Saying “Yes” to your fiancé was easy. Thinking about marrying him gives you peace. He loves God, you, and the people around you. But, in the process of wedding planning, you find out that he’s broke. Or he finds out that you’re broke.
And it’s making you think, “Will he be able to provide for me?” Or wonder if he’s thinking, “Will she be able to handle money well?”
Maybe one of you, or the both of you, may have hidden the truth out of fear, or just didn’t think that it would be an issue.
Perhaps you’ve read this blog post only after you’ve gotten engaged.
Whatever the reason is for the lack of disclosure or lack of attention towards this matter, you both have to agree on your next move as a couple.
“But why is being in debt such a worrying situation when entering a marriage?” You might ask.
Debt can put a lot of things on hold in marriage. Think honeymoon, regular date nights, giving gifts to your loved ones, or even living in a place of your own - indefinitely on hold.
Making bad financial decisions, if it’s what caused the debt, could be stemming from a bad habit. Bad habits, when not addressed before marriage, can add to the many challenges couples face in marriage.
Once you both acknowledge that you need to be wiser from now on, here are 5 ways to help you navigate through your situation.
1. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you and respond to it.
Our minds tend to rationalise situations to make them look like there’s no problem that needs to be addressed. However, if we stop trying to rationalise it, we will be able to hear the Holy Spirit better. Pray that you’d obey His leading, and not give into your own desires or external pressures.
Here with me is my beautiful mother-in-law, who I had asked what a wise couple should do when in this situation.
2. Talk about the issue with your fiancé and share your action plan (or ask for his).
If you’re the one in debt and you intentionally hid it out of fear, apologise. Come clean, as there is no room for dishonesty in a future marriage. Open up about the cause of the debt, and share how you plan to pay it off. Avoid false promises at all costs. From there, it’s all up to him if he’s comfortable bringing the debt into your marriage and helping you pay for it.
If your partner is the one in debt, avoid condemning. Ask how much exactly the debt costs, the reason for the debt, and his plans of repaying it. You’d want to understand how he makes financial decisions, which both of you will be doing a lot of in your marriage. Also, you’d like to know how this debt may affect your future marriage if left unsettled.
Moreover, I agree with Dave Ramsey’s suggestion here not to help pay for the other person’s debt until you’re married.
3. Talk to a married couple you both trust.
Confronting debt during your engagement can be very daunting. A flurry of emotions may hinder you from wisely deciding on your next steps.
Seek to find counsel from a godly married couple who’s had their own financial breakthrough in life. Present to them your issue and your proposed resolution so they can assess how round your decision is and pray with you. Make sure that it’s a couple that both of you trust, because you’ll most probably have to divulge details of your past (finances mostly) which may be uncomfortable to share with someone who doesn't have your best interests in mind.
Mentorship during your engagement is like fertiliser to your plant.
4. Get professional help.
Consulting a financial planner can help give you or your partner (or both of you once you’re married) a solid plan to get out of debt, and protect--and eventually grow--your assets. They think long-term planning, so you’re sure that they aren’t just out there to get a commission.
A professional can advise on how to strategically get you out of debt given your income ability and external factors such as inflation (as most debts have interests). Someone who believes in tithing (with or without debt) and generosity, and not merely on growing wealth, is someone you’d like to hear from.
5. Consider a restart.
“Are you suggesting that we break the engagement?” you might ask.
Re-read point # 1. It’s up to the both of you how you’d like to move on from here. The restart that I’m suggesting may very well suggest breaking the engagement until you both resolve the issue that one of you, or both, is not willing to bring into marriage. And this is healthier than forcing yourselves to proceed with the engagement just to save face in light of those who’ve already posted their congratulations on Instagram. On the other hand, staying engaged and prolonging it might invite a lot of temptations in the area of purity. I talk about that here.
It may be heartbreaking; but believe me, you would want to start your marriage right at all costs. Think of it as a blessing that you and your partner had the courage to talk about the financial issue even before you got married.
If you decide to proceed and work on this financial brokenness together, I’d still suggest points 1 to 4. And please, don’t incur more debt while planning your wedding. A simple wedding is going to be your act of obedience to God as you start saving your marriage from financial woes.
Leave me a private message if you’re in this situation and I’d love to pray for you!