Being in a relationship with someone that has debts can be difficult. However, while you are not married, their debts are just their responsibility. However, if you marry them, then that responsibility will be your joint responsibility and this means that you could legally be liable for their debt as well. It could even have an impact on your credit record.
Obviously when you make a decision to marry someone it is not usually based on finance. You will choose someone to marry that you want to spend the rest of your life with and that you are in love with. You will not be so likely to consider factors such as whether they have debts and you may not even know.
It is worth noting that many marriages break down due to financial difficulties. It is not necessarily going to be the case that this will happen just because one partner has debts but it could make it more likely. If both partners have no debt and lots of savings then it is less likely that they would fall out over money than if there is an inequality and one has debt and the other one doesn’t.
The main problem is probably when one person tries to make the other change. They may want to help them get out of debt, trying to get them to spend less and earn more and repay their debt. They may even decide to pay back some of their debt themselves. This can be okay, if the person is prepared to change and stays debt free. Problems happen though if the debt is paid off and then they get more debt. Sometimes it is even done secretly and when this is found out it can lead to huge problems.
It is worth noting that if you have joint accounts, then you will be individually liable for them. So if that account goes into debt then you will both be held responsible and this will have an impact on both of your credit records. Even if you have a joint account that never goes into debt, the fact that you have an account with someone that has lots of debt could still impact your credit record. You may even be expected to repay debt that is not yours if it is associated with you. So if there is an overdraft in a joint account, you will be expected to repay it even if you did not spend the money, because the account is in joint names. The bank will not care that it was not you that spent the money, they will just want it back.
Marrying someone with debt could be a bad influence on you. It could mean that they get you to start borrowing money as well. This could lead to both of you having a lot of debt which could be a huge problem in the future. Trying to repay two lots of debts could be extremely difficult and it could lead to so much stress that your relationship may not survive it.
Obviously turning down a marriage proposal due to someone having debts does seem rather low. However, it is worth thinking hard about what things might be like in the future. Talk about the debt before you marry and explain how you feel about it. Find out if they intend to pay it back and get an idea of their attitude towards money.
It is wise to remember that some debts are not bad. If the person has a mortgage, student loan or something like this then there is a clear reason for their debt and they could be gaining substantially form their borrowing. However, if they have several unpaid credit cards, an overdraft and other personal loans then this could be a lot more of a problem. It is worth thinking about whether this is the sort of debt that you would want to take on and whether you want a relationship that has this debt. You need to think about whether you feel that the debt will get to you over the years and whether it could be a cause of you falling out with each other or whether it will cause you a lot of stress.