Savage Love Letter of the Day: Debt and the Maiden

Comments

1
The first paragraph of this is the best advice you have ever given, Dan, and should be copied, with the obvious modifications, indefinitely.
2
He found out that he doesn't trust her.

that has nothing to do with love.

I have no advice on how to re-stablish trust but I think it's not fair to frame the question as "Do you really love her?"

Right or wrong, he doesn't trust her.
3
How can anyone not notice $90k in dept.
Wish I had a fairy prince like you to sort my life, LW.
4
The more important question: will her callous indifference to something that is important to you eat away at you ten, twenty years down the road? Will you be working together to solve what you see as a problem or will your willingness to disregard a $90k blind spot mean she will leave you alone to worry about the finances? This is as much about togetherness and shared compassion as it is about what you want on your own.
5
@2 Dan's answer is a variation on his standard "price of admission" response. The lw knows something about his gf he really, really doesn't like (either the amount of debt or the fact that she concealed it from him, or that she seems indifferent to it or some combination of the above). He has to decide if his love for her is enough for him to put up with this or if it's not.
6
He found out that he doesn't trust her.

It has little/nothing to do with love, though trust and love are closely connected.

I have no advice on if or how to re-establish trust but I think it's not fair to frame the question as "Do you really love her?"
7
@caution&daring: Right. He doesn't trust her. And he's resentful of her. And he loves her. And if he stays with her, he doesn't get some things that are important to him, or at least not for a lot longer.

Is she worth it to him? Is being with her worth all this to him? How the hell does anyone besides him know?
8
The top three issues that can destroy a marriage: sex, kids, and money. If you're not on board with each other or even remotely compatible in these areas, you're screwed.

Get out when you can.
9
I don't think it's about loving her or not. It's more like, will I have to do the heavy lifting for both of us? Will she be an equal partner in this marriage? If she's indifferent to the debt she brings to the marriage (and "forgot" to mention it), will she be indifferent to how we raise our children? Too many red flags. This guy will be marrying a child who has yet to become an adult. Stay with her if you wish, but for God's sake, DO NOT MARRY HER, have children with her or entangle your finances with her until she gets her shit together.
10
Time for another poll, isn't it?

Would you rather find out your partner cheated, or find out they had $90k in debt you didn't know about?
11
Quick, Dan! Edit this SLLOTD answer to fix "longer...then" before anyone notices.
12
By his own admission, he didn't discover that he can't trust her (no malice); he just discovered she's a dingbat.

Dingbat or not, I'm not sure if I would want to be hitched to a dude that was ready to drop me like a hot potato because of financial challenges. Is he saying that he wouldn't want to marry her if, after falling in love and all that, he'd known she had $170k in loan debt? What would he have done if, once they were engaged, she was stricken with cancer and accrued $90k in medical debt? "Fuck you, I want a house!"

I mean really, there are plenty of programs available to consolidate loans and make them income-based with forgiveness after a certain number of years. Or encourage her to get a job at a non-profit or in public service where her loans could be forgiven.

Shit, dude, you're cold, shallow, AND a bad problem solver - especially for someone who is so high and mighty about having his financial ducks in a row.
13
Eventually "decide whether you are willing to ignore this, and set it aside, or not" starts to fall flat, as advice goes. These sound like two very different people and whether or not they'll ever "sync up" given 10 more years of grinding away at debt or whatever seems to be a very open question. My hunch is that it's less the debt itself and what that entails lifestyle-wise — I don't get the impression LW would have called things off years ago if all that red ink had been on the prospectus from the beginning — and more a sudden vision of how the relationship works when it starts to 'get real.' It takes a LOT of flakiness to completely lose track of $90k in debt, especially when one's life partner is trying to get on top of the finances in order to *buy a frickin' house.*

"Decide whether you love them enough to put up with their crap" is terrible advice when, in the first place, human beings "in love" are terrible at evaluating pros and cons of a relationship. There are a lot of warning signs in the letter (that's a lot of debt for someone not to have the earning potential to pay it off, long term—and that doesn't sound like a temporary situation), and IMO it doesn't really compare to the usual quirks, annoyances, and drawbacks that fall under the 'price of admission' rule.
14
@10 Now THAT'S a good poll.
I thought Dan was a little harsh on the guy. Money is right up there with sex as to why relationships end but he seems a lot more understanding about the latter.
15
And commenters are even harsher. Would you people really want to be saddled with someone that space about 100 of debt? Wanting a home of your own and travel is not shallow.
16
*spacy about 100K
17
She told him about less than half of her true debt. She's counting on their partnership to pay it ALL off. Sounds like she feels rather entitled to his earnings. He asked her countless times to organize the information, but she clearly did not. She avoided it. This is who she is. Her priorities are not the same as his.

She's already dragging down his progress toward building the secure future - his priority - that he has been working toward.

They are not a good match. This can only end badly.

18
@10

Better yet, why doesn't Dan get any letters from people who love each other and are planning to get married and are completely in good shape financially?
19
Actually this seems to track pretty closely with ending a relationship over lack of sex. Just sub "cold and shallow" for "sex obsessed pervert".
Okay I'll stop posting now.
20
I don't understand why she is included in the mortgage application process. Why doesn't he buy the house by himself? I know that isn't the question but seems an obvious point if her finances are bringing down their joint finances.
21
@20, I sort of thought something like that too. They keep their property and money separate. We'll see if she's still interested in him under conditions where she has to up her financial game. (PS, I don't have much respect for women who do this).
22
Wow. Mr E, your idea became reality.
Shit, now I've gotta choose.
I'm a bit of a devil with finances, just borrow from Peter to pay Paul sort of small time money management.
Hey; I've run a family of many offspring on the smell of an oily rag, for a long time.
Never, ever anything like a dept of 90k which brings her dept to 170k.
LW, you have to pack your clothes and dreams up in your kit bag and walk. Your woman has deceived you and burdened you with a lot of trouble.
And you want to breed with her?
If you love her, give her a year where you stay faithful and celibate, and tell her she's got that time to get some of her life together. You are not her father.
Princesses don't know shit when it comes to mothering.
23
These people are 26 and 27 years old and are expecting to buy a house. She was able to accumulate $170K of debt through student loans. It sounds like she's too privileged to pay much attention to money, which implies there's a lot of it somewhere. Get her parents to pay off her loans or fork over a portion of the down payment, and settle in to reaping the long-term benefits of those expensive degrees.
24
I wonder if she was just deeply in denial about her debt, and not so much lazy as overwhelmed.

I feel awful for both of them - for the LW, for having this nasty shock to their plans, and the fiancée, because an educational debt must be a horrible reason to get dumped, or to live under the threat of dumping. You go to some school you were told would land you a good salary (it was law school, wasn't it?), you find out there is no good salary waiting for you and you're stuck as being the secondary earner, and then someone tells you they can't be with you any more due to your debt. What do you do, at that point?
25
I know that it is tougher than it used to be--and that it doesn't cover student loans--but can she declare bankruptcy? They're not married, so it shouldn't impact HIS credit...and it would fall off her credit reports in seven years.

(SIDE QUESTION: If a significant part of her debt is student loans...is she qualified for a better paying job?)
26
@10: Poll added!
27
@9 and @17 for the win. This is not about love, nor about trust, nor about greedy shallowness on the part of the LW. It is all about shared values, or the lack thereof. LW is a financially secure individual who makes careful plans for his long-term future and budgets accordingly. LW's fiancee is a financially insecure individual who has managed to rack up $170K in debt at a fairly young age, and somehow "forgot" $90K of that total until it was revealed on the credit check. Not a lie, he says, just a lack of care (and interest...?) in getting her numbers together. Serious saver and planner marries voracious spender and wish-away-er. NOT a good formula for a happy life together, and I think he must have serious blinders on to have not noticed the disconnect in the three years they have lived together. Passionate love is not enough to keep two fundamentally incompatible people together, as many divorced couples can testify. Do yourself and your fiancee a favor by walking away now, while it's still relatively easy.
28
Erica @23 - I assumed the opposite. If she was from money, her family would never have let her overpay for a dead-end school.
29
they both sound like awful people; it's hard to care what they do.
30
I agree with 17. This is more about mismatched long term life goals and priorities. I don't think it is unreasonable to want some sort of alignment there. Love is just one ingredient in building a life with someone. I am not sure why people are so attached to the notion that there is or needs to be a correlation between the degree of love we feel for someone and the type or length of relationship we are going to have with them. If he likes the house enough and can afford it he should go through with the purchase on his own. Then he can decide if, despite being long term GF material, if she is life partner material. I.e capable of making huge, life altering, expensive decisions with him, and then keeping up her end, and not just expecting things to just sort themselves out, or that he will always want to or be able to pick up the slack. This experience should be a huge red flag. The question is can she be a partner, not just a companion.
31
Get out. Now.
32
Mr. Life Timetable and Ms. Lazy Debtor. Should be a long, happy marriage producing well-adjusted children. Yup.
33
Both lw and partner sound like terrible dinner company.
34
@27 - I don't think you have to be a 'big spender' to rack up $170k in grad school debt, certainly not in trap fields like law or liberal arts. You just have to lack insight when it comes to money. All grad schools lie about how much money their grads make and how hot their market niche is, and if you apply to grad school while you're still in college (and the timeline would make sense here), it's easy to get high off their bullshit and glitter. You either believe that the trap degree will magically give you a well-paying job, or (and I've seen this many times), you have too little future insight to understand what the debt will do to your life, and you tell yourself you NEED the grad school to feel fulfilled. (see every MFA, film school, humanities PhD with $100k+ in debt).

I guess that, like differing sex drives, differing levels of financial insight are one of those things that cause tension but which many couples successfully manage. Unfortunately it seems to work best if the insightful person takes on the entire burden of planning and legwork, and it appears that's what was happening here previously. I bet LW is simmering with resentment about having to be the vigilant one and the bad cop for all this time - not just to her but to himself as well. And I don't blame him, I hate feeling that way too.
35
@27 - that's why I said @4. Did I not say it clearly enough? Complaints of a humble commenter.
36
Sorry @4 @35, you get some of that top prize money too! @34, I guess I'm not willing to accept that all of that $170K is student debt, except in the sense that she may have racked some or all of it up while officially still a student. There is a certain pathology in not wanting to track (let alone reveal to a partner) how much debt you actually have, and I suspect that the missing $90K went toward something other than tuition and textbooks.
37
lol people thinking they can plan out their future
38
Please give a bonus to the genius who came up with "Debt and the Maiden"
39
"Last night I found out that she has …. $170k total."

How does one even do that? Go to an undergrad school that is $42k+ per year, (that's almost Stanford / Yale realms), work NOT AT ALL during the school year, NOT AT ALL during the summer and get a degree that pays diddly squat forever? Of course there are other ways to get to that point - take more than 4 years to get a worthless degree, accrue debt by living beyond your means (not living like a college student while in college, etc), uncovered medical expenses (although I'd think he'd have disclosed that).

Sure, one can get out of medical school with $170k in debt (4 years undergrad getting good grades and then 4 years of med school studying hard) but continuing to live like a college student during residency and for another 3 years of professional practice especially with a job that offers loan forgiveness, and it could all be paid back.

So while the LW seems shallow for focusing on how long he'll be dealing with this debt, the more serious concern is what kind of judgement she has that she got into this predicament with MONEY SHE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE. Those people tend to do even worse when the money is someone else's (i.e YOURS).
40
@12: 90000 appearing out of nowhere is not an accident, "dingbat" is far too kind. At least she didn't commit fraud by misstating her debt to the bank, but this is still a severely major fuck-up.
41
@37: Part of being a grownup involves knowing where you are and where you want to be, no guarantees in life but the both of you should have each other's backs.

She doesn't have his.
42
You guys are funny.
He's a cowboy with a ledger sheet, carrying his damsel over his saddle, heading off into the sunset.
I don't think this girl consciously deceived him, she just wants him to cover more than his share of the financial work. Kind of him to oblige her for so long.
He does her a disservice to keep playing this role. She needs to be his equal, not hide out in some little girl state.
43
You only become liable for debt occuring DURING marriage, not before. So long as it wasnt private debt, its none of your business aside from what repayment will take away from the household. Even then, repayment plans cap it at 10% of your adjusted income above the poverty level. Basically what you would pay on a second car.

This guy doesnt trust her and WANTS to find an out. Which is his perogative, but he should be honest with her and himself. Dont blame it on student debt (especially in modern America where average undergrad debt is 60k....for a near worthless Bachelors at that).
44
undead ayn rand @41 said it perfectly.

And DAVIDinKENAI @39 is right.
45
Hell, I'm 27 and I wish I could even afford a house. But since I'm in Seattle, I guess I'll just fold and blow my savings on Dick's and pot.
46
And hell, if life's going to throw you curveballs, one of them shouldn't be coming from the person with a vested interest in your success as a partnership. The threats are supposed to come from without.
47
The poll, while an excellent idea, is rather unbalanced. Being cheated on financially has a large material impact as well as the loss of trust. A better comparison would be being cheated on without protection and catching a serious STD.
48
How do you lose track on 90K? Does her job offer student loan forgiveness? Is it really all student loans? 170K is about the average home value where I live, and I doubt that's at a super low interest rate.

Hopefully the housing deal fell through and he's not yet financially tied to his fiance. They aren't financially compatible.

Maybe this will be a wake-up call for her and she'll start taking her financial future and the impact the debt has on both of them seriously. He might not have to pay her debts, but if her entire paycheck goes to servicing the debt, he's going to end up paying the bulk of their shared expenses, essentially subsidizing her debt payments.
49
@39: "How does one even do that? Go to an undergrad school that is $42k+ per year, (that's almost Stanford / Yale realms), work NOT AT ALL during the school year, NOT AT ALL during the summer and get a degree that pays diddly squat forever?"

As a J.D. in debt, I think thene @24 called it: law school. I went to UT law, which reportedly has the best ROI of any law school in the nation. Public school with low tuition, great hiring stats. I worked all through undergrad AND law school, to the point where I was violating the ABA work limit agreement. Had no debt on my undergrad degree whatsoever. Became an egg donor while in law school. For my entire 1L year I lived with an abusive boyfriend because I couldn't afford my own place.

$131K on my law degree upon graduation, rapidly growing with interest. Plus a couple disasters led to some personal debts: sewage flooded my apartment and forced an emergency move in the middle of one semester, which was not cheap. Landlord was uncooperative about fixing the issue. Also, the school randomly realized they had given me too much loan money in the middle of one semester, demanded $8K back immediately, AND dropped me from all the classes I had registered from, refusing to accept my registration until I paid them back. I went to the financial aid office, and was dismissively told to "take out a short-term loan."

And I still struggle to find a steady, decently paid legal job. I've been doing a lot of temp, low-skilled work. It's all I've been able to find. Constantly scrambling to find a new job as one after another ends.
50
I actually just went through the home buying process as well (closed yesterday actually), and all I can think of is that I would not trust a title company/bank that is willing to give out a home loan to a couple who are 170k in debt. That sounds predatory as hell.

But more to the point, her financial issues will basically sink any future these people want to have. She is apparently content to leech off this guy while being a complete anchor dragging down their future. In short, she doesn't give a shit about you to even be honest about not trying to be financially responsible. Leave her behind, you don't need her weighing you down.

Oh an @23? "She's heavily in debt, she must be rich and privileged." What the holy hell are you blathering about? That makes absolutely no sense.
51
As a short detour, if you run into anyone considering law school/sending kids there, do them a solid and send them here - http://lawlemmings.tumblr.com.
I strongly recommend starting with the ‘Damn Research’ page.
It is crazy to me how many people still think this is the 80’s, and a law degree will = four years of study followed by a six-figure job. One of my clients the other day was casually talking about maybe having her son go to law school, not even to be a lawyer, but for ‘all the skills’ he’d pick up there. To be fair, as noted above, law school promos don’t just try to bend the truth, they try to fuck you like a two-dolla ho trying to make five dollas and twenty-five cents. Just say no.
If you said yes, you have my sympathy.
Sheee-it, even an engineering degree’s not a lock, not anymore.
To the person above who asked, no, you can’t discharge student loans thru bankruptcy. I don’t have half this girl’s debt, but I can testify what it does to your credit and ability to do things like buy a house, carrying that shit around like luggage.
Instead of ‘dingbat,’ I’d go with ‘indulges in magical thinking,’ there’s a problem, and she’s just kind of shoved it aside. From the letter, we can’t know if it was deliberate or more absentmindedness, but neither matters to a bank. If she doesn’t have a plan, a realistic one, to deal with this, that’s not the kind of solid decision-making that you want from a life partner.
I don’t expect that to matter to a lot of the commenters here, who, based on previous threads that involve breaking up a marriage (“Sure, the other person owns the house, and you’ll be stuck with the kids, and you don’t have a full-time job! Nobody said it’s easy, but you must soldier forward under the banner of Self-Actualization!”), have a heroic ability to endure hardship in the name of Truth, as long as it’s not their own.
Xiao’s #49 living situation in school was unfortunate, but not rare, and I don’t care to judge her.
In ‘Stripes,’ Sgt Hulka is barking at Bill Murray how Murray thinks he’s clever, but doesn’t know the first thing about stuff like duty and honor, Murray replies, “Those words mean so much to a man cleaning latrines...” Sex, money, and kids, man.
52
Not wanting to spend two decades in debt peonage is not "game of life crap." Basic financial security is not "game of life crap." Dan must be doing pretty damn well for himself if he can dismiss this person's concerns so easily.
53
Oh dear lord. Swap the pronouns and this is me 20 years ago.

FFF, do NOT marry this woman. And whatever you do, do NOT jointly buy a home with her! The voice of experience can see a bankruptcy and a repossessed house in your future.

FWIW, I answered the poll question the way I did ($90k worth of debt) because I have now learned my lesson and will not be setting up house with a partner again, so their debts aren't relevant to me. Bitter question: same ex DID cheat and DID have undisclosed debt. Ah, young love.
54
Another consideration-- Let's say they marry and Maiden agrees to the austerity measure that will make it possible for her debt to be paid off. She got into this mess through ignorance, not malice. What's to say that she doesn't remain ignorant for the future. I foresee a situation where LW has to monitor every bit of money she has access to. He'll have to give her an allowance of just enough cash for her to be able to buy a paperback and lunch, never let her apply for a credit card, do all the planning and bill paying for insurance and electricity. Otherwise he runs the risk of her accidentally and non-maliciously coming home with a pair of outrageously expensive boots that she's really saving money on because they were on sale and will go with everything. He'll have to watch her forever.

Let's rephrase the question: Am I a bad person for putting so much emphasis on money? I kinda thought that true love was supposed to conquer all, and now I feel like a rat. Further, what if I never find someone I like as well as her? I might meet someone who's financially responsible but with whom I never feel this same connection, never have such great sex with.

Here's my answer: Life's a gamble, no guarantees. You could be unhappy no matter what you choose. (You could also be happy no matter what you choose, but I'm feeling down today.) Your fiancee could saddle you with a ton of debt and also turn out to cheat, have a temper, grow fat, become disabled due to an accident, grow disinterested in sex after the children are born. (I'm choosing random examples based on letters to Dan.) I don't have an answer.

Maybe I am just feeling down today, but I was ready to say toss a coin before deciding the thing to do is to confront her, show her the letter you wrote to Dan and pay more attention to her emotional response than to her actual answer. Does she become defensive? Dismissive? Uninterested? Find out what she thinks she's signing up for, and take your answer from there. (I suppose she could become responsible and say "You're right. This is a big deal for both of us. Show me those austerity measures you figured out, and let's get started.)

(And am I the only one who's thinking Chandler and Monica?)
55
Seatackled @18: Good one!

Ella May @20: Speaking again as the voice of experience, he probably does not earn enough on his own to qualify for a mortgage. However, if they do want to stay together, I would wholeheartedly recommend he does not assume any joint responsibilities with her. This includes marrying her. Doesn't sound as though he envisions a future of child-free cohabitation, which is his only safe way forward with this woman. Time to break up and find someone more responsible.

Erica @23: "Get her parents to pay off her loans or fork over a portion of the down payment," -- Did that. Still ended up bankrupt with a repossessed house.

Centrists @35: Oh, stop moaning. If I moaned about every time a commenter repeated a point I'd already made, everyone would be calling for me to be banned. Imitation is the sincerest evidence of people skim-reading comments.
56
Ms Cute - I think Mr Savage's laying out the second alternative could have been worded without bias. "...try again finding a financially compatible partner and risk less of an emotional connection," or something like that - I am in a huge rush to get out the door.
57
#54 Crin has it.
Yes, life is a gamble, and you’re never truly safe, in that you could drive a tanklike Volvo, wear one of those X-harnesses rather than a standard seatbelt, plus a crash helmet, and a phone pole could fly off a semi in front of you, punch end-on thru the windshield, and decapitate you. So really, when it’s your time, right? So why wear a seat belt? Magical thinking.
Fate is unpredictable, but we must strive to make the best choice/least worst choice. We don’t need to put more rocks and weeds in the Lawn of Life that we all must mow, we get that shit automatically.
I too would be interested in the results for Crins’ experiment, but also in how well she stuck to the deal if she went for plan Austere.
58
57-Cat-- Thanks. And the other thing I was going to put at the end:

PRE-NUP
59
Wow, you guys are really being bitches on this one. If you look into the state of America right now, you'll find these household finances are becoming the norm for the young folks. As a parent with a child about to start college, I can easily imagine her racking up this debt at school. Also, there are loads of people completely incapable of dealing with money. Her story is a commonplace one. I'm surprised that anyone is surprised by this tale.

Go ahead and break up with her, but don't get into another relationship with long-term aspirations until you are prepared to deal with adult problems. You will be tested much more severely than this in life.

As an amusing aside, here's another example of financial dumbassery that I recently encountered: I met a woman who not only expected you to earn a certain living, but that you also not earn too much. Yes, you read that correctly. Never having another material want for the rest of her life was a deal-breaker.
60
I can't believe anyone is seriously criticizing this guy for reevaluating his relationship after receiving this information.
Shallow?!?! You've gotta be kidding me. He didn't mind that she doesn't make a lot of money; he didn't mind that she had a lot of debt.
He minds that she has materially deceived him. Intentionally or not? I suspect she had at least an idea about her debt. And if she truly didn't, she is just so damn irresponsible that I think this would be the straw that broke the camels back. I'd be willing to bet her laziness and lack of follow-through shows up in other ways too.

LW, you're 27 and you're planning for your future, ready to buy a house, and you want a family and kids? You're awesome! Wish I met a guy like you when I was 27.
If you can afford it, buy the house all by yourself. Rent out a room to another young guy and have the time of your life while you look for the woman who will be a real partner to you. You sound like a catch.
If you really really really want to work on your relationship, you can let your gf move in (to your house) and see how things go. But it sounds like you two are very different, got together very young, and maybe it's time to part ways before you waste any more of your lives.
61
@59, having debt may be commonplace, but "forgetting to mention" the debt for years -- while presumably having multiple conversations expressly about finances -- is not. Crinoline is completely right: this is who LW's fiancée is, and when/if this debt is paid off, it will be replaced by more debt. This is a rest-of-life issue -- monitoring her, cleaning up messes -- not some jerk bitching about ruining his perfect timetable.

I married my spouse when spouse had a massive amount of debt (educational, but also shopping). Everything has had to be put in my name. Ten years on, that debt settled, spouse's lackadaisical attitude to (new) debt/money is still a huge issue. That's not going to change, and for me as for LW the point is not solving one debt problem, but accepting a life of eternal and rather unpleasant vigilance.
62
@61 Rocket Queen

Actually, not being aware of one's finances is commonplace. People don't talk about their finances just as they don't talk about their sex lives. You likely have no idea what the people around you have experienced with money or with monogamy or with GGGness.
63
Sorry, MrJ @59, my financially reckless ex-husband all but ruined me. It took me years post-divorce to rebuild my credit, which had been perfect before I fell for a guy who couldn't even balance a checkbook. I am not being a bitch. Being unaware of one's finances may be commonplace but it should be an absolute dealbreaker to exchanging rings and/or entering into 30 years' worth of debt with someone. Not to mention breeding, which I was fortunate enough not to do!
64
MrJ @59: Men who earn far more money than their partners often use that as an excuse to control them. In other words, this woman's preference for roughly equal incomes may be self-preservation, not dumbassery.
65
@19 wins. Pretty sure if the question was, "hey, I love my girlfriend but she doesn't want sex," Dan's advice would not be so dismissive of LW's desires and priorities.
66
@63 BiDanFan

I just think your situation was different, not that you're wrong. Educational debt is the issue in the letter, not general recklessness. Anyone can acquire financial literacy. It's available for free on the internet. This is an easily solvable problem. And yes, I agree with you that it needs to be fixed before marriage. As mentioned by others above: kids, money, sex. Think them through like adults. Then going forward, have your spouse's back as you face the shit storm of life.
67
@64 BiDanFan

Yes, it was about agency. It was also presumptuous and short-sighted.
68
@Dan/26: Thanks!

...Now I have to try to pick an answer. Dammit.
69
MrJ @66: No, I think that you're wrong. The issue isn't that she has debt, but that she forgot about the debt and did nothing about the debt, even when he encouraged her to do so. The issue is that he can't trust her to be a grown-up about her own finances.
70
Don't be so hard on the partner, everyone. I would guess she fibbed in the past about her debt because she was embarrassed and knew how he might react, and probably didn't think it mattered at that state in their relationship. Now it came back to bite her.

Unless LW has other problems with her and is looking for a way out, which sounds possible, I think they should try and work it out. He does have game-of-life issues, a fulfilling life doesn't necessarily mean the house in the suburbs, minivan, kids and labrador retriever. Who knows, if (if!) she is otherwise a great partner that provides him a much needed dose of you-don't-need-to-do-everything-because-that's-what-your-neighbors-do, he can provide her with a dose of let's-get-your-shit-together-dingbat. It could be a mutually beneficial relationship.
71
Folks, I can see how someone can have this much student debt. This is, however a scenario where she would have told him whether she has student debt or not, and how much. This is nearly a hundred thousand dollars that was not her student loans, or it would have been disclosed to the partner already.

@59: "Wow, you guys are really being bitches on this one."

Instantly stopped reading the rest of your post.

I have plenty of opinions on the State as my beliefs are pretty much the opposite of my username. But undisclosed financial infidelity can harm a couple much more than romantic, especially if it's potentially a repeat "affair".
72
@70: "He does have game-of-life issues, a fulfilling life doesn't necessarily mean the house in the suburbs, minivan, kids and labrador retriever"

A fulfilling life does mean an absence of lies and a stable base on which the rest should grow. "Embarassment" is treating a grown woman like an infant, it's doing her no good and downplaying what she's doing to her partner.

Also, unrelated to that I really can't imagine how that home was underwritten, holy goodness.
73
A woman meets a man she has a lot in common with. He's employed, handsome, kind, smart, wants the same number of children she wants, etc. They marry, and everything's going well until the day he's in a freak car wreck which renders him disabled for the rest of his life, scarcely able to hold a conversation much less a job. Let's give this a more-or-less happy ending. Let's say she steps up, takes care of her husband while supporting the family and the kids. This isn't what she signed up for, but she knows life throws shit at us, and she does all the right things to honor her commitment to him.

That's different from going around to nursing homes to find a disabled retarded guy and marrying him because life can be tough. It's different entering into an arrangement where you have a 10% chance of losing as opposed to a 100% chance.

I hope I didn't give the impression when I wrote before that LW should go for it and marry Maiden despite the debt because life's a gamble anything could happen in the future. In this case, he has a 100% chance of knowing that she's in a lot of debt-- even if a lot of other people are in the same situation and it's not entirely their own fault.
74
MrJ @67: Presumptuous and short-sighted, in the opinion of someone who never has and never will be on the short end of a combination of privilege and income inequality. Sure sure, not all men yadda yadda. But just as someone who's been burned is justified in saying, for instance, they'll never date someone with borderline personality disorder again, this woman is also justified in avoiding situations she knows are likely to cause her problems. I'm sure you've turned down people for reasons others would find equally insignificant.
75
@74

"in the opinion of someone who never has and never will be on the short end of a combination of privilege and income inequality"

Presumptuous.
76
@12: agreed. Additionally, there are plenty of programs that personal finance of which she would benefit

@25: personal bankruptcy laws prevent the inclusion of college loan debt in any debt forgiveness as part of the bankruptcy plan. (Thank you to Congress for making college debt equivalent to draconian usury!)
77
My sister had perfect credit before she met the man she married twelve years ago. They live far beyond their means, and he's dragged her into debt and ruined her credit score. They've had lots of DRAMA in their lives because of it--IRS audits, creditors showing up at their door, the works. They've also traveled extensively, collected expensive wine, filled their house with beautiful objects, etc. Her husband would like to retire soon, but he can't afford to. She gets resentful, and then buys expensive jewelry as a sort of revenge. She also doesn't bring in any real money, and he resents that he's the one carrying all the financial weight of the marriage. It seems to be important to his sense of self identity to be the generous benefactor and he's very magnanimous--and then he goes home and complains that no one else pays for anything. It's majorly fucked up.

She also found love and a level of acceptance she didn't think she'd ever have with this man (she married at close to age 40, after years of dating emotionally abusive asshats). He genuinely loves her, treats her well, and gives her more emotional security than financial insecurity.

If you asked her a direct question about their financial situation, I'm sure she'd say she never should have married him, but if you didn't ask that question and just observed the two of them, you could see that in many ways this man makes her so much happier than she'd ever been before. They'll likely never be out of debt and money will always be a source of personal anxiety and tension between them as a couple.

So they're in debt, as are millions of Americans, and it's a good bet that they'll never have financial security, and they have love, which is tainted by the financial mess they're in, and they support each other emotionally and have each other's backs, and laugh at each other's jokes and I don't know that either of them would be able to necessarily just have found a replacement partner . . .

It's complicated, is what I'm trying to say. Nothing's perfect. I don't mean this lw should just shrug off the situation. Although I do think that it's very easy to be in that much debt from education plus living, plus interest, and I think that it's incredibly common to not know exactly what the state of your finances is, perhaps because you're overwhelmed by the whole thing and I also think that you should think twice before joining your life and your finances with a person who seems so oblivious. And I think people can learn and grow and keeping track of your money and learning how to pay off debt is one of the easier things to learn to do and to grow around. And maybe this signals a lack of concern for him on her part, and maybe not. And maybe it will be a constant sore spot and fester and be a blight on their relationship, or it might not--something else might come along to ruin it. Maybe they can each pretty easily replace each other: they're both pretty young, after all. It's been my observation and experience that as you get older, your options, mate-wise shrink considerably, so it would perhaps be something I'd factor in, at 53, in a way that the 23-year-old me would not have.

And some people are better living with debt than others, psychologically. Some people need more security than others. Some people need more security from having their emotional needs met, and for some people, this level of financial stress would undermine whatever emotional security their connection provides.
So, yeah. A complicated issue.
78
Money is money and that's enough for me to form a harsh judgment of LW's spouse-to-be. If that's too shallow for you, imagine instead that the issue were perhaps an undisclosed child, serious medical condition or outstanding arrest warrant. Take your pick. They all scream RUN.
79
@72: Yea, she was acting childish in ignoring her debt. But she's 26, most people haven't paid off their student loans by that age. And, a lot of people never thought about how their debt might affect them in the future while choosing schools as a teenager.

Good for this guy that he has his head on so straight and has his life planned to the second. If it's undergraduate debt from when they met 6 years previously, I can see being a 20 year old and underplaying the amount of loans I have out of embarrassment. I can also see, looking at his 10 year perfect ledger, being terrified that he might leave if he found out the truth. Turns out he might.

Not telling him was definitely wrong, but if I found out that my wife had neglected to tell me the extent of her debt I would (be pissed) but then sit down and reevaluate our future plans. Maybe pass on the house for a few years. I'm just of the opinion that finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with is way more important than material pleasantries.
80
@Mr. J's ghostly presence: Not only can I not fathom that woman's reasoning, but I have to wonder if someone who'd say that wasn't making some excuses for something else.

81
@49.Gui; having a dept of $131K after a Uni degree.. That is insane.
It has been many years since my uni days, and I was lucky uni here was free in those days as the labour govt in the 70s went a little socialist, but I'm pretty sure our fees are not that high and our students only have to start paying back their loan once they earn a certain income. I don't know if or what any interest rate is on the loan. This came in after the govt realized free uni was no longer viable.. it sure was great while it lasted.


82
@80 nocutename

I know, right? It came up in the abstract as part of a long list of criteria for what she was looking for. The sum of that list turned out to be a resounding "not you" in my case. We never got around to discussing what our incomes actually were.

Thank you for your story @77. Now there's a situation that would justify the ton of bricks attitude that struck me as bitchiness above, given the context of a much smaller scale transgression. I can understand not wanting a lifetime of trouble, but seriously, do we demand zero trouble? Not one fuck up? Not one infidelity? Not one neurotic tendency? Not one failing of courage?
83
I'm not in debt, but my credit rating is shot to hell, I have no savings to speak of, and live barely paycheck to paycheck. I will probably drop dead in the classroom, because I can never imagine being able to afford to retire.
I'm so used to thinking of myself as a pauper that I don't know that the idea of a partner bringing in that much debt would really faze me: just one more payment to add to those I can't afford to make and still sleep at night.

But the other thing that keeps me up at night is thinking about the fact that my parents are getting older and I wonder if I'll have anyone to comfort me in that way that partners do when they die. Who will care for me when I get sick? Will I ever find someone I love who loves me back? Will I ever get the joy and the contentment of sharing life with a partner? Will there ever be someone to act as a bulwark against the shit that life throws our way, or will I forever whether it alone?

So in my case, my choice would be to go with the partner who was in serious debt, if I really loved that partner. I'd rather face that particular strain with someone by my side than face a marginally less-severe strain alone as I go through my life. But that's just my choice, for me. I don't presume for anyone else.
84
@83: I would ordinarily post an edit to that comment, changing the incorrect "whether" with "weather," but Hunter already belittled me for that over at the regular column, so I'll just leave it be.
85
Mr. J @ 59, Nocute @ 80 - Every guy I've ever met who was substantially wealthier than me tried to rule my life, whether in the choice of movie/restaurant/bar for a first date or in holiday/professional/life plans in somewhat longer relationships. They were used to always getting what they wanted when they wanted it, and they wouldn't let something as inconsequential as my wishes and well-being get in the way.

The one guy I had a relationship with who wasn't pulling his own financial weight (although he had the capacity to) expected me to provide for him and to solve all of his other problems as well, since he just couldn't be bothered to deal with such boring matters.

I understand that woman's reasoning perfectly.
86
Different types/degrees of financial ignorance; there’s the college student with a credit card that’s at 10%, who needs to be gently sat down and have the concept of compound interest explained, along with realistic projections for future earnings at their putative career. Me, I let an accountant do my taxes, not my bailiwick, and it turns out that her stated projection of taxes from a sale of property were about 1/5 of what was actually due. This didn’t leave me broke, but the cushion that I thought I’d left myself from the proceeds evaporated.
LW’s girl’s debt is huge, law/med school/Ivy huge (pretty sure he’d have said if it was law or medicine), and unless Shadowy Forces were hiding it from her, some Truman Show shit, she knew she had it. I check my bank balance online, go, huh, that’s about $150 less than I’d thought, but yeah, I did just pay the utilities...When you get into the 6-digits, you no longer get to claim you thought it was a couple thou but it got away from you
She either had a childlike understanding of money, childlike as in ‘...but Mommy, if you’re out of money why can’t you just write a check?,’ or she was hiding it. Not good.
And really, the whole ‘we met in college’ thing...I’m better a lot of LW’s feelings are aligned on a certain feeling of obligation;”Well, we’ve been together this long....”
We’re not talking about some guy who’s been up and down, seen the piercing goodness in life then been down in the badness and eaten it raw. If they’ve been together since college, and he hasn’t dated out of college in that much wider pool, I think it’s a bad idea. Some of the posters here are implying, “Well, she’s the love of his life and will fulfill his very soul, so, except for this little money hiccup.."
Definitely, put off the marriage, and if you can, LW, buy the house. You have the next decade to decide if you want to spend your life with this particular girl, most real estate’s going up. If she’s got her shit together, she’ll put together a plan to master this debt and start working it, and she won’t expect you to be her parachute.
#83 NoCute - Future is always uncertain, yeah. I’m hoping that my two professions, fitness and Chinese Medicine, will help save me (and my relatives) from a lot of what becomes expensive in old(er) age.
87
#85 Ricardo - Hold on, which woman are we on now? Been a lot of them flying through here.
88
@86: To be clear, CatBro, I'm not saying that this particular lw should just chuck all his life plans in the name of love. Your points about relationships that started in what is essentially teenagehood or close to it and never having had a chance to see who else is out in this big world are valid and there are material problems that love alone cannot solve. In case you're comment that “Well, she’s the love of his life and will fulfill his very soul, so, except for this little money hiccup.." was aimed at me, that's not what I was saying (and yes, I know your tendency for hyperbole).

@Ricardo (85): While I've never experienced what you're describing, I can see how it would work. It sounded to me as though the ghost of mrj's ex-girlfriend was making up some excuse, but yeah, depending on her past relationships, she could have seen "making too much money" as license to control her.
89
CatBro: Ricardo was referring to a woman that the ghost of mrj mentioned in his final paragraph @59.
90
#88 - Hyperbole?!! Why you...Never, down through the mists of time, in this world or another, has an adjective been so mischaracterizationally used! You'll be hearing from my people, I say Good Day to you, sir! (Huffs off to stand in corner with arms crossed.)

I was meaning more that a lot of these replies seem to imply that the money issue aside, that after much search he's found true love. I don't think marrying your college sweetie (for the most part) is a good idea, period, if you haven't dated around after college, never mind if she has this amount of debt.
(Re-reads #59) Yeah, screw that woman. That's like saying, other person can't be too ugly, or I won't desire them, but not too good-looking either, because they'll get too much attention, and all the people I've met like that were shallow cheaters. Or, you could, y'know, get a person who's not an asshole, who appeals to you and you to them.
Someone who has more money than you who tries to control you is a jerk, get out. I've met a lot of rich jerks, but a lot of rich non-jerks besides. Money, like alcohol, tends to make you more who you are.
If you're the poorer party in a relationship, how you're perceived depends both on your partner and what steps you're taking yourself, as well as the prevailing fates re how you make money and would contribute to the household. Some professions, such as lawyer, currently leave you with a lot of debt and not a lot of prospects, this might call for a household meeting on where the two of you go from there.
91
@88 nocutename

She was quite matter-of-fact in her arrogance and complete lack of tact. She didn't need excuses. It was a fun game to her to pick people apart, set standards for who they should be, and contradict any opinions they might have. She was a lawyer (surprise!) who liked argument for its own sake. So yeah, the civility of the early dates quickly melted away and that was that.

For people like Ricardo who've had others attempt to deprive them of agency I have total sympathy. For people solely worried about a tactical disadvantage in the battle to shit more on the other person I have contempt.
92
@ 88 - I also find that if someone has never struggled in their life, they rarely know the value of things. And by that I don't mean only economical value, but also the value of offering a friend one's shoulder to cry on (they pay people for that), the sentimental value of something you worked a long time to obtain, etc.
93
@ 91 - You don't need to have sympathy for me specifically, as I never actually let them deprive me of my agency. My rule is: we take turns at choosing the movie or whatever. You can start, but if you insist on doing things your way again the second time, then there's no second time.

As for the two relationships that went on a bit longer... they only went on A BIT longer.
94
Ha ha! Money may not buy you love, but debt sure can buy you misery. And a really stressful marriage.

Anyone who thinks the healing powers of love outweigh being $170K in debt before you've even bought a house or had kids is seriously out to lunch.
95
I think your response was perfect, Dan.
96
@79: I'm not criticizing the debt so much as hiding a hundred thousand dollars throughout every step of a serious financial entanglement. 26? Far too old and if you can't take that seriously, your judgment is absolutely impaired and should cause someone to rethink whether they can go forward in life.

I'm not saying what's worth it in the long run, but rethinking the decision is the only sane option regardless of what you choose to do in the end.
97
Money aside, I can't believe how some posters think that it's okay to make critical life decisions while lying to ones partner. That society is cruel would explain why this *could* happen but does not justify why she would lie about it.
98
My mama always told me that it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich woman as a poor one!
99
I must have missed the part where she lied...
100
@97: "I can't believe how some posters think that it's okay to make critical life decisions while lying to ones partner." Yes, well there's that, too.