Color of Money: Is debt a deal breaker when dating? Four signs that it is.

Michelle Singletary on

But I don't think that you have to dump people just because of their debt load, whether it's education or even credit card obligations. If you're dating and want to know when debt should be a deal breaker, here are four signs.

-- The debt isn't treated like a big deal. Listen to how someone is talking about his or her debt. Does the person have a cavalier attitude about it? Dating gives you an opportunity to examine someone's values. Love can't conquer all. If owing people keeps you up at night, you may not be able to stay in a relationship with someone who can sleep soundly despite being mired in debt.

-- There's no remorse. I meet a lot of people deeply in debt. It's the ones who recognize that they shouldn't have borrowed so much who tend not to go there again.

-- There's no change in behavior. If someone has a lot of credit card debt and he or she is still piling on more with no intention of living within his or her means, that's a red flag of financial irresponsibility.

-- There's no plan to aggressively get out of debt. If your significant other ignores calls from creditors, isn't opening mail and doesn't have a specific strategy to get out of debt, you should be very concerned.

Often people want to know when they should disclose their debt. Talk about the details when you start to get serious. If you've decided to be exclusive -- and particularly if marriage is on your mind -- it's time. And be prepared for the other person to walk. It's his or her prerogative. Discerning what you can and can't deal with is why you date.

I loathe debt. As I've said before, if debt were a person, I would slap it. Yet, I would not judge someone solely on the basis of his or her indebtedness.

People make mistakes. Maybe they borrowed too much because they used to be irresponsible. Or they lost a job or were trying to better themselves.

Don't stand in judgment of past behavior. It should inform you, not necessarily stop you from getting further involved. When dating, pay attention to the person's present-day financial conduct. If you like what you see, then stay.


Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group



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