7 Ways You And Your Partner Are Unfaithful To Each Other Every Day

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Have you heard of the term "financial infidelity" when it comes to money in a relationship? It is as messy and destructive as it sounds.

What is financial infidelity?

Financial infidelity is defined as "spending money, possessing credit or credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt, without the knowledge of one's spouse, partner, or significant other."

Somebody in the relationship is hiding something but, in this case, it is money and finance they are screwing around with. And like all forms of cheating, financial infidelity can cost you the relationship.

Is financial infidelity abuse? 

In short, yes — financial infidelity can be a form of abuse. Financial infidelity is any money-related behavior where one person in the relationship is less than honest with the other person.

It could be fudging numbers to cover over-spending, covertly hiding money, opening secret accounts, using cash to avoid a paper trail, or controlling the purse strings in order to control the other person.

It doesn’t have to involve millions of dollars to matter. Lies and dishonesty are at the heart of financial infidelity and lies ruin relationships — they are red flags.

RELATED: I'm Cheating On My Husband With Money (And I Bet You Are, Too)

In the Bible, a husband and wife are to be united in every aspect of their life. The Bible says, “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NIV). As husband and wife become “one flesh,” this represents a union of their entire being — physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially.

In 1 Corinthians 7:4, God commands, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” God wants harmony in unions.

Telling the truth is a lot like jumping off a cliff — there is no halfway. You are either one hundred percent honest about your money or you’re hiding something. And that "little" money secret is a form of cheating.

Over several decades of helping couples, we uncovered some surprising statistics about financial infidelity and saw firsthand how rampant and destructive it is. 

A Citibank survey found 57 percent of divorced couples cited money problems as the primary reason their relationship went up (or is it down?) in flames.

According to a 2019 study, researchers performed 10 labs, one field study, and analyses of real bank account data collected in partnership with a couples’ money-management mobile application to "introduce, define, and measure financial infidelity reliably and succinctly and examine its antecedents and consequences."

The study found that "financial infidelity admission rates are stronger among those explicitly combining finances with partners or spouses, where 41 percent admit to committing financial deceptions and 75 percent say financial deceit has negatively affected their relationships."

Money problems and secret debts can put an end to your relationship. Of the countless couples we counseled over the past decades, we found that 65 percent of women had secret credit card debt or a secret stash of cash. Almost all of those women swore they had done it to "protect their families."

They said they didn’t trust their husbands to make good financial decisions for the family. Hold up. Who’s hiding what from whom?

And so, the dishonesty grows, leading to more financial issues and relationship problems. Financial infidelity is not fatal and is hopefully less messy to recover from than the other kind of cheating. However, it can be grounds for divorce. Though, many can find help with financial therapy. 

But you need to get real with each other (and for some, get real with yourself) and avoid scenarios that seem to breed financial infidelity.

Here are 7 signs of financial infidelity you need to avoid if you don't want to get sucked into the temptation to keep money secrets.

1. Massive debt

So many long-term couples struggle with overspending and debt. Life is expensive.

Blame Pinterest or those creepy follow-me ads, but there is a mountain of really awesome things screaming for you to buy them. Every. Single. Day. And you work hard, so why shouldn’t you have some nice things?

But it only takes one killer vacation, a big spending spree, or even a necessary move to accumulate sizeable debt. So then you agree to a budget or "cut back," but cutting back is harder for some more than others.

You know you shouldn’t have picked up the tab last night or loaned another grand to a friend, but that’s when the lying starts, the hiding receipts, the half-truths, the borrowing money to cover the mistakes and lies.

When massive debt is looming overhead, the heat is on and no one wants to be the bad guy so we rationalize, "What they don’t know won’t hurt them." Unfortunately, 90 percent honesty is still not honesty.

Put it in park. Press pause. Avoid piling up debt if you aren’t already buried in it. Cancel the magazines, unfollow tempting Instagram accounts, or avoid Amazon — whatever it takes to avoid going into debt.

If you are already in debt, set livable, doable financial goals to eliminate the debt and scale back spending, but don’t be unrealistic, or you are just setting yourselves up to lie to one another.

Debt is not a relationship killer. Lying about money and dishonesty is.

RELATED: Being Financially Abused By My Husband Turned Me Into A Super-Villain

2. Lack of planning

Lack of planning doesn’t ever seem to be an issue until couples are faced with a big outlay of cash like a house, college, needing another car, or a medical emergency.

You hit a point in life where you need a sizeable chunk of money and you just don’t have it. You could have planned for it, but like most folks, you didn’t. To make matters worse couples start fighting, blaming, and going to extremes to compensate for lack of planning.

One couple we counseled returned from the brink of divorce over this very issue. Carol and Neil had talked about how to save money for college for their daughter, but Neil thought it was pointless — every kid ends up with loans. So, he never started the savings Carol assumed he had.

When their daughter ordered her cap and gown, Carol channeled her anger towards Neil into a full-court press to sell all three cars and purchase cheaper ones to help her daughter avoid college loan debt. Neil was not consulted.

Both Neil and Carol committed financial infidelity. Neil wasn’t honest about his lack of faith in savings, and now Carol was set to go behind Neil’s back and sell all the cars.

Paying for college freaks a lot of parents out, but destroying your relationship won’t help. Construct some simple planning for rainy day savings, and other future expenses you anticipate. Work together, and even if you don’t put aside piles of cash for junior, they won’t have to deal with their parent’s bitter tension.

3. Dominant control by one person

The final danger zone that encourages financial infidelity occurs when one person has total control over every penny. We see situations where a spouse treats the other almost like a child with an allowance and the understanding that they are in control — no questions asked.

This type of unnecessary control tends to ultimately drive the controlled spouse to commit financial infidelity to experience any freedom with their money or even to solve necessary problems.

Say the "allowance" doesn’t cover the participation price of high school athletics, but basketball is where their daughter shines. That one spouse is all but driven to lie or work around the system to handle basic household matters to keep the peace.

It doesn't have to be that way. Healthy relationships require working together and trusting one another. A partnership is better than slugging it out alone. Your relationship can avoid the pitfalls of these stressful situations that breed lies and mistrust.

4. Not talking about money

It is always advised that before you get married or start living together, you should have the money talk.

How is everything getting paid each month, what do you want to plan to save for, what expenses are allowed per month? Will there be joint accounts or are there going to be separate accounts? What kind of accounts will you have: checking account, savings, money markets?

Discuss everything regarding each other's financial situation. Figure out each other's credit scores and find solutions through financial services to make them better. 

It's good to talk about this to find where your unshared and shared goals land, that way there should be no surprises. It's the worst when you have tied the knot and then you find out you aren't seeing eye to eye with your personal finances. 

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Also, if you have the conversation early it opens a safe communication route. It's important for your spouse to feel comfortable talking with you about money. If they feel comfortable talking about the topic with you then there's no reason to go behind each other's backs when it comes to spending money on something.

There's no secretes, no hiding, no lying — three big warning signs your relationship is failing. Open communication is always going to form a great foundation for your relationship and it's the same for financials as well.

RELATED: 6 Signs Money Issues & Financial Stress Are Undermining Your Relationship

5. Not addressing money-related issues

This one connects with not talking about money with your partner, but addressing problems is a good way to avoid money issues.

Even if you’re completely honest with each other about your finances, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never run into money trouble. Problems like a job loss or an astronomically high medical bill can happen.

But when your finances are an open book, it’s much easier to deal with problems like these — together. 

Instead of making your problems worse by trying to hide them from each other, face them head-on and deal with them right away. The sooner you tackle small problems, the easier it is to keep them from turning into big problems in the relationship.

6. Resentment

Resentment in any relationship isn't healthy and can lead to a bad dynamic. It often stems from income inequality in a marriage — that is, one spouse earning much more money than the other.

Sometimes, the spouse who earns more resents having to foot the bills for the other, especially for things the higher earner considers luxuries rather than necessities. This resentment can lead the higher-earning spouse to spend money in secret in an attempt to “even the score.”

Resentment can also lead to revenge spending. Partners engage in revenge spending on things that have nothing to do with money. For instance, if you’re mad at your spouse over a past affair or dissatisfied with your sex life, you could spend money in secret as a way of getting back at them.

Whatever the cause, revenge spending is a sign of an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

So before you find an outrageous amount on your credit card statements, both partners need to get their feelings out into the open, perhaps with the help of a couples therapist, to root out what’s really causing problems and how to address them.

7. Fear

Treat your spouse with respect and love, period. 

If your spouse fears you, they may be tempted to hide money as a safety net. It could be their escape plan. To avoid this, do not be abusive to your spouse in any way. Don't manipulate them. Don't hit them. Don't make them feel worthless. Do not abuse your spouse.

This is the love of your life. The person you wanted to share your life with. Your spouse is your teammate, your partner against the world. You love them and care for them. 

If couples don't give each other a reason to fear, there will be a foundation of love. This way, your partner won't feel like they need to leave the relationship.

Financial infidelity is such an icky mess because it targets the center of every relationship: trust. But it is not fatal. Treat each other with respect and honesty and your relationship is sure to profit.

RELATED: 9 Tell-Tale Signs Your Partner Is Financially Unstable

Scott and Bethany are husband and wife and financial planners who write, speak, and coach internationally and throughout the U.S. about money and how it affects our relationships. Get free love and money advice on their website, and take their free online assessment to determine your "Money Personalities" and uncover any financial blind spots you may have.