In Love, What’s Debt Got to Do With It?

How couples deal with debt may define financial freedom and happiness

I recently had a conversation with a friend about a young lady he is currently dating. He asked me a question regarding debt, and whether it should be considered when evaluating a potential life partnership. On the surface this question may seem a little bit shallow, but allow me to share further details from the rest of our conversation.

The young lady — let’s call her Karen — has pursued multiple levels of higher education (BS, MS, doctoral degree) in order to further her professional career. However, pursuit of her additional degrees has led to student loans totaling around $180,000. Now at this point you may have your own feelings one way or another about this student loan amount, but my friend expressed the concern.

“The advanced degree training she pursued may or may not result in a salary leading to her student loans being paid off in 10-15 years or less,” he says.

“Adding significant debt into our life equation would impact some of the life goals I envision and want to accomplish with my family. Acquiring additional student loan debt without some sort of a plan can be financially detrimental.”

I responded to his concern by saying, “She is obviously not ‘the one’ because if she were, you’d accept her despite the life factors she brings to the table.”

The aforementioned example of student loan debt is only one example of what someone can inherit when saying ‘I do’ to a spouse. Other examples may include credit card debt, medical bill debt, tax liens, etc. However, this brings about a bigger question that needs to be discussed: With the state of today’s economy, are people more sensitive to the financial picture and credit rating a potential mate brings to the table? Are you willing to say yes to someone who has $100K+ in student loan debt, a 500 credit score or outstanding medical debt?

Remember that love in its purest form is unconditional, compassionate and sacrificial. You may need to revisit this to confirm whether the person you are currently dating is truly someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Please share your comments.

Kenny Pugh is a Life & Relationship Strategist, Author of ‘Can You Do It Standing Up?’, Associate Minister, Chat Kafe Radio Show Host, singles leader and sought-after speaker on singleness, relationships, finances and life. You can find more information about Kenny at You can follow him on Facebook at Kenny Pugh or on Twitter @mrkennypugh.

  • JB

    Very interesting article

  • Cleopatra Huff

    This is VERY good. It’s “time out” for making decisions based upon emotion solely, but also using godly wisdom & discernment, coupled along with open, honest communication with oneself, each other & Jesus, to determine what is the best course for your life. Emotions will get you into trouble in all kinds of ways. I especially like how your friend observed that it would impact his future goals & vision for family. Some may view this as harsh, but I think it is very wise. I also agree with your statement that if she was the one, it would be a risk he’d be willing to take. Thanks for this!

  • Jfavor

    Love and marriage can be two different things. You can love a person with everything in you and still not be truly ready for marriage. I would look at if the personn with all the debt to see what the game plan was to clear up the debt. Grown Ups have a game plan. Marriage is hard enough without going into it with a stressful situation…debt is stressful.

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  • imadime

    i love your response to him and agree … in this position a person needs to decide which of his life goals are his priority: this particular woman as his life partner or his financial goals. i would agree with you that if he would consider his financial goals a priority over the woman he had (sort of) chosen, then he would be making the wrong choice because that dynamic would never change. she would never be more important to him than his financial goals or whatever other goals he’d outline for himself that didn’t align with who she is.

  • Cheryl36

    I would say love is definately unconditional. If you truly wanted this woman to be your life partner you would have no problem accepting her along with the debt that comes with her. If your afraid because of the financial situation she is in you should take to her to see if she has a plan of paying off her debt or if she is not at all concern about it like you are. If your not really about to accept this woman as she is then she is not the woman for you. Time to move on.