine

(Friday 11th February 2005 news story)

Is your ideal Valentine the kind of person who will send you flowers and cards and showers you with romantic gestures? Is your ideal Valentine the kind of person who whisks you away to a far-off place for a romantic holiday?
If you answered "Maybe not", then you might find that the opinions of one of our long-standing and pragmatic, though anonymous, Patients strikes a chord.

They suggest that encumbered by the burdens of debt, a partner who "surprises" his loved one in the name of St Valentine by "wasting money" in this way may be in-fact cruising for a bruising instead of fanning the flames of passion:

Imagine the hapless male distracted by work to such an effect that upon remembering that the date is February the fourteenth, he frantically drives around the evening stores after working late, on a mission to snap-up the first half-decent bunch of roses, box of chocolates, slushy card, cuddly teddy and heart-shaped cushion that he stumbles across. There, shining like a yellow and green beacon in the black, rain-swept night is the 24-hour garage... are there any flowers on the forecourt? Yes. Plenty. Twenty minutes later, car boot groaning with pink and red, cellophane-wrapped booty, he proceeds home to his Valentine, satisfied that the forty-four pounds worth of gifts will be sufficient. The trouble is, he forgot that his wife told him not to waste ANY money on Valentine's Day because of their debts. "We'll wait until next year when we pay-off the loan, then we can have a well-earned break",
she said...

At the Surgery, our Patient's tale reminded us of the tv advert for car insurance, where the blonde woman driver congratulates her male partner, whilst re-entering their car at the petrol station: "You really have been saving the pennies haven't you? Cheaper insurance, washing the car..." Then he reaches up to the roof and brings down a bouquet, "All so I can make romantic gestures like this." And she smiles. At this point, you can tell that this is not fly-on-the-wall documentary here. If it was, she'd have rolled her eyes, and whispered something like, "You silly man".

Our point is, if you have unwanted debts as a couple, and the other half succumbs to society's Valentines pressure in a moment of weakness, you have every right to whisper "You silly man (or woman)" or worse. Fighting debt as a couple or household is a teamwork thing where you both make significant sacrifices for both your benefit.

Love comes in many colours cue slushy music, including fluffy pink, but maybe when both of you make amazing sacrifices for each other to show debt the door, maybe that's an improvement on a Texaco teddy-bear. No offence to Texaco.

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