“There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.”
We were having “the talk.” It was the one that was necessary where both of us bared our souls and revealed the skeletons hidden in the closet and the inmost, deepest, darkest secrets that lay within. I figured if I was going to get engaged, she’d better know what she was getting into, warts and all. I had lived a pretty exciting life when I was stationed in Germany, but there wasn’t anything I was particularly petrified about sharing with her.
Except one thing.
I had a lot of credit card debt.
Fortunately, it all worked out and she didn’t go running off into the hills screaming. You can read more about how nerve-wracking the experience was in the article “My Most Mortifying Money Moment.” By some stroke of luck, I had managed to dodge what I perceived to be the biggest bullet which could come flying at me – her revulsion at my debt. Heck, I was scared of it, and it was my debt. I couldn’t imagine someone else willingly taking on the burden I’d put on my back through rounds and rounds of stupidity.
It turns out that my intuition about debt being a massive turn-off for a potential spouse was dead on. According to a recent survey by creditcards.com, debt is one of the biggest turn-offs for either sex, but particularly for women.
You can forget to shower for a few days or dress like Marty McFly, but woe be unto the person who keeps a credit card bill a secret or has a big anchor of debt dragging down his personal finances. No amount of cologne in the planet can, apparently, cover up the stench of a skewed personal balance sheet.
57% of women and 48% of men state that “a partner with debt is a turnoff.” So much for that romantic, candlelit dinner and the Barry White music if you had to buy it with Visa. No lovin’ for you!
Let’s compare some of the other sins to see where debt stands in relation to them.
- Cheating. This is still the big no-no, with 84% of people saying they would end a relationship if the partner cheated.
- Lying about the ability to pay bills. Don’t portray yourself to be a breadwinner when you can’t even bring home crumbs. 70% of women will kick your happy butt to the curb.
- A criminal history. If you did the crime, you’ll serve the time…being a bachelor(ette). This is equally as bad in women’s eyes as lying about the ability to pay bills. Put a different way, women view lies about the ability to pay bills equally as invidiously as being a criminal. Says something, doesn’t it?
- Secret credit card debt. If you have that (ahem) other credit card that you “forgot” to mention, now’s a good time to suddenly “remember” it. 2/3 of women will drop you like you’re hot if you’re hiding Mr. Visa in the drawer.
- Heavy debt. This one’s not as bad as some of the others, as it’s salvageable, but you’re still going to lose a majority of your potential partners over it. 55% of women will pick a different bachelor number on the dating game than yours if you’re in heavy debt.
Here I thought that making bad jokes was a sure turnoff. Little did I know that a bulging Visa bill would do the trick.
Why does debt and the issues surrounding debt cause the heebie jeebies?
- Trust. The biggest issue, to me, is trust. If you’re having to hide something in your life or you’re lying about your ability to make ends meet, it’s just going to be an invitation to wonder what else is wrong in your life. Are you codependent? Crazy? Subject to weird mood swings? Have a sordid history? Someone on the side? When you don’t come clean with your partner, then it’s really hard for your partner to fully open up as well, and that’s going to eventually send the relationship spiraling down the drain.
- The ability to provide. At the risk of sounding cliché (OK…at the admission that I’m going to sound cliché), life is a long journey. Most of the time, you’re going to have to be working for a living. Few people get to retire before Medicare comes rolling around, so they’re probably looking at working careers of fortysomething years. Both people in the relationship have to pull their weight when it comes to making the finances work, and if one of the two is simply going to sit in the back of the boat and yell while the other rows, the rower will eventually turn around and beat the crap out of the yeller with the paddle. Lying about your ability to provide will cause legitimate concerns with the other person. Relationships aren’t all about looks, despite what most pop singers would tell you.
Aaaaaggghhhh! “I’m never going to get married!” you may be screaming to yourself. Don’t worry. There is redemption!
According to the previously cited study, 69% of Americans think that they can fix their partners, meaning that they think that if you’ve screwed up in the past, you’re redeemable. You don’t have to be a pariah with your debt, but you can’t just sit on it and hope it goes away, either.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Start working to reduce your debt now! There is no tomorrow for this one. Start making strides. Here are a few good resources for getting started:
- How Can I Get My Debt Under Control?
- Credit Card Debt and Drug Addiction: Are They Related?
- The Total Money Makeover (#aff) by Dave Ramsey
Develop a plan. Yes, you have to start now and show some progress, but you also need to be able to show that you’re not just in your “debt kick” for a couple of months only to regress back to your old irresponsible ways. You need to show that you have a plan for getting out of debt, to include a date when you are going to get out of debt. Print the plan out and sign it at the top, since, as research by Duke’s Dan Ariely shows, signing at the top of a contract increases your compliance with it.
Be up front about your situation. She or he might still stick around after you’ve bared your soul because you were honest and forthright about the situation. You’ll definitely have the chance not to let the door hit you in the butt on the way out if you hide your situation.
I defied the odds. My wife didn’t run away when I told her about my Visal (yes, that’s a word because I just made it up) sins. I got lucky.
So, if you’re single and you want to look better, don’t waste your time (or money) on skin creams, hip jeans, or cool shoes. Get out of debt instead. You’ll be much hotter!