As if there weren’t enough things to worry about when you have a new partner, now there’s a whole new type of STD to beware of: a financial STD, or Sexually Transmitted Debt.
It’s silent, insidious, and you usually don’t know about it until it’s too late.
Your partner’s debts can be a devastating blow to a new relationship. It can be pretty disastrous for a long-standing one too.
But there are ways you can protect yourself from it, or deal with it if you suddenly find that you’ve caught it from your partner.
- What is STD?
- What are the symptoms?
- Can you catch it if you’re not married?
- Can you catch it if you’re divorced?
- How can you protect yourself against it?
- How can you treat it?
Sexually Transmitted Debt is where you find that you are affected by your partner’s debts – the ones they omitted to mention to you before you got together, or picked up while you’re married.
It’s easier to carry a financial STD than it once was, because so many couples keep their finances separate. Research from VoucherCodesPro found that nearly two thirds of people admitted to hiding their finances from their partner, while over 90% of people said they had separate bank accounts.
On the plus side, although keeping cash separate makes it easier for your other half to have financial secrets, it also makes it easier for you to keep your own secret stash of cash to protect yourself from the worst effects of a financial STD.
Often the financially promiscuous partner manages to keep their debts hidden until they reach breaking point. It means there may be no symptoms at all until they suddenly confess to unmanageable debts.
Anna Sylvester, 36, a legal secretary in the City, got a bolt out of the blue when her husband told her about his secret debt.
Unbeknown to Anna, her husband had been spending on credit cards to such an extent that he had a debt of £20,000, couldn’t make the minimum payments, and now he couldn’t pay his tax bill either.
“I was stunned and very angry” she says. “I’d been really careful with money, and had made sure I’d paid off all my debts. Meanwhile, he was doing all this behind my back. I felt like I’d been shovelling snow off the front path while there was this avalanche behind.”
Anna paid her husband’s minimum payments for that month and then, as they’d been planning to move home, they sold their house and paid the rest off with part of the proceeds.
“I watch our bank account on the internet every day now – I’ve become pretty obsessive about it,” she says. “We only have one credit card now – it’s mine and his name is on it – but we pay for nearly everything with cash. We don’t even have standing orders or direct debits. It’s the only way I can feel secure.”
Whether you are married or co-habiting, if you want to take out a mortgage or loan together, you will need to know if your partner has a poor credit rating before you apply.
You may not want to know too much about your partner’s seedy history of unfaithful borrowing, but lenders will – and many will reject applications for any type of loan if another lender has rejected you for something else.
Once you apply for a joint financial product, your credit histories will be linked, and you will be associated with their past mistakes, so you need to know everything before you take this step.
You should know if your beloved has been turned down for loans or, worse, if they have any County Court Judgements (CCJs) against them. You can get a CCJ against you if you’re taken to court by a creditor and you still don’t pay the debt.
If you’re co-habiting, you can get a financial STD if you have a joint mortgage or other loan and your partner continually fails to send in the repayments each month.
“When a couple is co-habiting or married and one person decides not to pay the mortgage the lender can and will pursue one or both borrowers for the money,” says Smita Talati who mentions the ‘disease’ in her book How to Be a Financial Goddess. “If your partner decides to skip the country or just disappear without paying then you will be responsible for the whole amount.”
Sadly, your partner’s bad credit can affect you even if you’re divorced and living apart.
Mia Harrison, 41, had left the paying of bills to her husband when she was married, but he lagged behind in his Community Charge payments and ended up with a CCJ against him.
She had no idea about it until, after they divorced, she applied for a mortgage. “I kept being refused, even though I explained over and over again that it wasn’t me who’d defaulted on the Community Charge payments,” she says. It took a year of frustration before she got a clean bill of health for her own credit record.
If you’re worried about your partner’s, or ex-partner’s, debt affecting you then you should apply for your credit history to find out what it contains.
Use Credit Angel for free for 30 days to access your credit report and for expert advice on improving it.
If you are being negatively affected by your partner or ex-partner’s finances then you can apply for a notice of disassociation which should separate your financial situation from your partner’s.
Be aware, you can only get a notice of disassociation if you no-longer share a financial connection with them – that means you can’t have a mortgage or joint account together.
If you’re married
Once you’re married, it’s a good idea to have separate bank accounts, credit cards and savings accounts, as well as a joint account for bills.
This way, even though you will be liable to pay part of any joint account debts, at least you would have a chance of stopping your other half spending your money and putting you both in a worse situation.
Sometimes people know nothing about their spouse’s financial hanky-panky until they divorce and suddenly find there’s less in the pot for them to share.
Some people rack up enormous debts because they’re spending money on an extra-marital affair. If a spouse can prove they didn’t benefit from any of the spending, the court can give them an extra settlement for the ‘financial misconduct’ of their ex.
If you’re living together
If you want to buy a place together, it’s best to rent first before buying.
Research shows that live-in relationships are twice as likely to split up than married ones, so until you’re really sure your partner is clean, financially, it’s best not to commit yourselves to the burden and complication of a mortgage.
It’s important to be aware that with joint loans or credit cards you’re still both liable for the debts. If your partner defaults on their share, the lender will come after you for it, so think very carefully before entering into a joint arrangement.
Happily, although when co-habiting you personally are not entitled to any of his or her money, if you split (even if you have children together) this does have the opposite advantage that you won’t be liable for any of his or her own debts either (apart from loans or HP agreements you took out together).
Sometimes the best thing you can do if your partner is an irresponsible spender is to get out of the relationship. However, if your partner is dangerously in debt, but you want to stay together, you can work through it.
You will need to have some frank conversations, and lay out your finances clearly, so you both understand where you are, and what you’re working towards.
There’s no point in shouting about how they shouldn’t have bought that new DVD player if they haven’t been given a chance to see why you can’t afford it. Write down your joint income, your essential outgoings and details of the debts so you can show them why there’s a problem. Use whatever tactics you know might work – after all, you know your partner better than anyone.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP?
For relationship advice you can contact Relate.
If you’re a female and you feel financially controlled by your partner you can get help and advice from the Women’s Aid Organisation.
To check what is on your credit history use Credit Angel’s free 30 day trial.
Can you relate to any of the above issues? Have you been the victim of Sexually Transmitted Debt? Let us know in the comments section below.