Bad Credit in Relationships: Truly For Better or Worse?

Couples in which partners have substantial credit score disparities may be in for tougher times ahead — well, at least tough conversations as the relationship gets more serious.

It’s important to tackle money and credit conversations head-on. Here are tips to help:

If you’re the one with bad credit:

Muster up the courage to tell your significant other about past credit and money mistakes. It doesn’t have to be a dreaded “we-need-to-talk” discussion, but it’s necessary to own up to debt, late payments, or even a previous bankruptcy or foreclosure, especially if these blips happened recently enough to impact your future purchases together as a couple.

Not being upfront about it could be construed as an act of financial infidelity. Don’t keep that debt, previous bankruptcy, gambling addiction, or bank account a secret. Consider that the betrayal felt by a partner may be worse than the actual secret itself.

Use the conversation as a jumping-off point to tackle the issue together, and drum up an action plan.

Don’t be ashamed, just get it out in the open. Your partner will more than likely appreciate your honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to make positive changes.

If you’re the one with good credit:

It’s a great start if your partner is open about a less-than-perfect credit situation. Hear him/her out, be empathetic, and encourage positive credit behaviors, like paying on time, paying down debt, and avoiding new credit applications. Whatever you do, don’t judge, place an ultimatum on the situation, or assign blame or shame.

Suggest the use of credit management tools or apps; there are plenty of free ones.

As discussed in Chapter 8’s “Credit and Love” section of “The Credit Cleanup Book,” you’ll ultimately have to decide if your partner’s imperfect credit past is something you can tolerate and are willing to help them work through.

Change is progress and proper credit usage requires education and learned behavior.