Financial Infidelity | Uncovering and Overcoming Monetary Betrayals

Financial infidelity

When you’re out shopping, sometimes things just jump out at you. The price tag is a little staggering, but you know you’ll be happier after buying it. It’s completely worth it, you rationalize. Is this scenario ringing any cash register noises?

But then there’s your partner. They probably won’t see the value in your new $450 boots, chic as they may be. So you don’t mention the price tag, maybe hide them in your car, and you hope they don’t ask. And if they do ask, “Are those new?” you answer, “No, I’ve had these forever,” since you do have a lot of shoes.

You may feel totally justified in this—after all, how much did they waste on their expensive golf hobby? If any of this resonates with you, you have committed financial infidelity–and you are far from alone. A startling number of people, at the risk of their marriages and long-term financial security, conceal purchases, price tags, and even entire lines of credit from their significant others.

Everyone has heard of a spouse cheating on their partner, but how does it unfold when the infidelity involves money? The emotional toll of a cheating partner is hard enough, but the financial repercussions may be devastating. So, let’s find out all about financial infidelity, from uncovering it to overcoming monetary betrayals.

What is Financial Infidelity?

When one or both in a relationship deliberately conceal their financial problems or are dishonest about their financial status, financial infidelity is happening. This might show up as making financial decisions behind the scenes or with limited disclosure of one’s spending patterns. This can also manifest in some couples as keeping a separate bank account that their spouse is unaware of, concealing their income, or being secretive about debts and other significant financial commitments.

Some people feel that spending money on things without telling their partner is their right and their right to autonomy. Some partners find nothing wrong with this, and it has no negative impact on the relationship. Frequently, though, this stems from a desire on the side of spouses to avoid fights over money. This is particularly true if the person in question engages in compulsive gambling, shopping, or other financially unstable spending.

monetary betrayal

Examples of Monetary Betrayal

  • Not disclosing an 80,000-dollar student loan balance to a prospective spouse.
  • Spending an excessive amount of money on a credit card that your partner doesn’t know about.
  • Money borrowed under a partner’s name.
  • Providing deceptive info about the cost of an item to a partner.
  • Concealing a lot of money from your partner.

Many couples cheat when it comes to money–according to a survey by U.S. News & World Report, more than 30 percent of couples report having experienced economic infidelity in the relationship, either as the hidden spender or the unknowing spouse.

The Reason for Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity frequently begins innocently enough before becoming a serious issue over time. Usually, it starts from a reluctance to have honest conversations or communicate about money.

A lot of couples don’t talk about money at all, or when they do, they argue over it, and there aren’t productive conversations in between. Each partner in this relationship usually wants to steer clear of conflict and the negative emotions that accompany it, and finance is an easy way to ignite disagreements.

Financial infidelity is common in this environment because it might feel too easy to hide things when partners are unable to have open, honest communication regarding their finances and the way they want to handle their money together.

financial-infidelity reason

How To Clock Financial Betrayal

Financial infidelity, like sexual infidelity, is a terrible betrayal of trust–if you and your partner have reached the point where you feel uneasy talking about any financial matters, the issue at hand goes far deeper than money.

The question then becomes how to spot it. Several red flags should alert you to the possibility of financial infidelity:

financial betrayal
  • Unrecognized Credit Card Bills: Getting credit card statements in the mail for a credit card or cards you don’t recognize.
  • Change of Status: Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, your name has been taken off a joint credit card.
  • New Passwords: When, without your knowledge, the passwords to your banking accounts have been reset.
  • Unwillingness to Talk About Money: Your partner won’t talk about money issues with you or will sign financial paperwork without explaining the reason for it.
  • Financial Decision-Making Done Unilaterally: Your spouse makes large purchases without consulting you or getting your approval.
  • Paranoia: Your partner has developed severe anxiety about checking their inboxes.

How To Avoid Being in the Financial Dark

Financial infidelity can be avoided or stopped in its tracks in a number of different ways. To put an end to the monetary infidelity that may be happening in your relationship and to make sure it doesn’t occur again, follow these guidelines.

financial dark
  • Don’t bury your head in the sand: Giving your partner full control over the household finances is an open invitation for monetary betrayal. Make the effort to manage your money responsibly, and make sure you’re both contributing.
  • Communicate: Set aside time once a month or even weekly to sit down and talk about money…and everything else that matters in your relationship.
  • Review your goals: Have they changed? Does your partner want something different? You should make a family spending plan that everyone agrees on so that you’re always on the same page.
  • Get a professional: An accounting professional or financial planner can help you set goals, deal with debt, invest in ways that will save you money on taxes, and plan your estate.

Practical Strategies for Coping with Financial Infidelity

When someone has proven themselves to be untrustworthy, it’s wise and appropriate to put up roadblocks to prevent it from happening again. This might seem extreme or even cruel, but it’s critical for building trust back.

If the financially unfaithful partner continues to have solo spending accounts or open access to credit cards, the other partner may always wonder what they’re hiding. This is especially true in the setting of online gambling or addictive spending behaviors. Just like you need to limit an alcoholic’s access to alcohol, limit the spender’s access to money.

If you weren’t already a signatory on every account, you need to be now! It’s super important that you take the time and effort to ensure you have oversight over all household spending. Don’t let there be any secrets between you with regard to money! This is especially true of credit cards and liquid cash accounts—stay on top of the money.

practical strategy

Professional Counseling

In most cases, money isn’t the main problem—money is the symptom. The real problem is the breach of trust that has taken place. If you want your relationship to last, you need to find a way to reconcile and move forward together.

Because of the emotional nature of the subject, you may find it hard to do that without professional help, and a professional can help you find ways to constructively deal with anger, betrayal, guilt, and shame. They can help you discuss the issues and get to the heart of the problem.

In addition to healing the relationship and re-establishing trust, you need a plan to pay off any debts that have accrued—there’s really no getting around this one. If your spouse spent your family into a lot of debt, they have to live with that, but, unfortunately, it’s the responsibility of both spouses to figure out a way to get your finances back on track.

If you want to have financial freedom, you have to deal with past mistakes, even if you weren’t the one who made them. Once you’ve found a way to reconcile with the one who wronged you, take action to start getting out of the financial hole you find yourself in.

professional counseling

Final Thoughts

You might think it’s impossible to forgive someone who has seriously wronged you or betrayed your trust. But it’s imperative for you to find a way to do so, and it’s not for their sake alone—it’s for you, too!

That anger will consume you if you let it—you need to deal with the anger and then start to move forward, if possible. Get help from a professional, like a therapist, pastor, close friends, or family members.

It takes time to get past monetary betrayals, so be prepared for some rough patches, lots of hard conversations, and emotional ups and downs. But if you want to save your relationship, in the end, it’ll be worth it.

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.