Debt Will Kill Your Sex Life

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Debt will kill your sex life.  No kidding, no joke, and no screwing around here -— pardon the pun -— it really, really will.  If you’re in an intimate relationship with another human being with whom you have regular or committed contact, debt is going to take a toll, and that toll is going to make you pay exactly where you don’t want to -— in the bedroom.


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Credit Image: Luisus Rasilvi on Flickr


You’re probably thinking, What in the world does debt have to do with my sex life?  You figure finances are finances, and intimacy is intimacy, and nary the twain shall meet.  In fact, many of us probably think that sex relieves the stress of debt.  But, nope, even though that’s a nice thought -— not so much, as it turns out.  Sex, by itself, can’t even remotely manage the burden of relieving the stress we’re adding to each month by running up our credit cards.

God knows we’re all aware by now that the stresses of our lives can affect us between the sheets.  But debt has a special purvey in intimate relationships -— and it lives in the arenas of power, control, freedom, and our future. 

We understand easily enough that money is connected to power, and for those of us who debt, it’s a short hop to understanding that we use credit to feel more powerful in our financial lives.  And we certainly do this as couples.  “Keeping up with the Joneses’ ” was a phrase invented for the debting couple.  We want to feel the power of earning and buying, so we debt, thinking that buying on credit will give us that boost.

We also debt to manufacture a feeling of control over what we want and how we want to live.  The kicker is, of course, that our growing balances make us feel out of control in the extreme, and so we often debt even more, creating a viscous, addictive cycle.  When this happens we turn the micro-managing magnifying glass to our partner’s spending habits, avoiding that self-searching gaze into our own.

Once our balances are pressing on us, we start living in stress -— a low-level panic that grows like The Blob, and infects all areas of our thoughts, feelings, and life-views.  Our sense of freedom goes out the window.  We’re trapped in a job we can’t leave because of our debt, and we’re angry at our partner because of it.  We’re boxed into our earning role in our relationship because we have to pay our minimums.  We overlook and pass on the choices we should be making for our well being and our family’s health because we’re torqued and squeezed into a financial vise.

When our sense of freedom and choice is stripped from us, our sense of future gets sucked out of us.  We have no hope.  We can’t see our way out of the tunnel.  We’re stuck in a nightmare of sameness, in a how-can-we-ever-turn-this-around feeling that only breeds depression.  Then we turn that energy -— you guessed it -— on our partner.

So, multiply that energy times two -— that’s you in a committed relationship, looking over at your partner.  Both of you are debting.  Both of you have your heads in the sand about your finances.  Both of you are adding to your credit balances, spending without clarity for everything from groceries, to dry cleaning, to shoes, to airline tickets, to the kids’ summer camp fees.  And both of you are angry. 

You feel stress about it.  Your partner feels stress about it.  If you’ve been keeping the balls in the air for a long time, moving credit dollars from one place to another to pay the next pressing credit card bill, then any other surprising event that comes along -— like a recession or a job loss or your car breaking down -— is going to rock the two of you terribly.

Now, with all of that on the table, try to be intimate.  Try to come to your partner with the freedom of love and choosing to be with him or her, of feeling light and sensual and delighted in each other.  It’s almost impossible.  What’s more likely is that we’ll feel stuck and prickly with our partner and our situation, and we will not be drawn openly into our partner’s arms. 

Then try letting your head go -— with all of that swirling and worry over debt in there -— to just be present with your partner intimately.  If you’re blaming each other for your messed up, pressure-cooker finances, then letting go is going to be crazily impossible, too.   What will probably happen is that we’ll try to be intimate, but we won’t be able to shut off our spinning, chattering brain long enough to feel safe, happy or content, or long enough to be really, truly, intimate.

That’s how debt kills our sex lives.  And it won’t get better just by talking about it.  Talking about it will help—it acknowledges the elephant in the room—finally—and that’s imperative, but it’s changing our behavior that’s going to make a genuine difference.  

So what’s a debting couple to do?  What’s feasible given that finances are tanking and it’s affecting the very bond that keeps the two of you together?

Get a Debt-Free Spending Plan.  Learning to live within your means—together—will be the most powerful thing you ever do to keep your marriage or partnership strong, loving, openhearted and free. 

My husband and I lived in debt for years.  Our relationship fell apart, and we didn’t come back together until we learned how to get rid of the credit cards.  The laundry list of bad choices I made in the early years of our relationship to keep the debt-train rolling cost me a decade-and-a-half of grief.  My choices were terrible.  I was miserable, he was miserable, and you’d better believe it affected our sex life.  Resentment was a regular, dividing force in our bed.

But today, because we live with a clear and debt-free spending plan, resentment is gone.  We have no money drama.  We have money choices, but we have no drama about it.  We have no pressure cooker that infects our bed and our ability to reach out to each other openly.

Instead, we have an open, discovering, fun, accessible intimate life, and a sane, easy-to-manage, thoughtful, generous money life.  We still don’t have a lot of cash.  What we do have now, though, is clarity.  Which means there’s no unresolved or unspoken angst about our lifestyle stinking up our bedroom.  There’s just easy access to the love we chose each other for.

Debt-free brings all of the intimate joys that living with a partner should bring.  Once we find the equilibrium of no new debt, we relax.  When we’re living together on our cash, our hearts and minds are filled with the love they were intended for.  And without that nasty debt-elephant in the hallway, blocking our path to each other, it’s a very short swoon into the bedroom. 

JoAnneh Nagler, Author

The Debt-Free Spending Plan:  An Amazingly Simple Way to Take Control of Your Finances Once and For All (Amacom Books, New York).  On,, and bookstores now.


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