- What is financial infidelity?
- How serious is this problem?
- Signs of financial infidelity
- What to do if you suspect financial infidelity
Marriage is an exercise in trust. A couple comes together and promises to love, honor, and cherish each other. In most cases, they also agree to combine their finances.
We usually think of infidelity in terms of emotional and sexual straying, but “financial infidelity” is another form of betrayal in a marriage. If either partner lies about money or their financial situation, it can eat away at the trust they have for each other and the very fabric of the relationship.
What is financial infidelity?
Money is one of the most pressing issues in many marriages today. Married couples need to count on each other to be on the same page when it comes to family finances so their mutual financial goals are met.
If your spouse hasn’t been honest about their personal finances or has actively hidden financial issues from you, it can feel like a betrayal. Even if your spouse didn’t outright lie about financial matters, making financial decisions on their own – or not being transparent about their spending – can result in a power imbalance in your relationship and a serious rift in your marriage.
How serious is financial infidelity?
The inability to trust your spouse financially can be devastating to a marriage. Unfortunately, financial infidelity is as pervasive as other types of infidelity. A survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report showed that nearly a third of all couples have experienced some form of financial infidelity, including the following:
- Keeping purchases secret from their partner
- Hiding debts or accounts
- Lying about their income
- Taking money out of their joint savings
- Lending money to others without their partner’s consent or knowledge
Financial infidelity negatively impacts most marriages when it happens, and some couples even seek divorce over it.
Signs of financial infidelity
It’s fairly easy for spouses to hide overspending, debt, and other financial misbehavior from each other. But there may still be signs that point to a spouse’s financial infidelity. Common warning signs include the following:
- Hiding purchases
- Hiding a financial decision
- Withdrawing cash from joint bank accounts
- Having secret bank accounts or credit cards
- Defensive behavior
- Secrecy about money matters
- A change in lifestyle and spending
- Removing you from a joint account or credit card
- Leaving you out of financial decisions
- Unexpected changes in income
- Large amounts of undisclosed debt
- Past behavior of hiding financial information
Financial infidelity not only creates a strain and loss of trust in your relationship, but it can often point to other problems in your marriage.
What to do if you suspect financial infidelity
If you suspect financial infidelity in your relationship, you may feel angry and betrayed. You may even be considering ending the relationship.
For many couples, pre-marital money talk may have seemed taboo and not necessarily romantic. Whether you’ve discussed your financial life in depth or not, now is the time to address your current situation and your expectations going forward.
Have an open and honest conversation about your financial life. Sit down as a couple with all of your financial information. Go over your income, assets, and expenses together. This will help you both understand what money is coming in and where it’s going.
Keep judgment out of the conversation. Often, people don’t come to grips with their financial habits until they become a problem.
Your spouse should be able to recognize and take responsibility for any financial dishonesty so you can start with a clean slate. If your spouse doesn’t realize that what they did was unfair to the relationship, chances are it could happen again.
Understand each other’s history with money
Share your relationship with money with each other. For many of us, our family of origin has much to do with our current relationship with money and how and why we spend and save the way we do. Understanding and empathy go a long way.
Rebuilding trust and keeping boundaries
Actively try to rebuild trust in your financial life. Have regular money check-ins. Discuss spending limits and how important it is to discuss large expenses as a couple. Consider working out a budget together that you both can live with.
Discuss your long-term financial goals
Without goals, your spouse may not understand the importance of financial self-restraint. Couples should be on the same page with their long-term financial plans for their relationship and family.
Get professional help
If you’re unsure where to start, you and your spouse may benefit from professional financial counseling. This will give you an accurate picture of where you currently stand and how you can achieve your financial goals together.
It can be hard to trust again after a financial breach of trust. Bad financial habits aren’t created overnight, and neither is overcoming the harm they’ve done. Trust and forgiveness may or may not happen, but healing will take time and patience.
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FAQ about financial infidelity
Why does my spouse hide financial information?
Many possible reasons exist for “money secrets” in a marriage. Your spouse may be ashamed of the large debts they took on before your marriage. They may have trust or control issues. Sometimes, missing money can indicate an affair or addiction.
Whatever the reason, financial infidelity can be harmful to the well-being of the marriage.
Can financial infidelity penalize you in divorce?
If you are currently navigating a divorce, any asset or financial concealment by your spouse is tantamount to fraud. If you suspect that your soon-to-be-ex is concealing assets or other information, discuss the matter with your attorney.
What are the effects of financial infidelity?
While financial infidelity can eat away at trust and honesty in your marriage, it can also put you in financial jeopardy. If your spouse has been racking up expenses and debt and not paying bills, it will affect you, too. It can impact your credit score. You could lose your house or other assets because of your spouse’s financial indiscretions.
Marriage isn’t just an emotional relationship; it’s also a financial one – and financial dishonesty between spouses can sink the marital ship quickly. At Hello Divorce, it’s our mission to support couples throughout their divorce and into their post-divorce future. We offer online divorce plans, professional services, and a library of resources to help answer your questions and guide your process.