Financial infidelity tends not to be seen as serious as having an affair. The reality is, it is a major breach of trust and the damage it causes a relationship can have long term consequences. And then there’s the financial fallout to deal with.
Financial infidelity can seem harmless enough, buying something that you really know you shouldn’t and hiding it away. You bring it out saying breezily, “oh, I’ve had this for ages.” Both men and women do this. For many couples, financial infidelity stops there. But for others it can escalate to real financial harm and relationship breakdown.
We acted for a business owner who had significant tax debt and was too scared to tell his wife. She had no idea the business was on the brink of collapse. As she was a shareholder and had to be told, we organised a meeting – and it turned out to be more dramatic that we could have imagined.
She broke down in tears, not because of the tax debt, but she confessed she had $30,000 of credit card debt that he knew nothing about!! This was a relationship in major trouble and in major denial.
Once it was out in the open, they had to deal with it. After they got over the initial shock they worked together as a team and made some very difficult financial decisions and got through it. This couple was lucky, they came out stronger in their relationship. Many other couples in this situation don’t make it through.
So what is financial infidelity or a financial cheat?
It is where one or both partners in a relationship, make and then hide financial decisions (buy stuff!) that has negative repercussions for both. As I have said, it can be as simple as hiding purchases, through to forging your partners name on loan documents. Yes, this does happen.
As with any infidelity, it is the breach of trust that is the hardest part to work through and get over.
Here are five steps you can put in place so you don’t end up in this situation
- Have the money conversation early in your relationship. Establish some financial boundaries. Talk about different scenarios and how you feel about them. For example, is it OK to lend money to friends and family? What levels of debt and savings are you bringing to the relationship? What are your financial expectations?
- Have a household banker. This is the person who is responsible for managing the household finances. They make sure all the bills get paid, the savings plan is implemented and your financial goals are reached. You can swap this role around, it doesn’t always have to be the same person.
- Don’t delegate your financial responsibilities totally to your partner. You may not be ‘good with money’, but you still need to know what is going on, have access to joint bank accounts, credit cards for example.
- It is important that each of you have your own money that doesn’t have to be accounted for. This can be any amount that you have agreed upon. It could be as little as $25 a week, or $1,000 it really depends on your financial circumstances. By having your own money, you don’t feel the need to hide purchases, or feel guilty if you indulge yourself a little.
- Have regular financial date nights where you talk about your finances, are you on track to meet your long term financial goals? How are you going compared to your money plan? What are some short term savings goals you are working towards?
If you are concerned that financial infidelity may be going on, you need to deal with it sooner rather than later. Talk to your partner, not in an accusing your argumentative state; although it is very difficult not to get emotional about your finances. If you feel you can’t raise it yourself, get some help from a professional who can help you have the conversation and deal with the consequences.
As with any type of infidelity, the main point is don’t let it fester. The sooner you deal with financial infidelity the better and the less emotional and financial harm you may suffer.
If your relationship is strong, with good communication and some processes in place for the future, you will make it out the other side.
If you are concerned about financial infidelity in your relationship, talk to someone.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all need help at one time or another. No matter what our progression in life, we arrive at junctures where we need others’ help to successfully continue the journey.
The trouble is, there are those who never realise that, there are those who realise it but their egos prevent them from asking and there are those who easily and constantly ask.
Which are you?
If would like to talk to someone about it, pick up the phone or drop us an email. We can help.