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How Should I Tell My Boyfriend or Girlfriend About My Credit Card Debt?

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Navigating the singles scene can be stressful — after all, there are only so many disappointing dates a person can take. But once you’ve scored a boyfriend or girlfriend you’re really interested in, there’s another series of hurdles to get past, not the least of which is discussing the state of your finances.

While it may not seem particularly romantic, it’s very important to have “the talk” with your boyfriend or girlfriend about your money situation. This can be difficult for many people, especially if they’re carrying serious credit card debt or are trying to rebuild credit.

Nevertheless, the truth must come out, so how should you tell your significant other about your credit card debt? Use the information below as a guide to sharing this delicate information with your beloved.

Start by dropping hints

There’s no need to disclose your credit card debt when you’re still in the early stages of a relationship, but once you’re spending a few evenings a week together, it’s time start dropping hints that your finances aren’t in tip-top shape. This can be subtle at first — for example, if your date wants to go to a pricey restaurant, simply state that it’s not in the budget for you right now and suggest a cheaper alternative.  Or, if it’s your turn to plan an outing, choose something free or low-cost, like a concert in the park or a hike at a nearby trail.

When you make comments indicating that you’re trying to conserve cash, be sure to gauge your partner’s reactions. If he or she seems understanding, take this as a good sign. If your date seems put off by your lack of funds, proceed with caution: this might be a sign that he or she won’t take learning the truth about your finances very well.

» MORE: How to pay off debt

Be honest — and prepared

When your relationship has started to get more serious — you’re talking about moving in together, for example — it’s time to get brutally honest about the debt you’re carrying. It might be tempting to try to keep hiding your credit card bills from your partner, but this will become tiresome after a while. Plus, your boyfriend or girlfriend may feel betrayed if you keep your debt a secret for too long.

The best way to confront your partner with the news that you’re in debt is to pick a date to tell him or her and stick to it. Prepare a nice dinner at home, and as you’re enjoying it, just come out with it. Don’t be too specific at first, just say something like, “I want you to know that I have credit card debt. I’m working to pay it off, but it’s a serious thing in my life right now and I didn’t want to keep it from you.”

After you’ve dropped the bomb, allow your boyfriend or girlfriend some time to process the information. You should also be prepared for an unpleasant reaction — it is a pretty big deal — and to answer some questions. Your partner may ask for the exact amount of the debt, how long you’ve had it, and how you accumulated it. You don’t necessarily have to give direct answers, but you should be ready to give some kind of response.

Emphasize the positive

Assuming that your partner copes reasonably well with the news that you’re dealing with debt, it’s worthwhile to emphasize what you’re doing to pay it off. Point out the steps you’ve taken to pay it off: getting a roommate, selling old stuff, taking on a part-time job. This will show that, while you may have been financially irresponsible in the past, you’ve made some big changes and are now making an effort to put your debt behind you.

There’s no guarantee that your efforts to pay off your credit card debt will make your partner feel better about the fact that you have it, but making him or her aware that you’re trying to pay it off certainly won’t hurt.

Couple image via Shutterstock