debt-marriage-therapists-counselingIt is a known fact that money (i.e. shortage and surplus) can significantly affect a marriage. This is especially true when the couple faces substantial marital debt. Not having enough money to adequately support your family can wreak havoc on both your emotional and physical health and well-being. In some cases, the debt can draw you closer together as a couple, but in other cases it can break you down and tear you apart. Men tend to experience the highest levels of emotional distress. Why? Well, men often feel that it is their responsibility to financially take care of the family. When a man loses a job, becomes ill or disabled and/or cannot fulfill all of his financial obligations, it causes him to experience an overwhelming amount of stress. High stress levels can cause your body to break down, leading to psychological and emotional problems (i.e. depression, anxiety, phobias, confusion, irritability, mood swings, etc.).

Emotionally, it is important for you be able to provide for your family, plan for your future and save money for vacations, emergencies, special occasions and college funds. When there is a good amount of debt in the marriage, it limits your opportunities to move up in the world and enjoy all life has to offer. It is important to note that money basically controls your life. In other words, it controls where you live, what you can purchase and what social class you are placed in. Marital debt stems from a variety of sources such as: pre-marital, individual debt and post-marital debt. It is not unusual for both individuals to enter into a marriage with individual debt. Many times that debt doubles or triples when the individual debts are combined. In addition, circumstances can change in a blink of the eye.

For instance, you may lose your job, become pregnant, get sick or become disabled, experience a pay decrease, etc. that can cause your marital debt to skyrocket. You cannot control these factors – they are out of your control. It is important to point out that some money issues are self-inflicted. In other words, poor budgeting, a refusal to work and excess spending can also cause marital debt. Regardless of the cause, marital debt can place tremendous pressure on a marriage and cause unsettling emotional reactions, especially if you feel overwhelmed and stressed by mounting debt.

If you are wondering what the emotional effects of marital debt are – you have come to the right place. This post will help you understand how debt emotionally affects a marriage.

• Denial

It is not uncommon to experience denial when your marital debt is overwhelming. In some cases, you may try to hide the bills from your spouse out of fear of his/her reaction. In other cases, you may hide the bills and neglect financial responsibilities because you just don’t know what else to do. In severe cases, you and/or your spouse may continue to spend to cover up the true state of your financial affairs from friends, co-workers and family members. Moreover, you may ignore the debt until you have no other recourse, but to deal with your money issues such as: creditors calling, notice of foreclosure, denial of credit, bounced checks, legal actions, etc. Once outside forces enter the situation, you can no longer deny that you are in debt, which can cause both fear and relief.

• Anger

Debt, regardless of whether it is marital or individual, can make you angry. You may be angry at yourself for allowing yourself and your family to be put in that situation and/or you may be angry at your spouse for overspending. You may even be angry at the company that you work for because it has not given you a raise in years, although the cost-of-living has steadily increased each year. If you have a large amount of credit card debit, you may become angry at your creditors for charging ridiculously high interest rates. You may also start to resent your spouse and children for placing such pressure on you to provide. The resentment and frustration can turn into anger and rage towards your loved ones. The stress and anger of not having enough money to get out debt can spur some into participating in illegal activities and committing crimes as a way to reduce the debt. It can also destroy your marriage and lead to divorce.

• Tension & Stress

While some people are in denial of their marital debt, others constantly fret over the escalating money issues. In other words, they experience extreme tension and stress that affects their physical and emotional health and well-being. For instance, if you have a lot of marital debt, you and/or spouse may experience insomnia, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, headaches/migraines, depression, anxiety, etc.

You may be unable to fall asleep because your mind is constantly trying to find a way out of the debt. You may also lose your appetite and experience severe fatigue. Over time the tension and stress will interfere with your ability to be productive at work and/or home. It can also cause some to seek out illegal drugs and alcohol to help soothe their worries.

• Clinical Depression

Chronic stress and marital debt can cause you to sink into clinical depression. This is especially true if you cannot seem to find a way out of the debt. If the marital debt continues too long it can cause you to feel hopeless and helpless. It can also cause you to “give up” on your debt, yourself and your marriage. Clinical depression is a state of despair that cannot be resolved without help from a mental health professional (i.e. counselor, psychologist, psychotherapist and/or psychiatrist). If you are clinically depressed, you may find it impossible to get out of bed and take care of your responsibilities. You may also experience a sharp decline in appetite and energy.

Most of all you may be exceptionally emotional (i.e. weepy, angry, irritable, sad, anxious, etc.). In some cases, some people may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to “forget” their defeats and failures. The problem with self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is that the debt is still there once the effects wear off. In severe cases, long-term marital debt and depression can lead to suicidal ideation and attempts.

Staff Writer:
Dr. R. Y. Langham

References: (2014). The emotional effects of debt. Retrieved from
Foster, J. B. (2006). The household debt bubble. Monthly Review, 58(1). Retrieved from