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I Couldn’t Pay My Debt On My Own — And That’s Okay

Published:
February 29, 2024
February 26, 2024
Read this article to learn how accepting help in marriage and debt can actually bring couples together and teach a valuable lesson.

Independence is held up as one of the most important values in Western culture. We are all used to seeing movies, shows, books, and social media content that highlight the “do it yourself” mentality as the end all be all. Coming from a family where entrepreneurship was held up as the ideal, as a teenager I internalized that being financially, socially, and emotionally independent should be my priority. I worked in high school, paid my way through university by taking on student loans, and took pride in my ability to take care of myself.

I am sure many can relate to the feeling of wanting to be independent, especially financially. In a day and age where the cost of living is high, and many of us have either personally accrued debt or know people struggling to make ends meet, it can be difficult to balance being realistic with our desire for financial independence. 

When I first looked at attending university, I was worried that by taking student loans, I would be creating a burden that my future self would have to carry. What if I wanted to get married, have kids, or buy a house? Was I setting myself up for a life of financial stress? I knew that, even with the help of scholarships and income from working part-time, there was no possible way for me to pay for my program out of pocket. 

Even so, in my university years, I tried to be as thrifty as I could, saving money by picking up extra work shifts during reading week, making my own food instead of being on the meal plan, and carpooling when I could. There’s always a way to cut down on expenses, especially if you have a goal in mind. These helped me keep my loan amounts down, but the bulk of my living and tuition costs were still covered by student aid loans. 

In my final year of university, I started dating a wonderful man. He had been able to complete his university degree with no student debt, and honestly, I don’t think we talked about finances much in our first year of being together. But as things started getting more serious, we found ourselves dreaming about the future. 

With dreams came talk of money. I was very set on paying off my own debt, holding on tight to my ideal of being an independent woman. We got engaged right after I graduated and I began working in a full-time job. I was uneasy about starting our married life with debt, but I also didn’t want to put off the wedding until all of my student debt was paid off. I found myself facing a dilemma. 

It’s not easy to be vulnerable, even with our significant others, but I swallowed my pride and brought up how I was feeling to my future husband. It turns out, he had a different perspective than me on debt and finances, one that was more collaborative than what I was used to growing up. Even though my debt was accrued before our marriage, he felt that when we got married, everything we had would belong to both of us — this included debt.  

Despite his reassuring words, it took time for me to accept and adjust to his approach. It went against everything I had worked towards, the independence I had been conditioned to build up over the years. But I slowly let go of my strongly held ideas and chose to trust that it was alright for me to simply receive what my soon-to-be husband had brought forward. His willingness to shoulder the responsibility of my debt was just one more green light in choosing to share my life with him. 

“Each of us has the opportunity to either view dependence as a source of worry and stress or be grateful for the gifts we are given.”

A couple of years after we got married, I made the shift into being a stay-at-home mother to our son, which required another level of surrendering my financial independence. I would no longer be bringing in any income. It was important for me to face the worries that came with that transition: would I be a burden to my husband? Would my financial needs be met if I didn’t have money that was strictly my own? 

These anxieties pointed to my lingering belief that depending on someone else, especially financially, was wrong, selfish, a sign of failure. We’re told that we should strive for independence, and that success looks like taking care of our needs with our own money and abilities.

But successfully raising a family involves more than meeting financial needs. And I realized that what I contributed — spending my days taking care of our son — was no less valuable than what my husband contributed. In this way, we depended on each other to support our family. I’ve come to learn that although it is difficult, being dependent on others isn’t a bad thing. In many ways, leaning on others is good for us. It requires trust, collaboration, and a willingness to be humble and acknowledge our need for help. It encourages growth in relationships and helps communities thrive. For me, it’s also a reminder of my true nature as a human. I can’t control everything. I wasn’t meant to live my life as an island. My reliance on God and others is what makes me human. 

Each of us has the opportunity to either view dependence as a source of worry and stress or be grateful for the gifts we are given. When it comes to debt, financial or otherwise, we need to learn when to tackle it ourselves, and when to let go of control and let someone else help us. 

So if you are looking ahead to the future, and are unsure how to navigate financial responsibilities and dreams of getting married, having children, or buying a house, remember that you do not have to prove yourself by being independent. Accept help. Trust others with your well-being, and invite them to trust you in return. You will be surprised at how the goodness and generosity of others can help you overcome your hesitations — and remind you of the beauty of leaning on others.

Creators:
Hannah Chartier
Published:
February 29, 2024
February 26, 2024
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