Sleeping with someone who isn’t your partner is just one way to destroy a marriage. Having a secret stash of money or debts that your partner doesn’t know about is another way to doom a relationship. This behavior is called financial infidelity, and though it doesn’t get as much press as the other kind of infidelity, it’s just as dangerous to otherwise healthy marriages. Learn what constitutes financial infidelity, the warning signs, and how to prevent this from happening in your relationship.
Some People Keep Financial Secrets From Their Spouses
The National Endowment for Financial Education reported in February 2016 that 42 percent of American adults admit to committing some kind of financial infidelity in their relationships. Financial infidelity can mean many things: You might have a secret bank account or credit card, you may make big purchases that your spouse doesn’t know about, or you could be racking up debt, or conversely, investing or gambling and making money that your partner is unaware of.
This issue can arise from different financial management styles that the couple never reconciled. If one person is a risk-taker with investments, or one spouse likes to buy material possessions, it can be hard to reconcile those behaviors with someone who prefers to save money in safe ways. But you must do so if you want to prevent financial infidelity from happening in your relationship.
Watch for Bad Communication About Money
Have you ever found a receipt for a purchase you didn’t know about, or mail from a bank that you thought neither of you had an account with? These could be indicators of financial infidelity. Not every couple actually shares a bank account, but every couple should be on the same page about finances. That means being transparent about how much you make, how much you owe, and your purchasing habits throughout the month. It also means having a budget and salient financial goals that both of you stick to. When you keep each other accountable, spotting red flags is easier.
You can spot signs of financial infidelity before you get married if you know what to look for. Of course you won’t discuss money on the first date, but once you’re in a committed relationship and planning a wedding, it’s time to sit down and be open. If your partner continues to be tight-lipped about finances, that’s not the best sign. Sometimes the behavior doesn’t develop until after marriage. In either case, you can take steps, including confronting your partner or doing a background check from CheckThem to discover other hidden details that might impact your partner’s finances.
Unfortunately, some financial infidelity happens because the couple was never open about finances in the first place. If you never sat down with your partner and had a frank talk about money, chances are both of you have accounts that the other doesn’t know about. However scary it may feel, it’s time to be open with each other. You don’t have to share bank accounts, but you do have to share information.
Secrets Can Be Destructive to Relationships
Why is financial infidelity a big deal? While many people may not think that lying about finances is as problematic as actual romantic cheating, it’s still a huge deceit that can ruin relationships. After all, sometimes even the smallest secrets can feel like big betrayals if you discover they’re happening. Plus, if your spouse is hiding a small amount of money somewhere and you discover it, how do you know they aren’t hiding more that you just haven’t found yet?
After your partner has kept a big secret from you (or you from your partner), you need to rebuild trust in your relationship. Not all relationships survive big secrets, which is why infidelity, no matter what kind, is such a big relationship destroyer.
Financial Infidelity Could Mean More Lies
The problem isn’t only within the relationship, but with the person’s overall actions. If your spouse has a gambling addiction or an expensive obsession (think cars, boats, or something else big-ticket), he or she might resort to illegal means to feed that desire. Bigger problems might lie beneath what looks like a hidden credit card or bank account. In extreme cases, some spouses don’t discover financial infidelity until they, as a family, can’t make mortgage payments or have to give up a car.
Plus, trusting someone who’s able to carry on this nature of deceit is difficult. Once you discover a big lie like financial infidelity, it’s hard not to wonder what other lies your spouse might be telling. The gravity of a lie about finances could point to other types of infidelity, like sexual or romantic. After all, financial infidelity could be hiding something major, like having another family in another state, or supporting a baby born out of wedlock that came from an extramarital affair.
How to Spot Financial Infidelity
If your spouse comes home with slightly expensive things, whether it’s a watch, a purse, or a new electronic gadget, and you don’t know where the money came from to buy it, that’s a warning sign. When you sit down every month to go over your finances, pay attention to your spouse’s behavior. If you’re a baby boomer, sorry, but your spouse is more likely than someone from another generation to have hidden money somewhere.
Actually look at bank statements and bills together, because not doing so can allow bad behaviors to get out of hand. You don’t have to explain every single purchase (like defending why you wanted ice cream at 10 p.m. last Thursday), but no big spending problems should show up. The reason you look at bills and statements together is to reinforce financial trust and transparency.
Whether you’re the one hiding a bank account or you suspect your partner of financial infidelity, everything needs to come out into the open. Big secrets like this damage the trust you build in your relationships. Honesty is the first step in repairing the damage, no matter the outcome.