What is financial infidelity?

Trust is the foundation of a good marriage, so infidelity of any kind can strike a death blow to the relationship – and that includes something known as “financial infidelity.” This involves one half of a couple hiding or lying about any financial matter to the other.

Financial infidelity is surprisingly common. According to a Bankrate survey, 39% of partnered respondents admit that they’ve been financially unfaithful at some point in their history, and 23% admit to keeping a financial secret from their significant other right now.

With those kinds of numbers, it pays to be on alert

Because financial infidelity is a breach of trust, the deception doesn’t have to be huge to hurt. It’s also important to recognize that one form of financial infidelity can lead to another, compounding the problem.

For example, maybe your spouse has a spending problem. They may have started out easing the itch to buy things by thrifting on the weekends, a few dollars at a time. As their habit spiraled out of control, they opened a secret credit card to hide how much they were spending and quietly rented a storage unit to hide their hauls from you. By the time you find out, they’ve accumulated tons of unwanted possessions and a significant amount of debt that you didn’t even know existed.

Financial infidelity doesn’t have to be all about secret spending, either. For example, maybe your spouse has always controlled the finances, and you’ve long had the belief that money was tight – only to find out that your spouse was investing every dime they could without telling you. Once you’ve scrimped and given up on small pleasures, finding out that you could have been living much better can feel like a huge betrayal.

Sometimes, financial infidelity can be addressed in counseling and a couple can rebuild their trust and move on. Other times, it just becomes painfully clear that the couple’s money habits and values don’t align. When that happens, a divorce usually becomes necessary.

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