I knew from the beginning that taking out student loans would affect my financial stability probably for the rest of my life. That was pretty much a given. However, what I didn’t know was how much the stress of school debt would affect my love life.
I didn’t really have another choice. I don’t regret going to college. Years of fake adulthood, bad decisions, and instant noodles are really what shaped who I am today. Plus, it’s not like school was ever not an option for me. I don’t have many skills outside of academics and my family always pushed toward higher education. However, I grew up in an economic grey area, not poor enough to get financial aid but not nearly rich enough to pay tuition. So, like too many people, I had to opt for loans.
I knew it was going to hold me back.I could never bear the thought of someone else having to deal with the burden of my college education. So here I am years later, stuck in economic limbo for what seems like the rest of my life. My debt is always on my mind: when I’m grocery shopping, when I’m canceling plans to save money, when I’m about to go to sleep… you get the picture.
The worst part is having to tell the person I’m dating about my situation. I feel irresponsible for being in this situation, almost helpless, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. I was only 18 years old and I took out more money in loans that I’ve ever had in my life just to pay off the bare minimum. That’s not exactly something I like to bring up on a first date, but the further a relationship goes, the bigger the debt feels.
Dates can be a financial burden. The beginning is always awkward. When I first start seeing somebody, I just want to go out and get to know the person. It’s fun and it’s new and it’s arguably the best part of dating. But a few hours at a bar turns into a few drinks which turns into spending money I could be spending on food. That’s just not something I can keep doing for weeks on end. Even a simple pizza date feels like too much. Eating out isn’t an option when I’m single, so why is it a necessity when I’m dating?
It’s hard to commit to a future together when you’re in debt. I can’t even afford to buy a dishwasher, let alone think about settling down. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I moved in with this guy, let’s call him Dylan. Dylan began to point out my unhealthy habit of skipping meals in order to save money after a few weeks of sharing a shabby apartment. I’d never really thought about it before. I knew I did it sometimes but I didn’t think I did it enough for someone else to notice. Suddenly even what and when I ate became a two-person decision and it was kind of overwhelming.
One person’s stress becomes two. There’s a point in many long-term relationships where finances merge. Dylan, a well-off business graduate, became more and more distant with every money-saving habit I revealed when we lived together. My eating habits were just the beginning; I also had a very strict weekly budget and insane working hours. Talk about killing the romance. I can’t even remember when getting takeout stopped being a cute date idea and started being an annoying habit of his. Suddenly, it became a fight and my spending habits forced their way into his life whether he wanted them to or not. On the plus side, I had someone else to fall back on for rent every month (not that that helped our relationship much).
Relationships can’t really progress even if I wanted them to.If it doesn’t end in fighting, it ends in a stalemate. As much as it sucks, money can dictate your future. Marriage and kids are hardly an option when you’re $60,000 in the hole—especially when the only way to get out of that particular hole is to dedicate your entire life to work.
It’s almost better when you’re both in debt.It was hard to make things work with Dylan. He spent like he made and I couldn’t keep up, but that wasn’t his fault. It started to feel like I was holding him back. Maybe I was, but I couldn’t let myself keep feeling like that and we split. I’ve been in a few relationships since, all ending because of my hectic work schedule or my excuses to stay in. However, my current relationship has so far been my best. In fact, I feel like we’re completely on the same page about the things that got in the way before. My boyfriend took out some loans to get his degree in Psychology and, because of that, I feel like he really understands some of my harshest realities: takeout can be a burden, Netflix is a privilege, and sobriety isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.
Sometimes I wish there was something I could do about it.I know I made a good decision for my career, but I wish I’d thought about it more, planned it out, even just talked to people in the same situation. It can be a lonely road sometimes, but I know that there are so many people that understand it. It may seem like it makes having a social life (romantic or not) too complicated, but the more you deal with it, the easier it all gets. Trust me, I’m proof.
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