Help! My Friend Won’t Tell Her Fiancé She’s in $250,000 of Debt.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 19 2014 6:00 AM

A Real Ball and Chain

A woman who won’t tell her fiancé she’s $250,000 in debt—and other wedding-season quandaries.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online here on Slate to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Dear Prudie,
My good friend has found her mate after several failed relationships and is desperate to be married and start her family (tick tock). I am thrilled that she is engaged, and she has asked me to be in the wedding. I would normally be pleased to do so, except for one issue. She has debt of approximately $250,000 in credit cards and student loans, and she has not told her fiancé about this. I feel strongly that she is morally and ethically required to tell him before they are married, but she refuses. I can’t help but feel like an accomplice to her dishonesty by standing up in the wedding. What is the right thing to do?

Advertisement

—Silent Accomplice

Dear Silent,
I hope these two plan to recite the traditional vows, because right after he says “for richer, for poorer” Equifax can guarantee he’s going to get a whole lot poorer. Eventually she’s going to have to lead her beloved to the edge of the quarter-million-dollar abyss that’s looming before them. I’m with you that a debt like this is something that simply must be revealed before two people wed. Keeping from your intended painful news, like a diagnosis of major illness, a previous incarceration, or the fact that you are dead broke (and not Hillary Clinton dead broke), means starting a life together based on an implicit lie. To find out what marrying someone with this kind of debt would mean, I contacted attorney Daniel Blinn of the Consumer Law Group. Blinn said that in most states the new husband would not become responsible for any of her debt, but it would severely compromise their ability, for example, to buy a house together. He said that level of debt would likely lead eventually to bankruptcy (which would not discharge the student loans), inevitably complicating the husband’s financial life. So I agree with you that he needs to hear the bad news now. I think you should tell her she has to tell him, and if she won’t you will. Yes, that might end your friendship, but surely you would want someone to step up and clue you in if you were in the same situation as the groom. But if you just can’t bring yourself to spill, then tell her you wish the two of them all happiness, but you can’t be a party to this wedding party.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie, 
My fiancé and I are getting married soon at his parents’ house, and everything is great except that my future brother-in-law and sister-in-law are insisting on bringing their three dogs along. Two of the dogs are old and sick, another is a young terrier who has a nose for trouble. We’re doing our own catering, so I’m not looking forward to cooking with so many dogs around. The two larger dogs also keen very loudly if their owner is out of sight. My fiancé’s family is acting like he and I are selfish for not wanting these dogs around at our wedding. A polite request to not bring them was met with a minor fit about how they didn’t have time to interview dog sitters and a threat that the brother-in-law would stay home if the dogs couldn’t come. Also these future in-laws are not married yet and are not going to have the dogs at their church wedding. There’s a nice kennel where they can board their dogs for the day, but the sister-in-law has said they will not go to a kennel. What can we do about this?

—Three-Dog Blight

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.