Dating and Debt: Would you date someone in debt?

In the waning weeks of 2021, I joined Instagram as me (as opposed to Afrop Penny) after refusing to join for years. Much as I expected, it is the same fun, interactive, time sink that Facebook was when I joined in 2004; I haven’t been on Facebook in years. However, perhaps that is true of all social media. In any instance, thus far I have enjoyed the mix of information and engagement while doing my best to tolerate the rampant advertising and consumerism. Occasionally, there is a post that encourages me to be thoughtful or write a blog post, and I appreciate that. Today as I was scrolling, I read a shared post from a woman, in which she stated:

I was dating a rich guy and he asked me, “Would you ever consider dating someone who was struggling?” I told him no. That for personal reasons, I would not consider dating someone who did not have their life together. He then said, “Well, for me, you are that struggling person.” He ended the relationship shortly after this conversation.

Unfortunately, as is the case in many parts of the internet, the comments that she received were not…positive. Many folks shared unhelpful, and often misogynist, thoughts that essentially called her a gold-digger and shamed her for her dating preferences. After reading a follow-up post, for the most part, it seems she took the end of the relationship with this rich person in stride, as she feels that everyone is entitled to their preferences, including her rich exes’ desire not to date someone who wouldn’t date him if he were struggling.

As is obviously the case, this got me to reflect a bit about my own experiences and preferences. The answer to the blog title, “Would you date someone in debt?” is a “yes” for me. I think it would make me the worst sort of hypocrite if I refused to date someone because they had debt. That being said, it would need to be made evident, through honest conversation, that we had a shared perspective about the utility of debt in our lives. I once dated a guy with poor credit and significant financial debt. He also had really bad anxiety issues. I told him that developing a plan to pay off his debt and improve his credit might help. He demurred. Years later, we are still really good friends (this is the one instance where I am friends with an ex) and he is still in significant credit card debt.

And then there have been other guys, like Gentleman Avery or the guy I dated before him. Guys who, like the man in the Instagram post, are either rich or are in a really strong financial position. Previously, I have felt insecure and ashamed about my financial position in contrast to theirs and so I didn’t really talk about it. Or I held back emotionally for fear that deeper intimacy would eventually force me to disclose how much debt I had. And I never wanted that to happen because how could someone know of my debt and still want me?

I think shared values are important to the success of any relationship. Given the outsized role money plays in our lives, I think that it is even more important that even if we aren’t starting in the same place, we have shared values and beliefs around our approach to managing money and our long terms financial goals. I’m obviously still not where I want to be with money but I have come a long way from my lowest point, and I am no longer struggling.

21 thoughts on “Dating and Debt: Would you date someone in debt?

  1. Such a good post and timely for someone. I would really hope that I would date a person who had debt. Me being me, would have to have that conversation about what is he doing to change his future. Like I cannot just know about it and allow you to sit and not change how our lives ( cause if we are having this conversation, it is “our” not “you”) )are lived. Great you told me, now let’s not go out to eat every few days, but let’s instead work on a plan.

    He has to want it more than me as that is the only way that lessons will be learned, debt will be paid and we will be able to ride off into the sunset together. I was always in relationships with folks who had their lives together even I didn’t. Now I have a lot going for me and I am not interested in the least of being in a relationship. Money does not define a person and neither does debt. Because I had student loans, it didn’t make me less of a person and that they are paid off, I didn’t turn into anyone else.

    God is how I got out of debt and he is responsible for the good things in my life. So for me or anyone really to boast about being debt free and then not want someone because they have debt…is crazy. Having debt stops a person from having options, but it shouldn’t stop you from having love or from being loved.

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    • Thank you for sharing, Blissful. “Having debt stops a person from having options, but it shouldnโ€™t stop you from having love or from being loved.” – I wish this were the case…but I don’t think it is.

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      • Awwww then I think a question would be how do all of those couples show up on Facebook, Instagram, Dave Ramsey show, the ppl next door, the folks everywhere really… like how do so many folks have some type of debt and they are married or at least in relationships. I am telling you that it is possible. There are ppl who see others as the potential that they know they can be vs the disappointment someone thinks they are. Not everyone looks at everyone else like that. I think you have shown everyone that you can get through any amount of debt. The right person will be with you because of you despite your debt. ๐Ÿค—

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      • ๐Ÿ™‚ I love that you pushed this discussion…honestly, I think there are some underlying class/socioeconomic experiences here… I don’t know that it’s possible to have that conversation in the comments here but…I think that it is very much a part of this discussion.

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      • I think I will wrote a post on it and you can speak on my if that would make it easier. Also yes, I don’t know for certain, but I totally feel like I have seen poor ppl with poor ppl, but I have also seen ppl that finally just get a clue. ๐Ÿค—

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  2. I feel the same – I’d be okay dating someone who has debt, as long as they had a plan to pay it off and were working on it.

    I can’t remember whether you’ve told Gentleman Avery about your debt or not. It occurs to me that if you planned to tell Gentleman Avery or another gentleman caller :), letting them read your blog would give them insight into who you are, as well as your incredible debt payoff progress. I’m sure it would be scary to reveal so much, but someone worth dating would only like you more after reading your blog. But, I’d probably be too chicken myself, so I’ll leave it at that!

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    • Thanks, Ellen. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have told him about it but I have not told him the exact amount…despite him asking. I have recently told my best friend, the Wizard, about my blog and she has asked to read it. I am thinking about giving her access to her. I would hope that my blog would make someone like me more but…you never know. I would certainly give it to anyone who was contemplating a lifelong partnership with me.

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  3. I also think “it depends”! How did it happen in the first place? Is the person dealing with it — or do they at least *want* to deal with it? Is there any practical hope of stabilization in the future? And “dealing with it” might include paying it off, but depending on the circumstances might also include, like, being in therapy or something. In other words, it’s not really a problem from a dating POV that a person has debt, period, but it might be a problem if the debt indicates other issues that aren’t being handled.

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    • C ๐Ÿ™‚ This is an excellent point…while I would be very much open to dating someone with debt, the kind of debt could be a signal…like if he had significant gambling debt. I think a plan to pay it off would also have to be coupled with counseling or a plan to address the underlying reasons for the debt.

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  4. Frankly, I don’t understand this sort of question. Do you not date someone because you like him/fall in love? Or do you start dating someone and see what happens/ if feelings follow? I don’t know that I am a good person to answer your question as I started dating my now husband at 16 ( I am 43 now) and so my dating life doesn’t resemble that of an average semi young person ๐Ÿ˜. But debt shouldn’t be an issue as the ressons for the debt may be totally honorable, the not handling it could be.

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    • ๐Ÿ™‚ I love that response. I can’t really speak for anyone else but previously when meeting new people if someone fixated on money or their financial health in our early conversations (which is real and make sense) that was a signal to me (and perhaps it should not have been) that I might not be in an acceptable financial place for them…and I would be unlikely to pursue that relationship. I think now my outlook is somewhat different but…its definitely still there.

      I have a close friend who has made all the right financial choices and she only seeks partners who are in a similar financial position. And I respect that choice too.

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      • Yeah, he was 20. I just arrived in an other country, France to be exact, for high school, alone. This was in 1994, I am from an Eastern European country, what a shock that was. It seems like a lifetime ago now ๐Ÿค” ๐Ÿ˜
        I understand not wanting to be affected by someone else’s financial situation. It’s a little bit of control that you wish to retain. Frankly, I think you would be more or at least equally as affected by your significant other’s family than the fact that he has debt, which is harder to avoid. Relationships are always complicated and they change with time.

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      • Such an interesting story…lifetimes are where the stories are and I love good stories.

        These are exceptionally wise words. And a good point about family impacting the relationship even more than debt…my thoughts and experiences about that should perhaps be another post. For the record, I am trying to be better about this.

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  5. Oof. I’ve had that elephant in my room since I got my first loan payment booklet. Or maybe it’s just an excuse because my loan forgiveness is almost done and I’m not sure I’ll be suddenly ready to jump back in the pond then either.

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  6. Yep, depends. My partner actually went further into debt (a lot further) from the time we started dating, and I’m fine with it because 1) the credit card debt was temporary while in school and fully intended to be paid off once he was working (which it was), and 2) the student loans were necessary for the job and he has a plan regarding those, too (it’s “stay on income-based repayment until the remainder is forgiven, then pay the tax hit”, and I’m fine with that as long as we save for the tax hit).

    So the question for me would be more “Do I agree with their current attitude and plans around any debt they have?” (whether that’s a situation like the one I’m actually in, or “I know it was irresponsible, I regret it and and I’m working on paying it off”, or “it was for an expensive once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I don’t regret doing and I’m working on paying it off”, or whatever).

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    • This makes a great deal of sense, Bee. And I agree. And I think it is so awesome your partner has/had you. I wish I had a Bee ๐Ÿ™‚

      However, and I could very much be wrong, think meeting someone prior to debt, and getting on board with their life plan, becoming a partner, and making decisions about your future together might sit a bit differently than meeting someone with significant debt. I think there is often a tendency to see (educational) debt as irresponsible. I think it’s different in the scenario if you are along with someone for their journey and see it is what they needed to do.

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