5 Ways Love Can Hurt Your Credit Score

Money and love are a strange mix. NerdWallet partnered with OkCupid to study how the dating site’s users answered questions designed to help them find a good match. 

QDT Editor
5-minute read

5 Ways Love Can Ruin Your Credit Score

When it came to “money/wealth” in a relationship, about 36% of OkCupid users said it isn’t important at all. That’s a lot — but 43% said it’s at least somewhat important.

And there’s evidence that a good credit score — which isn’t the same as wealth but is a gauge of financial reliability — makes you a hotter romantic prospect. A 2015 Federal Reserve study found a positive link between credit scores and the likelihood of forming a stable, committed relationship. In addition, people with higher credit scores gravitated toward each other, while a mismatch in credit scores was highly predictive of separations.

Yet the things you do for love can damage your highly attractive balance sheet. Here are some times when a generous impulse could end up hurting your credit score — and what you might want to consider doing instead.

1. You overspend

Trying to impress somebody or feeling an obligation can lead you to put more on a credit card than you can pay off when the bill arrives.

Particularly when you’re talking romance, it’s easy to justify spending. No one wants to look cheap or thoughtless or uncommitted, at least while love is new. It’s Valentine’s Day, it’s his birthday, it’s your three-month anniversary.

This extends beyond romantic partners to family bonds. “People can get themselves in all sorts of trouble in the name of love,” says psychologist Gary Buffone, the author of “Choking on the Silver Spoon: Keeping Your Kids Healthy, Wealthy and Wise in a Land of Plenty.” “One of the most common examples are parents and grandparents who fall prey to the notion that giving things conveys love, when in fact it just ends up conveying things.”

What you can do instead: Consider the would-be recipient. If it’s a child, you can model the behavior you hope he or she will someday adopt. Buffone says kids are often quicker than adults to understand that love is shown by involvement rather than spending.

If the person you want to impress is an adult, be sure you can truly afford what you’re thinking of spending. Candlelight dinners come in a variety of price ranges — and not every date has to be dinner (Everyday Cheapskate offers several ideas for budget-friendly dates).

2. You take the financial reins

We know you mean well. Maybe you’re good with money and your partner never has been. It can seem logical to do the jobs you’re good at; say one person is a great cook and the other is comfortable fixing plumbing leaks. But money and credit are different.

Money can represent control, and in a romantic relationship it’s unhealthy for one person to be in charge. And if the person you love is your adult child, taking care of money for them instead of with them indicates you don’t think he or she is capable.

What you can do instead: Financial therapist Amanda Clayman suggests examining your motivation. “Nurturing is good up until a point; then it becomes enabling,” she says. She suggests thinking through the possible consequences, such as someone remaining financially dependent, before you decide how to help.