When Your Significant Other Shatters Your Credit Score
You trusted your significant other with everything: your deepest fears, your dearest dreams, your truest self… but maybe you should’ve drawn the line at your credit. While significant others can be a great source of comfort and affirmation, they also hold the power to ruin your finances for years to come, long after you’ve deleted their number from your phone. If your significant other has put you in this position — or rather, your ex has put you in this position — there are ways to repair your credit and get your life back on track.
Did They Ruin Your Credit Deliberately?
While the credit reporting companies might not be able to tell the difference, it certainly should matter to you. There’s ultimately two scenarios here, and how you move forward depends on which one you think happened.
In situation one, your significant other just doesn’t have the best financial habits. This can be especially difficult if you’re married. While you don’t have a “joint” credit score, both of your credit scores will be used to determine your eligibility for loans. Not to mention, your bank account is probably suffering from continuously withdrawing amounts to pay for your spouse’s debts and expenses. However, many people who are not married have the same issue of constantly paying for their significant other’s purchases. Additionally, if you pay bills together or share a credit card, any late payments will be reflected in both your credit scores.
In situation two, your significant other has knowingly damaged your credit score. This sort of behavior rises to the level of financial abuse or even identity theft. This level of betrayal should never be forgotten; you should never trust someone with your money who has abused that privilege.
How Do You Reverse Bad Credit?
If your significant other is just financially illiterate, consider getting them to change their habits. Obviously, this sounds easier than it is, but it’s also essential if you plan on moving forward in your relationship with your credit and your finances intact. Making major purchases or taking out loans together probably isn’t going to go well until you set a more stable baseline, and know you are on the same page when it comes to paying off debt and sticking to a budget.
Repairing your credit after your significant other knowingly destroys it, however, is a more difficult task. By virtue of being your significant other, they had access to plenty of important information. They might know your credit card number, the security code, your PIN, even your social security number. So before you can work on making the situation better, you need to prevent it from getting worse.
Request a credit freeze to all the major credit bureaus, so that your significant other cannot open more accounts in your name. Additionally, request new cards and account numbers from your bank. You need to prevent this person from using any of the information that they had previously to their advantage. This includes all of your financial information, as well as your kids’. You might think that your significant other wouldn’t stoop that low, but fathers and mothers have been known to ruin their children’s credit before. It doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.
Unfortunately, just because your significant other’s actions qualify as financial abuse, that doesn’t meant that you aren’t liable for the debt. If it rises to the level of identity theft or fraud, then you can untie yourself from any financial obligations by filing a report with the police and the major credit bureaus. This will also improve your credit score. However, if you co-signed a loan together, you are still technically responsible. Removing yourself from such an obligation will be extremely difficult, especially if your significant other does not have good credit of their own.
Knowing the differences between debt you are obligated to pay and debt you can possibly have forgiven can be difficult, especially if you aren’t familiar with financial lingo. There are some businesses that specialize in credit repair, and they will be able to handle your unique relationship issues, ranging from irresponsibility to outright theft. Your entire lives have been intertwined for some time, and unraveling your finances might require professional expertise.
Fixing your credit is one step toward putting your this experience behind you. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not to ditch your significant other for greener pastures, but messing with something as important as your credit score should be a pretty clear red flag. Regardless, even if you decide to take risks with love, you should be cautious when it comes to your credit score. A bad score can be harder to walk away from than the relationship itself.
Trying to rebuild your credit score? You can find more guides at our credit resource center.
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Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.
This post was updated December 14, 2017. It was originally published August 8, 2017.