What Is Financial Infidelity?

Financial Infidelity is engaging in money related behaviors that you intentionally fail to disclose to your partner.  This can involve running up debt, secret savings, non-disclosure of income or assets, lying about being fired or laid off, and many other more creative things.

It is not reliant upon having a joint checking or savings account.  It is not reliant upon being legally married.  It is also not having a private account that your spouse knows you have but doesn’t know how you spend.  To really define it in any specific circumstance you must look at intent.  Is this being purposefully hidden?  Am I deliberately not telling my partner?  Am I taking actions to ensure they don’t find out? 

Maybe you’ve joined in a relationship but decided to keep all the money stuff separate.  If that means you each keep your own checking and savings and pay your own bills that is completely fine.  However, even in that situation there can be infidelities.  It’s really about lying, either directly or by omission, about things that you know or suspect your partner would not be OK with.  Commingling or not commingling funds is irrelevant.


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An example: two people, let’s call them Amber and Jake, have been married for 15 years and have 3 kids.  Jake sees some used, but in great condition, golf clubs at the pro shop.  However, he knows that they have a lot of debt and no savings and Amber will never agree to putting more debt on their nearly maxed out credit cards.  So Jake applies for his own credit card at his local bank, asks for paperless statements and has them sent to his email which he knows Amber never looks at.  He buys the golf clubs and tells Amber they were a hand me down from a friend of his that bought himself a new set.  Amber believes him.  Jake then takes some cash out of the ATM every month - not a lot so he doesn’t raise any red flags - and walks over to his local bank to pay the credit card in person.

A better scenario would be if Jake and Amber each had a certain amount of money each month to spend on whatever they want to.  Jake wants to buy the golf clubs but doesn’t have enough that month.  He tells Amber that the pro shop is going to let him pay in three installments and he’s going to use his personal shopping fund to cover the clubs.  Amber acknowledges that they had agreed to spend that money without judgement so she is fine, the purchase is fine and the marriage is fine.  No problem.

In both scenarios Jake gets his clubs.  In both scenarios Jake, and technically Amber too since they are legally married, is on the hook for a debt.  But in scenario #2 it is all out in the open and therefore no infidelity occurred.

There a many reasons people ‘cheat’ on their spouses financially.  It can come from fear, pride, revenge, trauma, low self-worth, anger…the list goes on. 

The most important thing to remember is that it can be fixed.  It’s not easy but if saving your marriage is important to you it is worth it.