What is sexually transmitted debt (STD)?

December 13, 2021

Like other forms of STDs, sexually transmitted debt is something you can catch from your partner.

It may be brought into the relationship or reveal itself after a relationship is over – and the impact can last a lifetime.

Sexually transmitted debt, or STD, is where one person in a relationship becomes responsible for their partner’s financial debt.

It can happen unknowingly, by one partner bringing previous debt into the relationship and restructuring joint finances, or by being convinced or misled into taking on debt in your own name.

“My partner didn’t tell me about his debt when we got together. He convinced me to get a joint credit card to buy things together. It sounded good but he paid off his historical debt with our card. I didn’t know and ended up just as responsible for paying it”

If you’re borrowing together, by getting a joint loan or credit card, or by signing as a guarantor, you both become responsible for that debt as soon as you sign. Usually, you will be both joint and severally liable, which means that if your partner can’t or won’t pay, you are responsible for 100% of the debt.

Sexually transmitted debt can happen to anyone – no matter their background.

You might be thinking that you couldn’t possibly catch STD because your partner is the financially savvy one in the relationship or because you’re not working and have no money – unfortunately this is not true.

Having limited or no involved in financial decisions about debt or how money is being spent in your relationship increases the risk of catching STD.

What can I do to prevent STD?

Talk about money together

It may seem unromantic, but it is important to know how your money will be managed in a relationship. Try to be open and transparent about financial positions, credit history, investments, goals and spending habits.

If you’re nervous to talk to your partner, we have a blog that will help you understand relationships and money, as well as how to discuss money with your partner.

Eight tips to talk about money with your parnter

Be cautious about joint accounts and loans

If you can, read the fine print to fully understand what you’re signing up for. If you’re not sure ask questions and if you can, seek independent advice.

Another trick is to make sure any joint loan redraws (re-using some of the already paid loans), can only be accessed if both people agree.

If you have banking questions or are experiencing financial challenges, we have various banking related resources that may helpful – including information about support available for people experiencing economic harm.

Click here to visit our banking resource

Keep your credit card secure

The terms and conditions of your credit card will say that you are not allowed to let others use your cards or tell anyone your PIN or password.

It’s important to follow the terms and conditions you have agreed to with the bank. If your partner wants to use your card, talk to your bank about your options for having another cardholder on the account.

Track financial statements

If you think your partner isn’t disclosing or being transparent about what’s happening with your or your family’s money, check the financial statements to see costs and who’s name each bill or debt is in.

Finding these records and being aware of what is happening with your or your family’s money will help you decide how involved you want to be.

Real life stories


Click me 👆
Lara’s relationship, like many, started out healthy – but over time things started to change and when she decided to leave the relationship, she footed the bill.

“Paul wanted me to go on a trip to Australia with him, but I couldn’t afford it, so he offered to pay.

I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to owe him money. In response, he said – “Well you better come, or I might find a new girlfriend over there.”

I still said no but he bought me a ticket anyway and told me I was going.

When we returned, he gave me a bill made up of all the money I owed him.”
Read story


Click me 👆
Paige met her partner at a party when she was 15 and moved in with him when she was 17.

She had always worked – she’d had after school jobs since she was 12 and worked full-time once she left school. Her partner didn’t work.

Paige told us her partner never forced her to give him money, but she didn’t feel like she had a choice. If she didn’t give him money, he became abusive.

When Paige fell pregnant, He received the benefit and would give Paige some of it, but it was nowhere near enough - let alone half their costs.

When Paige’s relationship ended, she was left to figure out how to pay off over $30,000 in debt and the rent they were behind in.

“I ended up with Baycorp, and the bills kept coming. I thought it was because I was bad with money because that’s what he’d told me.”
Read story

Getting support

If you want to speak to someone about the money side of your relationship, our Financial Wellbeing Coach – Economic Harm can provide support.

Click here to get support

If you need help with unmanageable debt, our DEBTsolve programme could help you take control of your unmanageable debt.

Our free DEBTsolve programme combines wellbeing, debt coaching, advocacy and debt solution loans of up to $15,000 to help with your unmanageable debt. 

Click here to find out more


In 2017, a survey by Credit Simple found that almost 18 per cent of New Zealanders admitted to having money or debt that their partner was not aware of.

More information

Adult student smiling


Our DEBTsolve programme will help you take control of your unmanageable debt. Our specialist Financial Wellbeing Coach will work with you to understand your situation
Read More »
Portrait of a middle aged Japanese woman standing outdoors with arms crossed

Economic Harm

Economic harm doesn’t leave visible marks. Like other forms of family violence, it can be subtle – beginning with the smallest breach of trust and
Read More »