Q: My boyfriend and I have been talking about marriage. I really love him, but I’m hesitant to take that next step. He has enormous credit card debt from before we were together, and I’m scared it will affect our ability to do things like buy a home in the future. Even though he’s reined in his spending, I don’t know whether I can trust him with money. What should I do?

A: Wow, that’s a tough one. In survey after survey, financial stress is consistently cited as one of the top factors contributing to divorce. When we fall in love, though, it’s easy to overlook the other person’s finances. Bank accounts are mundane, and it’s rude to pry into someone else’s finances. Even worse, we women risk being labeled gold diggers if we ask about our partner’s income and debts.

The reality, however, is that marriage legally binds you together. It can be hard to keep their money woes from dragging you down, too. I was once involved with a man who spent far more than he made. Despite his six-figure income, I had to ask my father for a loan to pay our utility bills. It was humiliating and infuriating. Reader, you’re wise to consider this topic before committing to marriage.

Good news, though: People can learn to manage their money more wisely. You said your boyfriend has reined in his spending habits – great! I would suggest you to sit down together (perhaps even with a financial advisor) and make a plan for getting his debts paid off. Give him some time to prove he’s changed his ways. If he sticks to the plan and gets his debts under control, there’s no reason you can’t have a bright and happy future with your guy. Best of luck!

~ Elizabeth Boyce, author of Once a Duchess and Once an Heiress