This is a guest blog written by Robin Hamilton, who is an Advice NI Helpline Debt Adviser.
Money and relationships are more intertwined than most of us think. As a debt adviser, I see it every day.
Problems and issues around money and debt can cause a lot of stress for a couple and strain their relationship. What’s more, relationships that may be experiencing problems in other areas can actually create more money worries.
I see a lot of situations where debt has created secrecy in relationships, and one partner can feel like they have let the other down. Unfortunately, this has made clients feel like they were on their own before contacting Advice NI’s debt advice service.
It’s 2022, and times are more challenging than ever with increasing costs squeezing our incomes. The stigma around debt still exists, but it shouldn’t. The vast majority of us have credit, some don’t even know they have it. Many people are a single life event away from financial difficulty. Whether it’s an unexpected illness, a redundancy, or a family emergency, debt problems can creep up on us when we least expect them.
Often the worry about how a partner (or family member) may react is far removed from reality. Some clients have reported feeling a great weight lift from their shoulders after that ‘difficult chat’. Though, I do appreciate it’s not for everyone.
In the ideal world, we would all have healthy relationships and a strong support network. That’s not the case for everyone. It can be hard to know where to turn when times get hard and the pressure on your household finances grows.
My clients’ circumstances and situations at home can vary drastically. Not all relationships are perfect, but it’s a problem if a relationship starts to stray into the unhealthy category (controlling, dishonest, abusive etc.). This can lead to increased money worries and a greater immediate need to seek debt advice. In my experience, the sooner someone comes for debt advice the more options they have available to them.
In my day-to-day advice work, there are times that I discover domestic or economic abuse has occurred. I am able to work with a host of referral partners to ensure my client gets the emotional support they need. In some cases where I have unearthed fraud or coercion, I have been able to call into question the validity of the financial agreement and/or the client’s liability. In these cases, I have helped clients get several debts written off.
Unhealthy relationships can take their toll on our mental health. Mental health problems can impact our ability to think clearly and make informed decisions. If a client presents with a mental health problem, I will make referrals to relevant mental health charities for further support. This often helps the client and adviser find a solution more quickly.
Having money worries can make people feel very lonely, however you should know that you do not have to face it alone. Many of the people who use our debt service have suffered for over two years trying to deal with it themselves. Often when people use our debt advice service, they will feel a huge sense of relief as they have been able to openly talk about their money worries, sometimes this will be the first time they have been able to do this. As a debt adviser, I am able to work through the financial situation and offer solutions. Helping someone deal with their debt, seeing their burden being lifted, and working towards becoming debt free gives me great satisfaction, it is why I do my job.
I would encourage anyone who is worried about debt to come to our service. I have heard it all before, I will not judge anyone. I do have to ask questions that may be uncomfortable but this is only to understand the situation fully, so I know how to advise you. The best about it all is the service is completely free.
To find a debt advice centre in your area, just visit adviceni.net/money-debt/debt/local-debt-advice. Access our website’s Money Talks for downloadable self-help guides and tools https://www.adviceni.net/money-debt/money-talks-help-guides and cost of living information https://www.adviceni.net/cost-of-living.
Relationship Counselling may also be an effective intervention where debt and financial issues are starting to impact on your romantic or family relationships.
For more tips & advice to Relieve the Pressure on your relationships this Winter, click the image below!
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