Committing Financial Infidelity? You May Be, and Not Even Know It.

Published on February 15, 2021

black and white image of a woman's face with her finger over her lips

According to research Financial Infidelity in Couple Relationships (Jeanfreau, Noguchi, Mong & Stadthagen, 2018), 27% of people ADMIT to keeping a secret from their partner and 53% actually DO keep a secret.

Love means many things including trust, transparency, and commitment to each other. It means working as a team as you walk through this wonderful, precious journey called life. 

But you might be breaking that trust and transparency by committing financial infidelity without even knowing it.  We’ve all heard about infidelity – cheating on our partner with another person. It can lead to heartbreak, anger, revenge and divorce.  Financial infidelity is hiding purchases, concealing debt or accounts, lying, or misrepresenting what we’re doing with the shared household money and assets.  And it can be just as devastating.

Money is a symbol of your relationship

Money isn’t love, but it’s a symbol of how we think and how we behave. Financial infidelity may start small – like hiding a purchase in the trunk of your car or sneaking it into the closet. It starts the first time you tell your child “don’t tell anyone we’re spending money on this” or when you fail to disclose to your future spouse that you have debt.

As a Financial Therapist and owner of Behavioral Cents, I see clients committing financial infidelity frequently without them even realizing it. It’s important to think about why you’ve chosen to behave this way, and what it means to your relationship.

  • Is your partner being a tight wad and every once in a while, you need to bust loose from control for a bit of freedom?
  • Are you the major bread earner and feel you deserve to spend what you want?
  • Are you hiding debt out of shame and want to avoid the uncomfortable discussion, or worse, rejection?

If you think avoiding this discussion is uncomfortable now, wait until you are caught in the deception.

woman in a blue suit at a computer looking over her shoulder in worry, committing financial infidelity
Financial infidelity is hiding purchases, concealing debt or accounts, lying, or misrepresenting what we’re doing with shared household money and assets

Break the cycle

1. Be clear on whether you are committing financial infidelity with this list.

2. Examine why you are behaving this way. What are you reacting to in yourself or your partner? Here are some underlying emotional needs behind the act of infidelity:

  • Love
  • Power, or Rebellion against Power
  • Freedom
  • Self-Worth
  • Control
  • Recognition/Reward

3. Discuss with your partner what you aren’t getting in the list above, and how they might support you.

4. Discuss what money means to you, and what money means to your partner. Negotiate a sum of money for spending independence that can satisfy you both.

Re-commit to your partnership

Opposites attract, and this plays out in money behaviors too.  Working in concert toward the same goals and dreams while bringing your differences into the discussion will generate decisions that work for all concerned. If you’re not rowing in the same direction, you’re rowing in a circle. Financial Infidelity may seem harmless at first, but it will erode your future together. At Behavioral Cents, we believe you deserve better than that.

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The Author
Carrie Rattle MBA, CDFA, AFC is a Financial Therapist/Coach and Speaker nationwide working with professional women and couples. She owns Behavioral Cents, LLC and Stopping Overshopping. Carrie and her partner, Brian, have talked honestly and openly about money during their entire marriage.