Feeling Guilty... About Paying Off Debt

I'm sure that I am not the only person going through this, but I'll give a little backstory before asking for advice.

I am in a long-term relationship & we have no desire to get married. It. Is. Bliss. My partner & I moved about 7 months into a home that he purchased for us.

I am not on the mortgage & I am of the belief that you do not co-sign on debt when you are not married. I am a Mortgage Underwriter & I always advise against taking on debt that you 1) cannot afford alone and/or 2)are tied to with a non-spouse. It gets messy when it's time to separate that equity. Trust.

Anywho... My issue is that I am a YNAB-er & he is not. He really doesn't "budget" at all. He keeps his expenses below his income & keeps 5 figures in his savings just by being frugal. EYE am the recovering over-spender, so I YNAB. I also have over $80k in student loans where he has about $10k. My financial position has improved since moving into our home because my housing expenses are very low. I might be paying about $400... total. This has allowed me to form a realistic plan to become debt-free. I have more income at my disposable each month because I no longer have rent, utilities, or renter's insurance.

This brings me to our MAIN point of contention:

I want to aggressively pay down my debt -AND- contribute to the life that we are building together. 

We do not "share" finances. We are aware of each others financial situations but our expenses do not overlap the way that most couples do. Which leaves me feeling very guilty when I make a huge debt payment & he just paid to have out new house painted. We have 4-bedroom home that needs to be furnished... a kitchen that is going to be renovated this year... a garage that might have a foundation issue... a shutter missing on one of the windows. We need drapes. You can see right in from the sidewalk.

I love our house.

I want to help make it our home.

I want to be debt-free.

I cannot figure out what is more important. I have a hard time deciding if I should throw windfalls at debt or at our home. I knnooowwww that I don't have to rush to get everything done in our house but it is tough to watch him take care of everything(without complaint) while I'm paying down debt, that doesn't really affect him. I'm silly to feel this way, right?

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  • Thanks so much for sharing, because I think this is one of those things in a relationship that comes up a lot, but people don't talk about it much! That is, that there are times where one person might give a little more than the other for a season. It sounds like where you're at right now, and I think it's totally natural. 

    Reading this made me think of a conversation I had with my wife last night as we were talking about our budget. Right now, I'm working on some side work that will pay for replacing the windows and painting the trim in our house. It's going to make this a much more pleasant place to live, but honestly it's really a project that my wife wants. And yet, it's my work that's paying for it. She was feeling like you are now, guilty that I'm working to accomplish a goal that's less important to me. 

    But talking through it, I realized that not only will I benefit from this, but I really benefit from making her happy. Because I love her and our lives our combined, her happiness is my happiness. So I'm happy to work extra for this, not just for selfless reasons but because it will make our lives better, not just hers. 

    So I know it's not the exact situation, and I'm sure you've both talked about your feelings already. But I'd encourage you to talk more about it. You might find he feels the same way. Because if you two are in it for the long haul (and it sounds like you are!), then you getting out of debt really does benefit him too. 

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      • Flexxx P.
      • Friendly Neighborhood Mortgage Underwriter
      • Ivory_Falcon.1
      • 3 yrs ago
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      BenB at YNAB  Thanks Ben! I know that he supports me in my debt-free journey & I am working through my guilty feelings(w/ the help of my therapist) I know that it is a temporary sacrifice that will benefit us both because it will feel so good to be debt-free when we start our family. Thanks again for the kind words.馃槃

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  • Here's my two-cents worth.  Married for 25 years and he's always carried the load as far as expenses, partly because we made a decision early on that I was better suited to take care of the kids and house and yard and he loved his work, alot. I felt guilty if I wanted to spend money on something that he didn't value as much, so I started working part-time when the kids were in school.  I don't always spend the money on myself and the kids. Sometimes I put it towards something he values.  A couple of nice dress shirts for work or a new remote for the TV are much appreciated. 

    Can you cover the cost of the window shutter or the window coverings?  It's more a matter of showing that you appreciate his contributions and you want to be a team. 

  • Thank you so much for posting this!

    I don't have a solid answer but really appreciate this discussion, and will be in a similar situation soon - I'll be leaving my apartment soon to move in with my partner, into the house he's owned for a few years. We have different incomes, different debts, different expenses, and different *priorities* when it comes to spending, and it's been tricky figuring out how to make sure things feel "balanced".

    That's the main thing I think we've realized, that since our current situations are different, we aren't yet ready to co-mingle everything. So rather than trying to make everything *EQUAL* we are trying to figure out how to make things feel *BALANCED* - which I think is the key thing we've figured out so far, that balance is the ultimate goal (even if we haven't totally figured out how to achieve that in practice, yet!) :)

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