Cheating with Money in a Marriage Is Almost as Bad as Sleeping Around
There is a type of cheating people never talk about, and it can easily destroy a marriage. We know, as financial planners, we’ve seen it happen.
What secrets are you keeping?
Lying (even if it is just about money) is … lying.
You know it deep down, but somehow you wonder if the little “green lies” won’t hurt anyone.
“It was on sale.”
“I don’t know what I did with that receipt.”
“Um, that’s just a card I keep on hand for emergencies.”
“Skimming cash to line my sock drawer, just in case, isn’t legit?”
Sure, little lies are okay IF you don’t want your relationship to grow and last.
Those little green lies can be like an infection that spreads silently and ultimately destroys your relationship.
Just the other day I was lying in the dentist’s chair — mouth open with every metal tool from the tray in there — and the hygienist began to tell me about a fight between her husband and herself.
They had agreed they needed to stop the “spur of the moment” gifts for their son at the store. Her husband likes to pick up something “just for fun” each time they’re out, and she had noticed it was really starting to add up.
Not to mention that she feels like it’s not a great pattern to set.
So she told me the weekend after their “no more” agreement, the father and son arrived home from the grocery store, and her son ran straight to his room, without even a “Hi, mom”.
She followed him in search of a hug and found him playing with a new model airplane. She couldn’t believe her eyes.
The hygienist didn’t need me to say, “That’s terrible.”
For one, I couldn’t talk right then, and secondly, I didn’t need to.
We all know lying to your partner is a no-go.
It doesn’t matter that the husband thinks he’s doing a “nice” thing for their son, he’s still lying about his behavior. His “skirting the truth” erodes the trust and damages their relationship.
65% of couples we counsel about money admit to having some kind of a money secret (a secret account, credit card, stash of cash, etc.).
Left unchecked and ignored, those money secrets can lead to fights and even divorce.
Think that sounds extreme?
Ask divorced individuals the number one reason they threw in the towel and research says the most frequently given answer is, “money”!
Wondering if your relationship is less than 100% in the honest zone about money? Wonder if it’s worth the uncomfortable conversation to find out?
Check out these 5 ways lying about money kills your relationship, and why they are financial infidelity.
1. Financial infidelity is not just about dollars and cents.
A great place to start in your relationship is agreeing that honesty about your money is important.
Your relationship is built on trust and commitment. How you handle and discuss your money isn’t any different.
Lying about money isn’t just about the cash. It’s about trusting your spouse and loving your partner.
Show them you know they can handle the truth and deserve to know it.
Honesty is not about finger-pointing.
It is about understanding what’s really happening in your relationship so you can get rid of anything holding you back from a strong, healthy marriage.
Name the dishonesty, ask forgiveness, and deal with it. Move forward, honestly, together.
Your relationship is far more valuable than any material item on the planet.
2. One person in total control of finances ends up a total mess.
If you have one person in your relationship who controls all of the money, we can guarantee a mess is in the making.
If you don’t trust each individual in the relationship to make wise decisions for themselves and your family, money is not the issue. Trust us.
If one person holds the purse strings so tightly that the other adult in the relationship has no latitude, you set them up to start lying about receipts, secret credit cards, and a sock drawer stash of cash.
We call any lack of transparency or honesty about money in a relationship “financial infidelity”.
It may sound harsh, but if someone is sneaking around with money…It’s still sneaking around.
3. Treating your spouse like a child with your money is … well … childish.
When one spouse begins to act like the parent handing out an allowance to a child, something is wrong.
The adult being treated like a child starts to hide their behavior so they can function in an adult world.
We have a client who called one day all fired up. He said, “We need to come in and see you. I just found a $12,000 balance on a credit card that my wife had that I didn’t know about.”
So they came in and we looked over the credit card bill.
We didn’t see the kinds of expenses you think you’d see on a “super secret account”.
They were charges for groceries, school supplies, and household supplies. The wife began to explain line after line, “This was for extra food for a business dinner we hosted. That was for the kids’ jeans. They never seem to stop growing. That was my regular grocery run.” On and on.
There wasn’t anything on that bill that shouldn’t have been covered by their regular budget.
So we asked her, “Why the secret card?”
She explained, “He doesn’t give me enough money to cover these things. Life is a lot more expensive than when we were growing up.”
We told him, “This bill isn’t her problem. It’s yours.”
He didn’t trust her to be honest about her spending, so he gave her an allowance to track every cent.
He didn’t talk to her about their money, so he had no idea what it really costs to manage a household in today’s world.
In your marriage, remember that you both said, “I do” to “richer or poorer” — so make sure you both have a regular say in money matters.
4. Spending beyond your means is a red flag — and lying about it is, too.
So many couples struggle with spending and debt. We all work hard and want to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
But debt is like gaining some “winter weight”. It can creep up on you and get out of control before you realize how much is there.
And debt, like extra dollars, is a lot easier to accumulate than to get rid of.
It only takes a few extra shopping trips or a full cart online after “just browsing” to dig a hole of debt.
The stress of debt can absolutely leave couples open to “financial infidelity” — that lack of honesty when dealing with money.
They agree they need to “cut back”, but next thing you know a new version of their phone comes out, those cute shoes get marked down and they find themselves lying about their spending, hiding receipts, and even borrowing money to cover their mistakes.
Humility is not easy, but putting your pride aside and admitting the mistake shows your spouse you trust them with your feelings, that you value their input, and you appreciate their support.
5. Secret accounts add up to trouble.
We don’t have a huge problem with multiple accounts between spouses.
If you want a main “house” account where you pay bills from, but then you’d like to have a “fun money” account, that sounds great.
If you want five different accounts with differing amounts and purposes for each, go for it.
But what doesn’t make sense is any account that is opened without the knowledge of your partner.
There are plenty of methods of communication these days—tell your better half about any account you open.
It is not the account that causes the trouble, it’s the secrecy.
Want an account to give each other gifts without them seeing the charge for the new tennis racquet? Fine.
Create a “gifts” account with an amount of money that makes sense to both of you, add to it from time to time, and knock each other’s socks off with some thoughtful, surprise gifts.
Just don’t surprise them with a secret account. They will come across it. We guarantee it.
What’s worth more? Your relationship or your personal plan to do things the way you want?
Trust your partner. Trust your relationship enough, to be honest about your spending and saving.
Fess up that the new guitar was really $200 more than the charge shows because you paid with a card AND with some cash.
Then talk about why you felt the need to lie and how you can better support each other or make changes for the future.
Your relationship is worth more than buying another thing. Honestly.
Taylor & Megan Kovar
The Money Couple
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