Is lying about money as bad as an affair?
It can be.
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 would be a given. But if your partner decided to pick and choose when the whole honesty thing applied to money, you can consider yourselves knee-deep in infidelity. Financial infidelity, that is.
Financial infidelity is any kind of lying, hiding, or hoarding of money inside of a relationship.
And, yes, it can be as painful and messy as an affair. Plus, you have the added stress of screwed-up finances now too.
Finding out that your spouse has been lying to you, no matter the circumstances, can mess up your entire life. You thought you could rely on this person, above all others, to be straight with you. Your sense of trust is completely gone!
So, do you bail? Do you stay and try to work things out? What do you do now?
First, feel free to be upset. But after you’ve allowed yourself to process and calm down, we hope you will choose to take some steps to rebuild your marriage and your money. Divorce is expensive and an angry marriage is miserable. We’re here to tell you that there’s always hope for recovery.
First of all, you are not alone. Working with countless couples over the years, we have found that lots of couples encounter the pain and struggle of money secrets. In fact, 15 million survey respondents in “romantic relationships” said they’re guilty of “financial infidelity”.
But we have also seen that rebuilding after financial infidelity really is possible. It takes work and dedication from both parties, but you can do it.
Here are 5 ways to rebuild after financial infidelity:
1. Confess and forgive.
A good first step in this mess of financial infidelity is to confess if you’re the one that’s in the wrong. 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 towards 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 without even thinking about it.
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’t 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 recently. When one of us sees something we’d really like that’s over our agreed-upon budget, we stop and snap a pic and send it to the other for their input.
It’s not a game of “Mother May I?”, but it has helped both of us pause and think through our wants and our needs. If one of us says, “pass,” we 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 skis from showing up in our garage.)
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 try to 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 your success.
We aren’t saying remove all financial-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 several bank accounts between the two of us and we both have access and visibility to all of them 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% of your information 100% of the time.
4. Get help from a professional.
Money secrets can create a huge mess. People are hurt, 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.
5. Reward your success.
This step is easy to forget but it 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.
Being lied to stinks! But your relationship is worth more than any amount on a credit or bank statement.
Be transparent. Make some positive changes. Go forward together. Enjoy a healthier, wealthier life.
If you haven’t already, go check out our 5 Money Personalities Assessment!
You will be amazed at the instant understanding that comes once you and your spouse realize WHY you are the way you are when it comes to money.
Taylor & Megan Kovar
The Money Couple