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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Marital Debt Should Not Convey

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I entered my current relationship with plenty of debt – both literal and figurative. When Brock and I first started dating, I was seriously limited by the financial repercussions of the divorce and was still hamstrung by the emotional fallout. It was impossible for those encumbrances to have no effect on my new relationship: I wasn’t able to contribute as much money towards dates and activities as I would have liked and I was still working through the impact of betrayal and abandonment.

Even though it impacted him, at no point did either one of us assign him the liability for the outstanding tab.

Because marital debt should not convey.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

On the money front, it has been difficult at times when Brock and I have different financial standpoints. Until just two months ago, almost a fifth of every one of my paychecks went to my ex’s debt. And that was on top of everything I had already paid (literally a third of my pre-tax income in the last five years). I would get frustrated sometimes, not that Brock had more leeway with money, but that I was still so limited.

There were times those frustrations would come out, my anger towards my ex mixing with my irritation at not being able to afford something I needed with a dash of fear about my financial future. And he’s always been awesome – giving me money to buy clothes last winter, never making me feel guilty about not paying my full share on trips or dinners (or being able to cosign on the house) and always letting me know that he has my back.

But the reality is that the martial debt was mine to pay. My burden. My responsibility. And now, it’s my job to work to build up my savings and my credit.

Because marital debt should not convey.

In some ways, the financial debt is easier to work with. It’s clear what it is and where it comes from. Whereas the emotional encumbrance? Yeah, not so easy to catch.

I was really careful with one area of emotional debt. I knew I was sensitive to infidelity and lies. It would have been very easy for me to enter in to a new relationship and punish my new partner for the sins of the old – questioning every phone call, peeking at every text, growing suspicious at every night away for business. But all that is going to do is drive away the new partner. My sensitivities and insecurities were my problem to address. Not his.

Other debts were not so clear. I can easily (over)respond because some past situation is triggered. Don’t believe me? Read this. It’s embarrassing to me now after this has been the outcome. At times like those, I have a more difficult time not shifting the debt; I’m flooded and scared and the line between past and present sometimes becomes blurry.

And in those moments, Brock can definitely help. He helps me feel safe while also letting me know that I’m not being fair to him. He can help me heal but ultimately, the work is mine to do.

Because marital debt should not convey.

If you start a new relationship burdened by the debris of the old, you are weighing it down before it ever has a chance to grow. Instead of placing the weight of your former marriage on the shoulders of your new partner, do the work yourself of breaking through the burden until it no longer has to be shouldered by anyone.

Because marital debt should not convey.

Unless of course, you want a repeat of the end of the first marriage.



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7 thoughts on “Marital Debt Should Not Convey

  1. The financial debt I totally understand..been there done that twice…. I have never in my life looked at a relationship and tried to compare it to a previous one.But somehow the end result is the same.

    1. I think it’s so often subconscious. We carry the anxieties and disappointments of our old relationships. We may resent or fear old patterns or responses. It’s easy to blame/hold responsible the new person when the issue is really with the old. And with yourself.

  2. Awesome post. Broken hearts lead to broken starts. We have to be healed and not carry that “emotional debt” with us. Thanks for sharing such words of wisdom.

  3. as always you speak my language and to my heart. I too am very much struggling with the finical ruin my divorce is creating and wondering how to move forward gracefully and not be overwhelmed by fear and anger.

    1. I am just now able to feel hopeful about my financial future as my credit inches back up. I still find it the hardest part to be okay with. Hang in there!

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