"My Student Loan Made My Boyfriend Leave Me": Debt Ruining Relationships, Delaying Marriages

We already know that student debt is weighing young (and not-so-young) people down, delaying economic recovery as it keeps consumer spending low and the housing market slow. But today, NPR's All Things Considered took a look at the impact of big student loan bills on another important part of life: love, relationships, and marriage. 


Rachel Bingham, an art teacher in Portland, Maine, learned this a few years back, when a guy broke it off after four months of a budding relationship. Among other reasons, he cited her $80,000 in student loan debt.

"He said it scared him," she recalls, "that it really made him anxious. And he just did not want to take on my responsibility."

That made Bingham angry because she had never asked for his help. She says she has been very responsible, diligently making her loan payments.

"I was really floored at the time, because I just didn't consider that as a reason for someone to not be with someone else," she says. "I felt it was very shallow."

Bingham, NPR said, is far from the only person suffering this particular problem because of her debt. When they asked informally on Facebook, couples reported avoiding legal marriage to keep one partner from becoming responsible for the other's loan bill. And Bill Driscoll, a financial planner, tells NPR, "It's causing uncertainty and tension because it's an impediment to them moving forward on a lot of fronts."

With a trillion-dollar bubble of debt increasingly constricting the choices that an entire generation of graduates can make, one would think it wouldn't actually be so hard to find another debtor to date, or at least some sympathy. But it's also sort of understandable that those who've avoided the debt trap wouldn't want to wind up responsible for another person's tuition. 

Still, this story speaks to the fact that despite the common nature of student loans, there's still stigma attached to debt, and even to student debt, which is usually considered the "good" kind. To solve the problem, it's going to take some honest conversation about where the fault lies when graduates are carrying unmanageable levels of debt--it's time to stop blaming the borrowers. 

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at July 16, 2012, 12:02pm

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