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Don't Let Credit Kill the Romance!

Jeanne Kelly

Valentine’s Day is a day of hearts and flowers and romance. It’s a day when we tell that other person how special they are. All of their quirks and habits are, for one day, swept under the carpet and we bask in the warm glow of mutual attraction.

But for the other 364 days of the year, relationships are tested by those weird quirks that each person brings to the couple.

And if one of those quirks has to do with credit, a small annoyance can quickly escalate into a big deal.

Take the example of Cathy (definitely NOT her real name) who has always been careful with her finances, including her credit. Opposites attracted and Cathy is married to Dan — an impulse buyer who hasn’t heard of a credit score.

Or take the example of Matt (definitely NOT his real name, either) who had been taught to be cautious with his credit. He fell head-over-heels in love with Kerry — a woman with one bankruptcy under her belt who has asked him to co-sign a loan for her.

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Credit and relationships are connected. Credit can prolong or destroy a relationship. Credit is becoming a make-or-break question in the early stages of a budding relationship.

No matter what stage your relationship is in, seriously consider a planned, scheduled “sit-down” meeting with your partner or spouse to discuss credit. An honest no-holds-barred conversation about credit can help strengthen or even save your relationship.

Here are some tips to help you navigate this complicated discussion:

Both parties should agree that credit has an impact on each person individually and on the relationship. And both parties need to discuss how various actions and choices can impact credit decisions. (In many cases, as in the case of Cathy and Dan above, one spouse might simply not realize the extent to which their decisions impact the couple’s future ability to mortgage a house or finance a car).

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This is also a good time to review the short- and long-term goals that you share as a couple. A reminder that you want to buy a house together might be a good corrective reminder, especially for a spouse who doesn’t always make the best credit choices.

Ground rules should be discussed and set for your credit, the earlier in the relationship the better. One person should be allowed to say “no” to co-signing a loan without fear that the other person will leave them. Another person should be allowed to recommend that each person in a couple keep separate bank accounts to help protect credit scores.

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In committed relationships that are beyond the “getting-to-know-one-another” stage, couples should each pull their credit score and understand what is connected, what is separate, and how they can optimize their credit decisions based on knowing the other person’s credit information.

Talking about credit as a couple is very important, and frequently not done. But every couple — whether budding romance or long-standing marriage — should regularly have this discussion.

But not on Valentine’s Day. That’s a day of roses and chocolates and sentiment. There are 364 other days to choose from.

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