Financial Infidelity: Is Your Partner Cheating On You?
Sexual and emotional dishonesty aren't the only things that can destroy a relationship. Financial infidelity can, too.
Infidelity of all kinds can tarnish even the strongest of relationships. It feels like the ultimate betrayal, and recovering is hard.
While many of us understand the consequences of physical or emotional infidelity, there’s another type that can leave you with more than a broken heart: financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity is when one person hides debt, assets, or spending from their partner. According to a survey by Money magazine, 22 percent of spouses spend money without letting the other know. It can be similar to financial abuse, except that financial infidelity encompasses lying and secrecy, whereas financial abuse is typically more severe and focused on a sense of control.
While you may think a clandestine purchase here or there may not harm your relationship, financial infidelity can have serious repercussions.
A few years ago, a colleague of mine confided in me that he was getting a divorce. The reason? His wife had an online video game addiction and she depleted nearly all of their child’s education fund to pay for her addiction. The infidelity broke their relationship and deterred their child’s financial future.
Valerie Rind, author of Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads, witnessed first-hand how one financial lie can ruin a marriage. “My husband pretended that he owned the small condo where we lived once we were married. Eventually, we moved to a larger apartment, ‘rented’ out the small condo, and planned to sell it and buy a house after a few years,” Rind explains.
Once the truth came out, she realized that her financial picture wasn’t as pretty as she thought.
“I WAS SHOCKED TO DISCOVER THAT HE LIED TO ME FOR NEARLY A DECADE, GROSSLY MISREPRESENTING OUR ASSETS,” SHE SAYS.
How Does This Happen?
You may wonder how something like this can happen, but it’s not as unbelievable as you may think. When you’re deeply in love with someone, you don’t want money to come between you. We already know that money can cause stress, so if one person is better at managing money, you may think it makes sense to have one person in the household manage the finances.
Financial infidelity can happen in any relationship and can be as small as hiding an important purchase or as big as lying about an asset or spending money without your partner’s consent.
What Are the Signs?
There are a few signs that may give you a heads up that your partner is financially cheating on you. Some include:
- A lack of communication, especially when it comes to financial matters.
- Creating accounts or signing documents without your consent.
- Change in mood – sometimes the infidelity can be the result of another addiction like gambling or alcohol.
- Your partner has acquired a lot of new stuff and you’re unsure where it came from.
- There are unexplained drops in your checking or savings account.
- Your partner is suddenly very generous.
If any of these signs are present in your relationship, you may want to talk to your partner.
How Can You Avoid Financial Infidelity?
Luckily, there are some ways you can avoid financial infidelity. “Be open and honest about your finances. Keep in mind that nearly everyone has screwed up or made poor decisions,” explains Rind.
What happens if you realize you are currently experiencing financial infidelity?
“Once you discover the problem, proceed with caution. Money is a highly charged topic. You might try couples counseling,” says Rind. “But recognize that, like sexual infidelity, the damage may be irreparable. I felt I could never trust my husband again.”
You’ll want to check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com and get a clear picture of where you stand financially. Not only that, but assess the root cause of infidelity – is it a communication issue, spending issue, or an addiction? And ultimately, you’ll have to decide if it’s something you can work on together.