Can College Debt Affect Your Love Life?

by Laken Howard

If you attended college in the U.S., there's a good chance your post-grad life is marred by hefty student loan payments. No matter how many scholarships and grants are available, it seems almost impossible to graduate without some kind of debt. Making monthly loan payments is a serious downer in and of itself, but new research shows that your debt impacts more than just your brunch fund. Like it or not, your student loan debt can negatively affect your relationships, too.

In a survey of 1,000 adults by IonTuition, an education-focused financial tech company, 75 percent of people said they view student loan debt as relationship "baggage," which isn't altogether surprising. Though combining finances with an S.O. isn't something that usually happens until years into a relationship (or sometimes not until marriage), your own individual debt and that of your partner is still something that you should consider when entering a relationship. If you meet someone great and they're $100,000 in debt with no solid plan to pay it off, that could be a huge red flag, and a deal-breaker for many people. I wouldn't dream of disclosing my debt to someone I've recently met, because I know that it can be a serious turn-off, even if things are just casual for the time being.

According to analysts, the average U.S, college student amasses more than $37,000 in student loan debt, which can take years to pay off. That's not to mention that tons of people have tens of thousands of dollars more debt. In fact, the class of 2015 had more debt than any class in history, which is definitely unpleasant news. Although it's an unfortunate reality for most people in their 20s and 30s, paying your debt and managing finances in a relationship doesn't have to feel impossible.

"When a romantic relationship gets serious, show your partner that you're in control of your debt and explain that you have a debt-payoff plan so they can rest assured that you're on top of it," Priya Malani, founding partner at, tells Bustle. "The end goal of the couple should be to strengthen their financial base as soon as possible so they can move on to planning for the more fun stuff in life, like vacations, buying a new car, renovating the house, and going out and enjoying their money guilt-free."

Here are seven stats from the IonTuition survey about student debt and how it can affect your love life.

1. Is Debt A Bigger Red Flag Than Having Kids?

For some. Twelve percent of survey respondents said that having high levels of student loan debt is more of a deal-breaker than things like being divorced, having children, and even having a record of (non-violent) felonies. Money makes the world go round, but apparently a lack of it can also make relationships stop dead in their tracks.

2. Most People Feel Responsible For Their Partner's Debt

Seventy percent of people said they felt compelled to help their partner pay off their debt, which explains why some people are so reluctant to date people with large loan payments. If you're serious about one another and thinking of combining finances, it's understandable to be wary of taking on your partner's debts. Though you can choose to keep your debts to yourself, those who want to help their partner pay debts might be hesitant to do so if it means years of tight budgets and sacrifices.

3. A Third Of People Would Date A 'Wealthy Benefactor'

When faced with massive loan payments, over a third of people surveyed said they'd date a wealthy benefactor if they would help them pay off their loans. It might sound silly, but college students frequently join sugar daddy sites like Seeking Arrangement to help with expenses, and to help pay off loans post-grad.

4. Half Of People Consider Someone's Loans Before Starting A Relationship

Whether it's student debt, credit card debt, or a huge mortgage or car payment, it's a good idea to have a good idea of what kind of financial situation someone is in before you consider pursuing a relationship with someone. Nearly half of people surveyed said they take someone's student loan situation into consideration before entering a relationship with them. It would be nice to believe love always prevails, but in reality, money is the number one cause of stress in relationships, and it's wise to know what you're getting yourself into and if you're both financially compatible.

5. Some People Believe Going Into Debt For A Low-Paying Profession Is Irresponsible

Apparently 25 percent of people aren't advocates for chasing your dreams at any cost. Over a quarter of people surveyed said that getting yourself into tons of debt for a low-paying career is an irresponsible financial decision. As a journalist, this hits a little too close to home, but it makes sense: Dating someone whose debt will take 10 or more years to pay off is a big decision, compared to someone who, say, will exit medical school and be able to pay their debts in big chunks instead of monthly minimums.

If these numbers get you down, just remember that so many people have some sort of debt, and there are ways to budget so you and your partner don't feel like you're drowning in debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck.

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