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Talking to loved ones about your debt

Debt can be very difficult to talk about, especially with those closest to you. Thousands of people are dealing with their debt alone, and have no one to talk to about it. This can make debt an even bigger burden to carry.

Where possible, we recommend that you’re open and honest with your loved ones about your financial situation. However, talking about debt can sometimes bring conflict into a relationship, especially if you’ve not previously talked about your debt with your family, partner or children.

Getting debt advice is only part of the challenge. Having support in your daily life can make all the difference. Whatever your situation, here are some steps you can take to make things easier to bear.

Talk to someone you trust

Do you have a family member or friend you can talk to in confidence? There are several benefits to having a person to talk to about your debts:


It’s possible that others around you are dealing with their own debt problems. Talking about your debt can be helpful for everyone and make you feel less alone.

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Telling your partner about your debt

If you’re in a serious relationship – especially if you’re living together or considering it – then you should let your partner know about your debt as soon as possible. It can be difficult to admit to your partner that you’ve been struggling. However, if you’re feeling stressed, it’s possible that they already know something’s not right.

Talking about debt can stir up a whole mixture of negative feelings. However, keeping it from your partner could make your life more stressful. That stress can then show up in your life in the form of arguments, a lack of communication, and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Making your partner aware of your debt problem is likely to be uncomfortable, but not telling them could be seen as a breach of trust which could damage your long-term relationship.

For example, if you have a joint account with your partner, then their credit file will be affected by any missed or reduced payments you’re making towards your other debts. If they apply for a credit card or other financial product at some point, these reduced payments may be reflected on their credit file.

If you’ve decided to talk your partner about your debts:

Reassure them that you’re dealing with the problem. Tell them that you’re seeking help from a free and confidential debt advice charity.

Tell them that you’re making progress. If you’re on a debt solution, then you’re moving closer to your goal of paying off your debt. Any reduced payment you’re making will still be acknowledged on your credit file. This means that your credit file is being repaired over time. Make your partner aware of this. It’s important that they know the problems you’re facing won’t be around forever.

Ask them to work with you to make things easier. If you share the household expenses, is there something your partner could do to take some of the pressure off of you? They could do this by:


  • Reducing some of their outgoings
  • Cutting back on things such as cigarettes, leisure costs or takeaways
  • Looking at bills that could be reduced, such as utilities or mobile phone contracts

It’s important that you feel safe when discussing debt with your partner. If you’re worried that telling your partner about your debt may put you in danger, then please seek advice from an organisation such as the National Domestic Violence Helpline.

Looking for more ideas on health, wellbeing and relationships?

On our blog, you'll find lots of money-saving and money-making ideas to help boost your budget, such as:




Lessen the load in other areas of your life

If you feel stressed about your debt, then it’s likely that other situations in your life may be making things worse. Asking those around you for help could reduce the stress you’re feeling. It’s also important to spend quality time with your loved ones where possible. For example:


  • Could your partner or children help out more with housework? Having a messy house can be quite stressful on a subconscious level. It doesn’t have to be spotless; even if each person commits to one task, it does make a difference
  • Could you plan your meals each week? Not only will you save money, but you could invite the whole family to have a say in what’s for dinner each day. Is there a way that everyone could get involved? Once dinner’s ready, sit down to eat it together. Encourage everyone to switch off their mobile devices
  • Make sure you’re taking time to exercise, get plenty of rest and eat nutritious food. There are plenty of things you can do to stay active that won’t cost you any money Your overall health and wellbeing is important
  • Put time aside for you and your partner. Go for walks when the weather’s nice, take up a free hobby together, pick a film to watch and discuss it together. Reinforcing your connection can help you both feel understood and supported




If you find talking to your partner a struggle, there are charities such as Relate that can help you improve how you communicate with one another.

I can’t tell my loved ones about my debt. What can I do?

If you would rather not talk to a family member or friend about your debt, there are other ways to get support.

Your GP is there to help you with anything that may be causing you stress. You can book an appointment to make them aware of the situation. They may also recommend local charities or support groups who can help.

If you’re working, you can talk in confidence to your HR department. By knowing what you’re dealing with, your employer may be able to offer ways to support you.

There are also online communities where people talk about their debt problems. Many find this to be a valuable source of support.

If you’re feeling emotional distress which is being made worse by a debt problem, you can talk to the Samaritans anonymously.

Finally, your debt solution provider will always treat your debt problem with confidence. Get in touch with them if you need someone to talk to about your debt worries.

Helping you become debt free...

“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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© StepChange Debt Charity 2018