‘I’ve been living with my partner for a year. They have no idea I’m thousands of dollars in debt.’

I have a debt of between $6000-$7000 strewn across two credit cards that are maxed out, and my partner doesn’t know about it.

I’d like to say I’m paying it off, but I tend to pay back the minimum and mostly ignore it. My debt has always felt intensely personal. It just feels like irrelevant information that only really impacts me, but I’ve been living with my partner for over a year now and I’m wondering: should I tell them?

I didn’t originally plan to keep the debt from them. It just didn’t feel like any of their business for a long time. We were simply dating, and our bank balances didn’t come up, and then we moved in together.

Sure, we’ve shared our salaries and our basic financial goals, but we live in the expensive inner city, so big dreams like buying a house aren’t exactly near in our future. We do talk about day-to-day money, like who’s paying for what and how we want to split certain things, but still my debt hasn’t come up.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Maybe you should bring it up! But I’m not sure. Should I? When does the money I owe become relevant to them? I suppose my reluctance stems from not wanting them to judge me about how I spend my money or even what I splurge on.

Then there’s the emotional side of it: admitting I have debt, feels like admitting guilt and, to some extent, failure. “Look at me, I can’t manage my money!” And I suppose I’m just not prepared to face their reaction. Logically, I know they’re a sensible, reasonable and kind person, and they’d probably approach my debt with fresh eyes and see it as something we could get rid of.

Still, that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable too. Weirdly, I don’t like the idea of anyone taking ownership of my debt but me. This debt has been with me for years now, through break-ups, degrees and even the occasional break-down. Somehow, it feels like something I want to solve on my own. 

I also don’t tell them because I know the amount of money I owe isn’t crazy. I know plenty of people are in way more debt than me, and I also figure eventually I’ll buckle down and pay it off. It isn’t such a huge debt that isn’t ultimately very manageable, but it is enough that now it feels like I’m hiding it. 

It doesn’t help that my partner is very good with money. The kind of person who always packs their lunch for work, scrimps on small stuff, so they can enjoy the big stuff and has a nice chunk of savings in their account for a rainy day.

The truth is, money stuff is hard to talk about at the best of times, and sharing my debt with them feels like sharing a giant vulnerability. Still, not sharing it now feels like maybe I’m hurting our relationship. Will they find out one day and be mad at me? Will they just not think it is a big deal? Will they judge me?

I feel strongly that in this relationship, it is so important for me to keep my financial independence. But I wonder, is that clouding my judgment and stopping me from sharing something I should?

For now, I believe that until we need to combine our cash for a house or to raise children, it probably really isn’t any of their business.

Would I feel the same way if they were the one with the debt? That’s a question I’m not so sure about. But I don’t give the impression to them that I’m a financial guru, so I don’t think they’d be too surprised.

At least for now, it is my secret, and I’m keeping it.

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