Financial Infidelity: Is Your Partner Cheating On You?

Financial Infidelity: Is Your Partner Cheating On You?

•  3 minute read

Sexual and emotional dishonesty aren't the only things that can destroy a relationship. Financial infidelity can, too.

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.

Infidelity of any kind can tarnish even the strongest relationship. It feels like the ultimate betrayal, and recovering is hard.

Sexual and emotional dishonesty aren't the only things that can destroy a relationship. Financial infidelity can, too.

While many of us understand the consequences of physical or emotional infidelity, financial infidelity — when one person hides debt, assets, or spending from their partner — can leave you with more than a broken heart.

According to a survey by Money magazine, 22 percent of spouses spend money without letting the other spouse 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.

A few years ago, a colleague confided in me that he was getting a divorce. His wife was addicted to online video games and had depleted nearly all their child’s education fund to pay for her addiction. The infidelity broke their relationship and jeopardized 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,” says. “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.”

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.

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 know 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 such as gambling or alcohol.
  • Your partner has acquired a lot of new stuff and you’re unsure where it came from.
  • Unexplained drops in the balance on your checking or savings accounts.
  • Your partner is suddenly very generous.

If you notice any of these signs, you may want to talk to your partner.

How Can You Avoid Financial Infidelity?

“Be open and honest about your finances. Keep in mind that nearly everyone has screwed up or made poor decisions,” says Rind.

Also, schedule monthly money dates and have access to a joint account. Annually check your credit report together and talk about your shared goals and dreams. Make money about more than just money.

What happens if you realize you are 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.

Assess the root cause of the infidelity — is it a communication issue, spending issue, or an addiction? And ultimately, you’ll have to decide if you can work on it together.