The Five “W”s of Financial Infidelity

financial_infidelityWhat is financial infidelity?

The level or nature of financial infidelity varies from couple to couple and is partly relative to the couple’s financial situation. Generally, it involves spending, borrowing, or stashing away a significant sum of money without your partner’s knowledge. This is often done through credit cards, especially when the account information is being kept secret from your partner.

Why is it such a problem?

Aside from the obvious, that it could lead to serious financial problems, financial infidelity just like any infidelity destroys trust and leads to a loss of intimacy within your relationship. Surprisingly, financial infidelity is often not about money, but is frequently a sign of bigger relationship problems. If your partner is spending a lot of money without discussing it with you first, he or she might be using money as an indirect method of retaliation for other issues in the relationship, like feeling unacknowledged or unappreciated, for example. These kinds of other stresses can cause partners to act out and make impulse buys or make a big deal out of their partner’s purchases- “how could you have spent that much at the grocery store?”

Problems with sex life and financial issues are the leading causes for divorce, with some research indicating that financial issues are involved in over 80% of divorce cases.

When should I be talking about finances with my significant other?

Not only when it’s too late! Avoid getting into a situation where finances are a problem in your relationship by talking about your financial philosophies before making significant life decisions, like moving in together, getting married, and having children. Things will be a lot smoother if you have similar financial philosophies or if you can reach a compromise that is comfortable for both of you. Make a budget and stick with it. Don’t hold any financial secrets. A good sample financial plan would be do to save 10% of your income and to agree on an amount of money that either partner can spend without first discussing the matter together. Try to live debt free as much as you can. Many people today, especially young couples, because of the rising cost of education, are already in debt when they enter in a relationship. Some of them feel that their financial situation is so bad they will never be out of debt and therefore might as well incur more debt to enjoy life while they’re young. As tempting as that plasma screen television or that Mediterranean cruise might be, the subsequent stress from unnecessary debt in a relationship won’t be worth it in the long run.

Who should be making financial decisions in a couple?

There are many situations when one partner may be earning significantly more than the other. This can happen, for example, when one partner is a stay-at-home parent or if one partner going back to school. When income levels are so disparate, it is easy for the primary earner to feel like he or she should be “in charge” of money matters. While this might at first glance seem fair, even to the other person, a relationship should be founded on mutual respect and shared decision making. In addition the actual income contributed in a relationship, it is important that the non-monetary contributions are also valued. Just because one partner is the primary financial contributor does not mean they get the green light to make all the money related decisions in the relationship.

Where should I go to get help resolving problems about finances and my marriage?

The best advice is to speak to a professional. A good therapist will be able to help you navigate your relationship problems and work through any larger issues that might be causing the financial infidelity or any conflicts over finances. When you can distinguish between trust–related issues and financial ones, overcoming your difficulties may not seem so daunting.




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