Shelley was putting away her husband's laundry when she discovered a stash of bills for a credit card she didn't recognize. It's a story that plays out over and over with couples we talk to. Everything seems to be fine and then Bam! One of them discovers the other has been keeping money secrets.
If you've just discovered your partner has been hiding money from you, using a secret credit card, or lying about spending, what we call "Financial Infidelity", you have a choice to make: Ignore the problem and hope it goes away (here's a hint-it won't) or confront it and start healing your Money Relationship.
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Here's what constructive confrontation looks like:
1. Calm down. Don't call your spouse the minute you find a bill or a stash of cash. Give yourself an hour or even a day to let your initial anger ebb a bit.
2. Find out what's real. Your assumptions might very well be wrong. The "secret" credit card might not be an intentional secret but merely an oversight or even a business card your spouse didn't think was a big deal. You might still want to talk about it, but start with a presumption of good intentions, not bad. That will go a long way toward keeping your conversation on track.
3. Keep emotions out of the conversation. Yes it's hard, but if you want to have strong money communication, you need to approach your partner with what you've found, not your assessment of what you've found. Lay out your concern and ask for an explanation. Words like "I found this. I'm confused about it. Help me understand," show your partner you want to solve this problem together.
4. Be prepared for some hard work. If there is Financial Infidelity in your relationship, it's going to take a real commitment to honesty and communication to recover. We believe the work will be worth it and even has the opportunity to bring you closer. Take the Financial Relationship Index to find out how deep the infidelity goes.
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