Marriage is a covenant of love and trust between two people. You have promised to build a life together, one based on sharing and honesty. Yet, for many, infidelity breaks the trust and undermines the love. There are different kinds of infidelity; the most familiar is when a partner betrays their spouse by having an affair. But financial infidelity can damage a relationship just as surely, leaving a couple with long-term money problems, and often, when the issue goes unresolved, it leads to divorce. After all, money is the most often cited reason for splitting up.
So why would someone hide their spending from a spouse? It could be a simple misunderstanding of the financial expectations they have of one another and not communicating clearly. There may be an underlying addiction that makes someone spend more than they have in the bank. Perhaps there are deeper, unknown problems in the relationship that drives the desire.
Money can disappear in many ways, from excessive shopping, spending lavishly on a hobby or passion, or manipulating money to hide funds in secret accounts. When one person lies to the other about their spending, or hides assets intentionally, they are committing a marital infraction that is as serious as sexual infidelity.
If you have discovered your partner has hidden their spending from you, there are several things you can do to address the situation. First, it’s important that you do not react emotionally. Take time to consider what it is you expect to be done once you have confronted your spouse about their behavior. How can you help them? Or should you seek professional help?
Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Why are they doing this? What drives their spending? Is it possible they have an addiction? Or are you just not on the same page when it comes to financial and life goals? Is there something you are doing or not doing that is driving their actions? Is stress a trigger?
Often, one person within a marriage controls the money and pays the bills. Is it possible your spouse does not understand your financial situation clearly? Should you share the responsibility and allow them to be more involved? Have you set up a budget? If you have separate accounts, are you completely transparent with each other about them? Remember, you both spend money — you both should be involved in controlling it.
Hard times have hit many households in the past few years. Disposable income is less for most people, but consumer spending is up. That makes it easy to spend too much with the hopes of paying it off later, a cycle that is hard to stop once started. Life tends to chuck all kind of road blocks our way, that college fund didn’t get started, maybe that business never flourished, or retirement is looming and their isn’t nearly enough.
Keeping secrets and telling lies is no way to deal with money problems. Have open discussions about your finances with your spouse. Avoid the blame game, work together to resolve your problems and reach your goals. Financial infidelity can be stopped and the broken trust repaired. You may even forge a stronger marriage and the financially secure foundation to support it.