Once upon a time my debt didn’t consume me. I hung around other people in debt, and I was young and foolish enough to think I can put a stop to my spending addicition whenever I really decided to put the brakes on it. Those were happier times. Ignorance truly can be bliss.
When I finally woke up and started to realize that I was way in over my head, I became terrified at what I got myself into. My big revelation and then obsession with beating my spending addiction and getting out from the mountain of debt I’ve accumulated happened about a year into dating my boyfriend (we’ve been together 3 years). There was definitely a shift in my personality as I went from the happy-go-lucky girl that wanted to squeeze the joy and life out of each day (even if it cost me a fortune I didn’t have) to having an emotional load almost bigger than my debt itself be placed squarely on my shoulders. The emotional cost of debt is real, and it could knocks the happy right out of you.
From my revelation onwards, I know I haven’t been the same person to live with. My debt has made me depressed, worsened my insomnia, and has made me constantly stressed, fatigued, scared, and anxious. To add insult to injury, relapsing into having a bad spend day (or bad spend week….or sometimes bad spend month) just exacerbates those feelings to an extreme degree, with an added heap of guilt, regret, and shame to top it off. Overall, my debt has put me in a bad place. Living with my boyfriend means he’s the unfortunate roomate of that bad place that I seem to be permanently residing in.
So why this post now, a day after Valentine’s Day? I’m not trying to be contrary as I’m sure the topic of eschewing the spendiness of V-Day has been exhausted by this point. The day just brought forth everything that was bubbling underneath the surface when I told my bf I won’t be home for dinner because I got selected for a focus group and I simply couldn’t say no to the easy money. Causing disppointment was heartbreak enough, but it also got me thinking how I didn’t care for any possible romance because all I could think about was being able to put something extra on my debt. I don’t know if anyone else experiences this, but it’s hard (and sometimes downright impossible) to feel romantic or sexy when you’re stressed the heck out about your gargantuan debt. And the lack of feeling romantic isn’t the only way my debt is making me suck at being a girlfriend.
For those in debt (and are bothered about it), you may be familiar with the constant sinking feeling in your stomach that accompanies it. Now imagine coming home after spending that hour-long commute thinking of your massive debt to someone that wants to greet you enthusiastically and talk about how wonderful their day was. Well my day wasn’t wonderful and I feel ill that I owe what feels like never-ending debt. Now imagine what the response to a simple “how was your day?” would go after an episode of crying inconsolably because your monthly interest rolled in and added hundreds of dollars to your debt load. Those crying spells and mood swings get worse when you barely sleep at night because the stress of what you owe keeps you awake night after night until you’re totally frazzled and have the mental capacity of a zombie. Zombies? They don’t make good girlfriends. Especially the sobbing, stressed-out ones.
There’s also the time I spend not being present in our relationship because of being glued to my cell phone or laptop screen, endlessly filling up online shopping carts at my favourite stores and then agonizing over clicking that X at the top right corner while my brain shouts “wait! Maybe you can buy just the dress. Just the dress!!” and then the monstrous willpower needed to just say no. I haven’t spent money on clothes or other indulgences since the end of 2016 but I think I spend even more time lately filling those imaginary shopping carts with the things I want to buy. This happens night after night while my boyfriend looks over at me, disappointed, saying “can’t you just be with me?” I usually make up some excuse how we’re just watching Netflix anyways, what’s it matter if I’m also looking at my phone or laptop screen? But I get it, he’s right. I’m not here. I’m buried in my addiction, which has led me to be buried in my debt. My body is here but my mind simply isn’t.
When I’m not obsessing over things I would’ve liked to spend on, I’m obsessing over my bank balances. I find since being in debt I check my balances often, as if I suddenly won’t be over 60k in the hole between the couple of hours since I checked my balance last. Let me note I’m not talking about checking investments and market performance (frequent checking would be justified); this is staring at the numbers and amounts I owe to my bank, as if the figures are some sort of totem or icon that might evoke some sort of inspiration by the act of looking upon them. Maybe it comes from a secret hope that some bizarre circumstance outside of reason will produce a change. Maybe it’s just to wallow in the guilt I know I deserve for getting into this mess. Either way, I’m not present and contributing to my relationship when I’m lost in that rabbit hole. I’m there but not there, much to my partner’s chagrin.
I’d say what really gets to my overly-understanding boyfriend is not my irritability or depression over my money – he really does do his best to empathize – but the poverty mentality I can’t shake when I’m deep in my debt depression. As an owner of a small business, he relies on keeping a positive outlook and faith in the fruits of his labour to keep his business growing successfully. He’s a sole entrepreneur and he’s linked his success in business to keeping his headspace positive and his energy and motivation high. Living with someone who’s truly depressed about money and their general lack drags him down to a place he doesn’t want to be. I know when he tries to dream-build with me by mentioning something we’d like one day (a house, a rental property, a wedding) and I moan over how it’ll take over ten years to even scrape the surface of getting there, that I completely deflate the air out of him. It’s not fun having a partner that can’t see out of their predicament to see what positive things may lay in their horizon. I feel I can’t even think of my “dream” assets when I can barely see the light at the end of my debt tunnel. A beautiful part of any relationship is looking towards the future together and I can’t see past my credit card balances.
Overall, debt is not sexy. It’s not emotionally supportive, either. It’s given me yet another reason to slay the debt monster quickly, so I can get back to being a supportive, happy, emotionally stable, and present partner that I know my boyfriend – and anyone else I’ve willingly made an emotional commitment to – deserves.
Has anyone else experienced debt hampering their relationship(s)?