SALLY received the mail that evening and was curious to find an envelope addressed to her husband from a bank she didn’t recognize. She opened it and learned Jim had gotten a home equity loan that he never discussed with her. Jim had done this behind her back! When Sally asked him about it, Jim told her that he got the loan to give them some “cushion” because they had been behind in their bills for several months. He wanted to spare her from feeling stressed and anxious. Sally was demoralized and devastated! And Jim couldn’t understand what he had done that was so wrong.
Like Sally and Jim, more than 40% of couples are in a financially unfaithful marriage. And greater than 75% of couples say financial infidelity is harmful and even fatal to their relationship.
Do these statistics sound familiar? Financial infidelity is a pattern of lying about spending and finances within a marriage. It may include things like hiding a purchase from your spouse, lying about the price you paid, opening a credit card without your spouse’s knowledge, keeping a secret bank account, or not disclosing a bonus check.
There are many reasons couples find themselves in this situation. Sometimes it’s related to the inequality of earnings if one spouse makes more money than the other. It may be that there are already tensions in the relationship and acts of overspending would further stress an already fragile marriage. Maybe it is a learned pattern of behavior that was brought into the marriage by one or both spouses. No matter what the reason, financial infidelity always results in a myriad of problems that tear away at the foundation of a marital relationship.
Some damaging effects of financial infidelity include:
- Breakdown or loss of trust
- Inhibition of emotional and physical intimacy
- Feelings of betrayal and insignificance
- Unresolved conflict
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Prolonged or elimination of future planning for retirement or college
- Significant financial consequences such as debt or poor credit
Are you and your spouse experiencing a financially unfaithful relationship? Do you feel financially disconnected from your spouse?
Although challenging, the casualties of financial infidelity are not impossible to overcome. There is a road back to FINANCIAL CONNECTION and even a way to avoid these painful outcomes all together!
Here are some effective ways to work towards financial fidelity in your marriage by developing a healthy financial connection between you and your spouse.
First, create an environment of positive conversation.
Discussing finances can be distressing and even scary. But to have successful results, you need to be able to talk comfortably and peacefully with your spouse about money and spending. Set the mood for calm conversation. For example, plan a quiet dinner for two. Establish boundaries ahead of time such as a maximum of one-hour discussion, no blaming words, take turns talking, etc. Be honest and open about your concerns, attitudes about money and financial expectations. The goal is to develop a practice of effective and mutually respectful financial communication with your spouse.
Second, evaluate yourselves both individually and as a couple related to spending. Try to understand your spending habits and the roots behind them. Do you overspend on sales? Is it because you don’t want to miss the deal? As a couple, who is more inclined to save? How does the saver react when their spouse spends and visa-versa? Does one spouse have more control of the money? Why?
Use the insight from your evaluation and make some changes. For example, do you compulsively buy things for emotional fulfillment? If so, explore ways you can fill this void without spending. Do you want to have equal distribution of bill paying? Talk with your spouse about ways to manage debts and expenditures together. Recognize each other’s financial differences and be respectful of them. Take these nuances into consideration when discussing your financial plans.
Next, start with a clean slate. Wouldn’t you want to have a fresh start? The goal here is to reach full disclosure so that you and your spouse can work towards a healthy financial relationship. Offering forgiveness for past wrongdoings and focusing on a plan for the future instead of replaying the past will lead to more successful results. Taking personal responsibility for the consequences of financial mistakes is crucial. This means humbly addressing the problems and committing to following through with the solutions.
In some situations, professional counseling is helpful or necessary. Are these patterns deeply ingrained or are you worried about how to approach your spouse with your financial concerns? With the guidance of a skilled counselor, you and your spouse can work through these steps together in a safe and encouraging environment.
Great job! Now that you and your spouse have developed a healthy FINANCIAL CONNECTION, you are ready to start working together to create a successful financial plan!