Dating With Debt: Are Student Loans a Deal Breaker?


You meet that special someone and sparks fly. You aren’t sure what hit you. You can’t even think straight. As you are falling for this new person, you wonder, “When should I tell him/her my number?”

Are Student Loans a Deal Breaker?

Disclosing how much student loan debt you have to someone you’re dating can be scary. Are they going to be cool with it or run for the hills? Will it be a deal breaker?

Well, it depends on your mate and your student loan situation.

If you both have student loans, you can both commiserate together (doesn’t that sound romantic?), but if one person has student loans and the other doesn’t, it could be a turn off, especially if that person has six-figure debt.

A story profiled in The New York Times illustrates just how much student loan debt can affect your romantic prospects. After a woman disclosed her student loan balance to her fiancee, he broke off the engagement within three days.

While she had mentioned that her student loan debt was over $100,000 prior to the engagement, she didn’t know exactly how much she owed. So before the engagement, they looked over the paperwork and found her total balance was $170,000. Suddenly, “I do” became “I don’t.”

What does this all mean for student loan borrowers looking for love? Are those with student loans doomed to the outskirts of the dating arena? Are student loan borrowers second rate candidates when it comes to the dating scene?

Not so fast. While student loan debt can affect your future relationships, it doesn’t have to mean the end.

But if you’re dating and in debt, here are some ways to help make the process easier and avoid having student loan debt become a deal breaker.

Coming Clean About Your Debt

When you’re dating, the topic of student loan debt may not come up right away. Some dates may be a one-time, oh-please-never-again situation. Others might be the start of something more.

If you make a connection with someone, knowing the right time to come clean can be tricky. You definitely don’t need to wear a scarlet letter “D” for debt to let everyone around you know your situation. But eventually, you’ll need to fess up and let the person you are dating know about your student loan debt.

Here are some milestones to consider dishing the dirt about your debt:

  • When things get serious. What does that mean? If you both agree you don’t want to see other people and want exclusivity in your relationship, things are probably getting serious. If you have that crazy, mind-altering feeling of actual love, it might be getting serious.
  • You start planning Big Things together. If you’re planning vacations or even moving in together, it’s time to put all your cards out on the table and come clean about your debt.
  • There’s bling involved. If there are talks of engagement, then it’s imperative you let the other know about your debt load. Your “happily ever after” depends on it.

Just don’t share too much too soon. April Masini, the relationship expert and author at, said, “Disclosing your debt to a date shouldn’t happen until after you’re monogamous and serious about a future together — in other words, not before the six-month mark of dating.”

Dating With Student Loans

Everyone has their own standards for what they are willing to put up with in a relationship and what they aren’t — you have to accept that student loans just might be a deal breaker for some people.

“Your student debt number may be a deal breaker if the debt load is abnormal,” explained Masini. “The reason is that it’s probably the tip of the iceberg…These numbers are usually symptoms of an absence of discipline or a practical plan. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad date or future spouse — it just means there’s some baggage attached to this debt that probably goes beyond the money,” she said.

But while a large debt load may be a deal breaker for some, in other cases it can work out just fine.

For those dating with debt, it’s important for you and your partner to understand where you are both at and your plan. If you’re thinking of dating someone with student loans, Chenell Tull, founder of the personal finance blog Bright Cents, advises asking these questions before making a decision:

1. Is the person carrying the debt responsible and do they plan to pay it off, or do they complain about their situation constantly?

2. Do they make extra loan payments, or are they spending every additional dollar they bring in on “extracurricular” activities?

Having a payoff plan can go a long way and show that you are a responsible, committed person. Choosing to default like Lee Siegel did may very well be a deal breaker, as anything more serious than dating would mean dealing with the other person’s damaged credit and potentially garnished wages.

While being on the same page about student loan debt is important, it’s not everything — at least while you’re dating. Kara Perez, blogger behind From Frugal to Free, worked hard to get out of debt. She is now debt-free, but her boyfriend has amassed roughly $60,000.

“I’m very conscious of his debt, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. He was definitely uncomfortable sharing it, and while he pays more than the minimum each month, he doesn’t like to think about it,” Perez added.

She says it doesn’t really affect her relationship now, but admits “if we decide to really make a future together, it will be a conversation we have to have.”

If you’re dating with student loan debt, it’s important to navigate these conversations sooner rather than later and if things get serious, figure out how you will work together to pay off the loans.

Are you dating with student loan debt? What has been your experience?

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Published in Get Out of Debt