OnePlusOne, the relationship research charity, is launching a Debt and Relationships project, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, which highlights real-life stories in short animations to show the impact of debt on family relationships and the importance of sharing the burden with loved ones. The project aims to help people in relationships to start conversations about money with short, easy-to-watch videos that show how a strong relationship can help to tackle debt problems, while also building resilience to protect families from future unexpected income shocks.  

With the help of debt charities, OnePlusOne made contact with couples in debt. They described their individual debt journeys, covering topics such as losing a job, reduced earnings after parenthood, falling for “cheap” credit and a gambling habit. They all spoke of the stress generated by debt on their lives and impact on their love for each other.    

The UK is often seen as a nation that does not talk about money issues. From the odd lie to a partner about how much a night out costs or hiding new purchases in the back of the wardrobe, to debilitating secret online gambling habits, payday loans and missed mortgage payments. The secrecy is corrosive to relationships and often leads to a deeper financial crisis.

 60% of people who contact debt charities report having problems with their relationships too but do not necessarily seek relationship support for the issue. Debt is also the number one problem area for newly married couples, with 55% of couples including money worries in their top three relationship strains. The Citizens Advice Bureau in England and Wales is dealing with 4,022 debt problems every working day, with debt stress leading to pressure on relationships and breakups creating additional costs of an estimated £790 million.

Penny Mansfield CBE, Director of OnePlusOne, said “The couples whose debt journeys are presented in these videos, explain in their own words, how they got into debt, and, the impact on their relationship. Many relationships flounder under such strain. Getting help from a debt adviser is the first step but as these stories show, facing money issues together is often a way out of debt”. 

Nick Pearson, CEO of The Debt Counsellors Charitable Trust, said “We are delighted to have been able to assist OnePlusOne with their Debt and Relationships project. As a debt advice charity, we see all too often the adverse effects of financial difficulties on our clients’ family relationships. Whilst the Debt Counsellors can help clients find a practical solution to their debt problems, we are all too aware that we don’t have the skills to assist with the strain debt problems place on relationships. We believe that these videos will be a useful tool for our clients in overcoming the challenges debt presents to them and their family.”

David Roger, CEO of Debt Advice Foundation, said “Here at Debt Advice Foundation we fully support the debt and relationships project that OnePlusOne are spearheading. It is very worthwhile. Talking about debt seems like the last taboo, but trying to hide financial difficulties from loved ones only increases the mental strain of the situation. The videos are a fantastic way to start those difficult conversations. Confiding in a partner can be incredibly freeing and may lead to practical solutions.”

Colin Kinloch, debt expert at the Money Advice Service, said: “Our research shows that around 8 mln people in the UK are living with problem debt yet less than 1 in 5 are seeking advice to help their situation. Worryingly, this means that the majority of people with problem debt could be suffering in silence. OnePlusOne’s research clearly shows the impact that this can have on relationships.

We support the debt and relationships project and want to tell people that no matter how big or small you think your money problem is, a debt adviser can help. We found 7 in 10 people said that their relationships with friends and family improved after receiving Money Advice Service funded debt advice.

We hope that this project leads to more people talking about their money worries and that it encourages people to start a conversation about this either with friends and family or a debt adviser”.

James Pirrie, Family Law Solicitor and Partner of Family Law In Partnership, said: “Money issues are a leading reason for separation and divorce, if not the final trigger, then at least a factor in the dissatisfaction. But separation is one of the worst ways of managing a financial problem.  Assets that were barely meeting the needs of one household must meet the costs of two and as many couples don’t talk openly about money, there are often shocks on both sides. Once couples incur additional costs on negotiations, the legal process and the transition, it may take decades to recover … if they ever do.  Much heartache and loss could be saved with programmes to ‘out’ money discussions and work together before it reaches crisis point.”