Infidelity in relationships almost always refers to people having romantic entanglements with people outside their relationship without the explicit approval of their partner. There is however another type of infidelity that is just as devastating and deadly to relationships, financial infidelity. Financial infidelity is consciously or deliberately lying to your partner about money, credit, and/or debt. It is where someone hides a money-related secret from their partner. Financial infidelity comes down to keeping secrets and/or lying about finances. It can be malicious or because of personal issues such as shopping addiction or poor impulse control. As with sexual infidelity, men are more likely to lie to their partners about finances with roughly 26.2% of men and 17.7% of women admitting to financial infidelity.
Signs and Red Flags
Secrets: You discover secret bank accounts or secret debts or secret purchases that they attempted to hide from you.
Controlling behaviour: Your spouse handles all the responsibility of paying bills and does not want you to know anything about or be involved in the family finances.
Defensiveness: When you want to talk to them about money, they become defensive and refuse to discuss it or they become extremely emotional about such discussions.
Lying about income: Your spouse lies to you about expenditures or income.
History: Your spouse has lied about money before.
Financial arguments: The two of you argue about money often.
Distrust: You don’t trust your partner.
Intuition: You have a gut feeling that your spouse is hiding something from you regarding finances.
Sudden changes: Your partner’s spending habits suddenly and noticeably change.
Account access removal: They remove your name from a joint account or revoke your access to shared accounts.
Missing money: Money from your accounts shared or individually goes missing and they have no good explanation for it and dismiss it as an error, a bank issue or otherwise try to minimize the loss and get you to ignore it
Lying not just about making secret purchases but also about how much things actually cost.
Hiding a raise or a bonus or source of income.
Overly generous: Your partner suddenly becomes overly financially generous with you and you can’t figure out why they are suddenly being so generous. Sometimes people’s guilt makes them make up for it and compensate by being overly generous.
Common reasons for financial infidelity
- Addiction: Any compulsion that requires cash such as drugs, shopping and gambling can spark financial infidelity. Addictions and shame are common reasons for financial infidelity.
- Revenge: Couples can lie and keep financial secrets when they feel betrayed or hurt and consider this a way of exacting revenge.
- Social pressure: There’s so much pressure especially in the age of social media to live a certain lifestyle with certain markers of success. This may lead people to be deceitful about their income and expenses.
- Different values: This happens when a couple have different values about how and where to spend money. For example, one person may not support a certain cause or activity while the other does and so they end up keeping that expense a secret.
- Anxiety and fear: The way people deal with money is highly emotional and has connections to their childhood and upbringing. Some people because of their childhood experiences can either excessively hoard or excessively spend money to fulfil some emotional need.
- Affairs: sexual infidelity and financial infidelity go hand in hand. The money used in all cheating-related expenses has to come from somewhere and has to out of necessity be kept secret.
- Self-preservation: In cases where someone has a partner who is too controlling they may siphon off money and hide it for a rainy day or as they prepare themselves to leave a difficult situation.
Preventing financial infidelity
- Communicate openly and honestly preferably before getting married. Make it a habit even in the course of the relationship to discuss your individual finances regularly. Financial Discussions Couples Should Have Before They Get Married
- Share responsibility making sure both partners are involved in the handling of the joint finances and home expenses. Share account information and pay bills jointly with no single person in charge or in control of it all. Give each other some leeway for individual spending and set up alerts that come to both of you for any joint accounts.
- Address any problems that come up head-on especially when they come up in general and especially when they touch on finances. Problems like job loss, high medical bills, or any other unexpected expenses. Couples And Money: How To Navigate The Minefield Of Marital Finances
Dealing with financial infidelity
- Admit the problem. If you see any of the signs and your intuition is telling you something is up, don’t talk yourself out of it. Gather evidence and talk to your partner. If you are the one with the problem, gather courage and talk to your partner.
- Try to get to the root cause of why they or you are being unfaithful. Both of you have to commit to working through the issues.
- Seek professional help for example in the form of a couples therapist. Relationships: Ways To Prepare For Couples Counselling
- Work on rebuilding trust.
Financial infidelity has just as devastating an effect on marriage and relationships as sexual infidelity. It requires just as much time, effort, and commitment from both parties to rebuild the destroyed trust. The importance of honesty and transparency when it comes to the financial aspect of relationships cannot be overstated if a relationship is to be healthy and survive.
Trust is crucial in relationships, here’s a piece on 7 ways to build trust in a relationship.
Here are 5 Signs You Are Experiencing Financial Abuse In Your Relationship. Here are 7 Budgeting Tips For Newlyweds and Couples And Money: How To Navigate The Minefield Of Marital Finances