She Doesn't Want To Be "Beholden"

Mike is recently married, and his wife has a $48,000 student loan. His wife isn’t comfortable with him cashing out his stock to pay off the loan and wants to pay it off herself.

QUESTION: Mike in Los Angeles is recently married, and his wife has a $48,000 student loan. He has some savings, but his wife isn’t comfortable with him cashing out his stock to pay off the loan. She wants to pay it off herself. Dave suggests asking her why she doesn’t want to combine their debts and pay it off.

ANSWER: Let me just first say that all things being equal, when you walked up and the preacher said, “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,” and you get married, you’re now willing to take a bullet for her or you shouldn’t have married her, and you write a check and pay off her debt. Why does she feel the need to not participate in that agreement that you made in front of the preacher? What’s driving her need to tote her own water when she now has a partner in life that has you toting water together?

She makes less. You had more when you got married. You’re older. And you make more. She feels beholden. It’s an easy formula. You had some wealth prior to being married, and all she brought to the marriage was debt. She doesn’t want to “take advantage of you.” That’s admirable on her part. It’s not the recipe for the best kind of marriage in my mind.

You’ve been married a couple of months. You should have—in pre-marriage counseling—dug into those types of issues ahead of time, and then you would have had a plan, and she’d be able to release this false sense of personal responsibility versus couple responsibility. Now you’re just going to have to work through it. The longer you’ve been married, the easier it will be for her to accept this idea.

I don’t want to cram that down her throat and have that affect your relationship going forward. I want her to get buy-in before you write the check to pay the student loan off. The instant she has buy-in, I’m writing a check.