3 Steps You Have To Take If You Suspect Financial Infidelity In Your Marriage

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financial infidelity in marriage

Something seems off. You’re not quite sure what, but you get the feeling you’re not being told the whole story.

Tayla is scrolling through the news on her phone over a cup of coffee. Jon leans down and kisses her neck as he heads out to his new truck.

Tayla finishes scrolling and thinks, “Was that another new jacket? And that cologne…smelled great, but is that new?”

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No alarm bells go off too loudly in her head. She loves that her man likes to look (and smell) good. But he seems to avoid any mention of college costs for their oldest or the club lacrosse payments for their two youngest. He seems stressed, but also so happy.

Maybe she’s imagining it.

But as he pulls out of the driveway, he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or is that just the feeling of the new jacket he bought on the overloaded “extra” credit card he keeps hidden from Tayla. He doesn’t want to worry her… 

CreditCards.com found 15 million people are currently hiding financial information from their significant other.

Any behavior short of total honesty with your spouse about money is termed “financial infidelity." Even though it's not cheating in the sexual sense, it's still a form of infidelity in your marriage.

Infidelity, with money, really? Sound harsh?

31 percent of people surveyed said they’d rather discover a physical affair than learn their partner had been less than honest about their finances. Maybe because it not only is a recipe for pain in your relationship, but also in your bank account.

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Here’s what you do if you suspect your partner of financial infidelity (or you straight up catch them in the act):

1. Take a breath

First, put down your phone, step into the other room, do whatever you need to do to take a breath and not react immediately.

Maybe there is a good explanation for the new jacket, the new billing statement, or the dip in your savings account balance.  

Make sure you gather enough facts to see what’s really going on. With online accounts and automatic payments, withdrawals, etc., it is easy for money to get away from the one in charge without evil intent. Figure out what you’re really dealing with here.

Remind your pissed-off self that more money can be made, but your relationship is priceless. Tossing a grenade on a relationship might relieve the angry pressure you feel, but it makes it difficult to pick up the pieces to rebuild.

Ugly words are like toothpaste — once it's out, it’s not going back in.

2. Get to the root cause

If you find enough information that points to dishonesty with your finances, first, pick a good time to talk to your spouse about it. Don’t hit them with it (or any other object) when they first get back from the store or home from work.

This situation didn’t happen overnight so don’t try and settle it the first moment you lay eyes on them.

But the first good opportunity you have (without kids at your feet) tell your mate you need to talk. Let them know you think you’ve found a problem and you need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

Ask them to explain the discrepancy while you listen. Really listen. Also consider your role in this scenario.

  • Do you control her spending so tightly that an additional credit card for kids’ expenses seemed necessary?
  • Or do you expect such a high standard of living that he can’t seem to keep up, but was trying to without “alerting” you?
  • Is it a standard response to yell or fight about money at your house so she just quit telling you about the extra expenses to avoid the scene?
  • Was she embarrassed about the job loss so she took out money to cover expenses in the interim until she found the next big thing?
  • Did a major expense, i.e. college tuition, medical, vacation, job loss, etc. create a difficult financial situation that you never really recovered from and things just snowballed?

There is a reason your spouse is hiding what they are hiding from you.

NOW is the time to get to the bottom of it.

3. Make a plan — together — for a better future

You can’t go back. If you could, you would. But, you can’t, so start here.

You know what they say about bitterness, “It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” So do everything you can to forgive them, skip the poison, and move forward. (You might have to do this more than once as you process through the pain of the deception.)

Being lied to seems to blow holes in the idea that you’re a team, facing the world together, but you can be. Your team just needs a new game plan.

So, just do it. Make a new plan, together, to emerge from this unhealthy pattern, stronger and, ultimately, on a better path to make money, because Grandma was right, “Cheaters never prosper.” So now that you’ve dealt with the dishonest behavior you can set yourselves up to prosper.

You could:

  • Remove the specific stumbling blocks in your situation and plan a method of sharing all of your financial information.
  • Set aside one night of the week to discuss financial matters or more frequently if you need more accountability at this stage.
  • Use an app that gives both of you visibility to all accounts, there are several good ones out there.
  • Reduce the amount of credit cards in play. (Don’t close the accounts, as you want more available, unused credit to raise your credit score.)
  • Consider freezing your cards in ice to be thawed in an emergency or seal them in an envelope that won’t be opened unless you’re both present.
  • Go old school to get a handle on the situation. Take paper and pencil and write out: your debt, your fixed expenses, your monthly expenses, future expenses, savings, retirement, income.
  • Get creative, be specific, but address the reasons that lead you here and make a plan through and past those roadblocks.

A great idea is enlist the help of a professional counselor, pastor, or life coach. Adding an experienced, neutral party to the mix for at least the short-term can be very helpful. (And cheaper than a divorce or way better than an angry, awful marriage.)

Being lied to is the absolute worst. But dumping everything you’ve invested in your relationship over time isn’t much better.

Dig deep. Have the uncomfortable discussions. Forgive more than you think you can. Make a solid plan you both agree on. And move forward together.

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The Money Couple helps others achieve financial freedom while putting family first. They offer services and resources to bring couples closer together, not only in their marriages, but in their finances as well.