Should You Be Responsible For His Financial Infidelity?

Heartbreak, Self

He's a liar and a cheat, who is dishonest about money. Should you forgive him?

What would you do if you found out that your Mr. Right was actually a lying cheat--presenting you with a collection of carefully concocted fibs and Oscar award-winning performances? Would you forgive him? What if his infidelity was not with another woman, but, instead, he was being dishonest about money?

While discovering a fuchsia smear of LipPerfection on his collar--you wear bronze--will make you see red, uncovering a secret credit card debt or a chunky hidden bank account can also put a halt to your wedded bliss. Yes, financial infidelity--like its sexual counterpart--can destroy your trust and rip your relationship in half.

What is "Financial Infidelity"?

Financial infidelity refers to a broad spectrum of covert operations involving the family purse that are conducted by one spouse without the knowledge of the other. If your hubby has amassed a debt, hidden a major purchase, accumulated a nest egg in a secret bank account, or lied about his income, he has committed financial infidelity.

Is financial infidelity common?

If your significant other has engaged in financial infidelity, you may be relieved to know that you are not alone. In fact, a 2010 survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and ForbesWoman revealed that 31% of respondents had deceived their partners about finances and a whopping 34% had lied about their incomes. The odds are that a couple close to you--no matter how sickeningly lovey-dovey they may appear--have experienced what you are going through now.

What are the repercussions of financial infidelity?

A breach of trust can damage your marriage. In fact, the NEFE survey revealed that 42% of the couples who had experience financial infidelity felt a decrease in trust towards their mates, 11% stated that it had led to a marital separation, and a shocking 16% divorced as a result of lies over money matters. While these numbers are staggering, keep in mind that the majority of couples managed to work things out and stay together. And a great way to start to repair the fracture is to try to understand the motivation behind the lies.

Why do people commit financial infidelity?

While the reason for his deception in no way provides him with a "get out of jail free card," it may help you to better manage your anger and find a suitable resolution to the problem. Here are a few potential explanations for you to consider.

  • Rebelling. Secret spending can be an indication of a partner's desire to break free from the real or perceived financial control that their spouse exercises over them. Again, this, in no way, excuses their irresponsible actions.
  • "It's My Money." Sometimes the main breadwinner feels that they are entitled to spend freely without consulting their "lower income-earning" spouse.
  • Security Seeking. Let's face it. Job security is largely a thing of the past. Your spouse's secret hoard of cash may provide him with a sense of security--something to fall back on if either of you experiences bad times.
  • Addiction. It is possible that your husband has succumbed to gambling, substance abuse, or some other form of addiction that has depleted your bank accounts.
  • Cannot Delay Gratification. There is also the possibility that your husband is irresponsible with money. He wants what he wants when he wants it.
  • Your In-laws. It's always tempting to blame your in-laws; however, it is possible that your hubby picked up an unhealthy attitude towards money by watching his parents. If your in-laws fight over finances, find themselves in frequent fiscal fiascos, or hang on to every penny like it's their last, they may have passed on these traits to their son.

What can I do to save my marriage?

Sorting out your finances will be hard work--and rebuilding trust will be even harder--but both can be done. Here are a few steps that you can take to dramatically increase your odds.

  • Counseling. While you both may be tempted to solve your problems on your own, it is highly recommended that you seek both marriage counseling and financial counseling. If your husband does suffer from an addiction, he will also need to undergo counseling to get that under control.
  • Get Educated. As a team, you will need to learn as much as you can about managing your finances. Read books, attend workshops, talk to your banking professional, and be sure to put what you learn into practice. The internet is also a good source of content including expert advice from Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.
  • Become Transparent. You will both need to sit down together and compose an accurate picture of your current financial state. The only way to fix a problem is to first identify the full extent of it in the first place.
  • Budget. Working together, come up with a doable budget. Be sure to include an "allowance" for each partner. This is your "fun money" that you can use however you please--without needing to consult the other party.
  • Stay the course. Revisit your budget regularly as a team. Go over your bank account and credit card statements every month, keep tabs on your credit reports, and ensure that the lines of communication are always open.

If your spouse has committed financial infidelity, you have every right to feel betrayed. And angry. So vent your frustrations at the gym, pound the snot out of your pillow, or cloister yourself away and engage in a Gordon Ramsay-esque rant. Then, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, and begin the hard work of rebuilding your financial security and your marriage. Or not. The choice is yours.

Has your spouse been financially unfaithful? How did you cope?