Why Lying About Money Is Way Worse Than An Affair

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couple looking at the bill

When you stopped dating everyone else and said your “I do’s,” you made a commitment. A big one. One that came with the understanding that being honest with each other and no lies would be a given.  

But if your partner decided to pick and choose when the whole honesty thing applied to money, you are knee-deep in infidelity — financial infidelity.

Financial infidelity is any lying, hiding, or hoarding of money inside of a relationship.

And, yes, money problems caused by financial infidelity can be as painful and messy as an affair. Plus, you have the added punch in the gut of screwed-up finances now, too.

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Discovering you’ve been lied to about money can throw off your center of balance somehow. Kind of like you are on the slippery deck of a ship pitching up and down in the waves and you feel like hurling over the side.

You thought you could rely on this person above all others to be straight with you, but now here you are.

Do you bail? Do you hurl over the side? What do you do now?

First, feel free to hurl, but after your tears dry and your stomach stops lurching, we hope you will choose to take some steps to fix your relationship and your money. Divorce is expensive. An angry marriage is miserable. There’s a better way.

First of all, you are not alone. Working with couples we have found that lots of couples encounter the pain and struggle of money problems and secrets. 15 million survey respondents in “romantic relationships” said they’re guilty of “financial infidelity.”

But we have also seen that rebuilding trust after financial infidelity is really possible. It takes work and dedication from both parties, but you can do it.

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Five ways to fix your relationship after financial infidelity has broken your trust:

1. Confess and forgive.

A good first step in this mess of financial infidelity is to confess if you’re the truth-side-stepper. Or if you suspect your spouse is being less than honest, get yourself into a positive not-going-to-throw-anything frame of mind and ask them about the discrepancy. Maybe the amounts can be explained.

If they confess to lying about money take a deep breath, but then let them know that ends today.

Remember you bring shortcomings to the relationship, too. Let them know you forgive them or at least let them know that even though you are mad now you will listen and work toward forgiving them.

Sometimes you will need to forgive multiple times. Their behavior may not change overnight. Even if they don’t plan to hide their spending or saving they may be so used to it that they commit the same mistake again.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Show your strength. Be honest. Be forgiving.

2. Establish new routines.

Tomorrow is the first day of a new season for your marriage. Things can not go on as they have in the past. You will ruin your relationship and your finances.

Don’t expect different results if you both act the same way you did before.

Change up how you’ve been handling your money. If only one person had visibility to all that was coming in and going out – stop that. You are grown, adults. You can, and should, both be involved in the finances.

If “sales” are your drug, then eliminate some temptations — unfollow brands on Instagram that make you reach for your card, unsubscribe from the updates (and solicitations) from your store credit cards. Get rid of the deal of the day emails. Avoid big stores if Target is where you go off the rails. You can get groceries near your home and avoid pushing your cart past the pretty seasonal items and new clothes or sports equipment.

Sit down together and identify your problem areas and agree to establish new routines for how to handle your money.

We set a new routine last ski season. When one of us sees something we’d really like that’s over $200, we stop and snap a pic and send it to the other for their input.

It’s not a “Mother May I?” game, but it has helped both of us pause and think through our wants and our needs. If one of us says, “Pass,” we can still bring it up later if we have thought about it and feel strongly about the benefit of the item.

We have found it doesn’t shut either of us down; it just opens up communication for us. (And keeps yet another set of ski’s from showing up in our garage.)

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3. Remove barriers.

Figure out what killed your communication before the financial infidelity.

  • Did you find you texted about things you probably should have sat down and discussed?

  • Did you have accounts you both weren’t aware of?

  • Did both of you know about every credit card the other has? Store cards too?

  • Did one of you hide money for a personal cash stash?

  • Do you hate talking about money so you avoid it?

  • Did you have any kind of set day or monthly date to discuss money?

Find the hole in the boat that’s sinking you and remove those barriers to success.

We aren’t saying remove all personal free will and the ability to have an account of your own. If you think it works, you can have separate accounts, but insist on total transparency of those accounts.

We have three bank accounts between the two of us and we both have access and visibility to all three at any time we want. The same goes for our credit cards.

Especially after a breach of trust, it is critical to remove any doubt of what’s going on by sharing 100 percent of your information 100 percent of the time.

4. Get help from a professional.

Money secrets can create a huge mess. People are hurt, and mad, and more often than not your finances have taken a beating. It’s often helpful to get a neutral party to help you sort out your mess.

You wouldn’t ask your best friend to fix the gash in your arm, so don’t think twice about enlisting the help of a professional to untangle the mess and give you both impartial advice for a successful future. If you can’t seem to move forward positively together, call a financial advisor for assistance.

RELATED: I Make A Ton More Money Than My Husband — 4 Ways We Make It Work

5. Reward your success.

This step is easy to forget but is so important. Reward your success. Celebrate the changes you make. If you set a new budget or establish a new routine and you both stick to it for a month or two – celebrate. Go out to eat, grab dessert, or hit the game together that weekend.

Reward the steps, no matter how small, that you take in the right direction. Share in your accomplishment together.

Remember no one wants to save money and in the process ruin a relationship. What good is that?

So be careful not to get so focused on the money side of this problem that you neglect the relationship side. Learn to trust each other again.

According to Nolo, the average divorce costs $19,600. So think of all the cash you save as money you can invest in your relationship. (Please don’t go out and buy something for that amount.)

Being lied to stinks! But your relationship is worth more than an amount on a statement.

Be transparent. Make some positive changes. Go forward together. Enjoy a healthier, wealthier life.

RELATED: My Husband Bankrupted Me And Destroyed Me Financially 

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.