The $20,000 Secret That Ended My Marriage

When my husband was financially unfaithful, it hurt more than if he had cheated.

wife taking care of two twins while husband pockets money kanchanachitkhamma, Pollyana Ventura | Canva 

My then-husband and I were refinancing our home mortgage. The last thing I needed to send over to the lender was a copy of his credit card statement, the only one I didn’t have access to. He was weirdly evasive about getting it to me, but he finally handed it over a week later.

Once I had a three-page statement in my hands, I scanned it and e-mailed it to the lender. I had no idea that those three little pieces of paper would later end up on the desk of a divorce attorney.


RELATED: Why Lying About Money Is Way Worse Than An Affair

We all know what infidelity is.

It’s the late-night text messages, the hotel room visits, the red lipstick on the white collar, or that trace scent of strange perfume on a blazer. Most of these metaphors are specific to men cheating, but it’s women too. It could be Facebook messages or DMs. Infidelity can be anything we wouldn’t want or feel comfortable with our partner knowing what we’re doing or saying with another person we’re attracted to.

However, financial infidelity is less widely known. When I would say, “My ex-husband committed financial infidelity,” a lot of people would look at me blankly.


“Financial infidelity” may not seem that big of a deal, but in context, it can be a marriage-ending kind of big deal. It was for me. Beverly Harzog defines it: “Financial infidelity involves actions such as hiding a credit card account or purchasing an expensive item without discussing it with a partner.”

If your sweetheart was buying things without your knowledge, it likely would break your trust, but you both could potentially work through it. You’d have a conversation, and, if your partner was amenable, you’d make some plans together on how to do things differently, so the trust wouldn’t be broken again in the future.

But for some types of financial infidelity, a couple simply can’t come back from it.



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


When I first saw the credit card statement, I’d just noticed it had a $0 balance and didn’t look much further.

I sent it to the lender and then left it on my desk. Later, I went in to grab a pen from my desk drawer when I saw the statement sitting there right on top. I scanned it, and a charge of $1363.12 jumped out at me.

He spent $1363.12 on something? WHAT?!? I thought. I snatched the statement up and started going through it line by line. I pulled a calculator out. What I found out was more than disturbing.

In two months, my then-husband and the father of my children had spent nearly $20,000 on Paypal, eBay, and other online websites purchasing what I would find out later to be vintage signs to decorate his “man cave.”


That’s a lot of money to spend without your partner’s knowledge. Some couples might be able to come back from that, but let me add that all-important context:

Our twins had just turned one a few months before. I’d taken 4 months off from work for maternity leave, and 10 weeks of those had been unpaid. Once I returned to work, we were paying $1600 a month for childcare. After not receiving 5 paychecks and then shelling out an extra $1600 a month, we were struggling financially.

That $20,000 my then-husband had spent on his “man cave” decor hadn’t gone to diapers, clothing, food, or daycare for our kids. It hadn’t gone toward even a nice dinner out for the two of us. It had gone to him and him alone.

As a father and husband, he had chosen to spend $20,000 in less than 2 months on things for himself while his wife and two babies were struggling. That credit card statement told me, with undeniable evidence, that while I thought I’d married someone who would be a good husband and father, I hadn’t. All of those secret purchases added up to a lot more than broken trust. They showed that we were operating with two different worldviews.


For example: I nursed and pumped two babies for over a year because formula was too expensive. I chose to do that to help my family save money and to do what I thought was best for my children. I sacrificed endless hours both at work and at home attached to a pump, so we didn’t have to spend upwards of $400 to $800 a month per child on formula.

While I’d done that for over a year, my then-husband blew all of the money I’d potentially saved us in two months. I could have understood a few purchases. We all like some nice things now and again, but $20,000 worth? And with no thought to what his wife or children may need?

I couldn’t reconcile the difference in our worldviews: how I’d sacrificed because it was best for our family and how he’d selfishly blown all of the money on himself.

It was the beginning of the end because how can two people stay married and raise children together as a “family” with such fundamentally different beliefs? 


​RELATED: Keeping This Secret From Your Spouse Is Even Worse Than Cheating

There was more I was to discover later.

None of it is good. It was when I was going through his credit card statement line by line that I noticed weird credits and debits between himself and his place of work, like when he’d debited himself $1.19 and then credited himself $1190.


When I later confronted him about all of the purchases and the weird credits and debits, he admitted he’d been embezzling from his job. It was the way, he admitted, that he’d kept me from knowing how much money he was spending on his credit card because he was “paying it off” by stealing from his job.

I called a divorce attorney immediately, and later that afternoon, I put that three-page credit card statement on his desk and started the paperwork to file.

I could have maybe gotten over a fling, some brief and heady tryst that had made him forget his vows temporarily. But this was too much, and I didn’t think I could ever recover from it. It had altered how I saw him permanently. He was no longer a good father or a good husband. That $20,000 secret showed me who he truly was: a selfish and self-centered liar.

​RELATED: A Woman's Husband Accused Her Of 'Financial Infidelity' & Being 'Low Value' — It Turned Out To Be A Cover-Up For All The Skeletons In His Closet


Tara Blair Ball is a certified relationship coach and podcast co-host for the show, Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse. She’s also the author of three books: Grateful in Love, A Couple’s Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships.