When we speak of infidelity, it’s usually in the context of a partner getting sexually or emotionally involved with another person. But did you know financial infidelity can also be a major issue among couples? One that can not only destabilize your relationship but also send your entire life crumbling.

But what exactly qualifies as financial infidelity? What are the consequences of financial secrecy in relationships? Why does it happen? How can you spot it? We address these questions to help you safeguard your relationship from falling prey to this tendency and your life from financial ruin.

What Is Financial Infidelity?

Financial infidelity is when one partner starts hiding financial information and monetary transactions from the other. This could include anything from undisclosed spending to using savings without telling one’s partner, mounting credit card bills or losing money to addictive habits such as gambling.

Even in its mildest form, secrets about money can strain the relationship. As the severity of the financial secrecy in relationships grows, it can prove detrimental to a couple’s future together. In marriages, an inability to overcome financial differences can lead to divorce.

Related Reading: Achieving financial harmony as a couple

According to a National Endowment for Financial Education study, two out of five adults in the US admit to having committed financial infidelity in their relationships. Another study finds that these differences are the reason behind 30 per cent of all divorce cases in the US.

While marriages are more susceptible to this risk since spouses tend to merge or share their finances, it can also impact people in long-term committed relationships. Particularly in cases where both partners are living together or maintaining joint savings for a specific shared goal such as marriage, buying a house or a dream vacation.

What causes financial infidelity?

Why does financial infidelity happen? The reasons for financial secrecy in relationships fall on a wide spectrum. A lot of people who fail to maintain financial transparency in their relationships pin it on an intent to avoid fighting about money. However, what most people don’t see is that these fights and arguments are not the real problem.

These are symptoms of deeper, underlying issues, which are the real cause of financial infidelity.

Some of the key factors that cause financial infidelity include:

  • Lack of trust: Fear of fights over money is often rooted in a lack of understanding between partners in matters of financial planning
  • Divergent goals: When a couple does not share financial goals, secrecy is bound to seep in. For instance, one partner wants to spend on clothes, lavish holidays, partying, dining out whereas the other wants to save every penny for a secure future
  • Guilt: Let’s say the money is already tight and one partner splurges on something that the other will view as an extravagance, the likelihood of covering up such transactions becomes high. Before you know it, keeping money secrets from your spouse can become a pattern
  • Addiction: Addiction of any kind, be it alcohol, drugs, gambling or even shopping, costs a pretty penny. Often, the addict sees lies and deception as the only way of covering their tracks. On the other hand, the non-addict partner may start hiding money from their partner to save themselves from financial distress
  • Income inequality: If one partner earns significantly more than the other, they may start resenting having to bear a bigger chunk of financial responsibilities. They may start spending in secret to settle the score. Or the partner who earns who may control all financial decisions, and the other partner may start spending secretively to reclaim control
  • Affairs: If a partner is having an affair, they have no choice but to resort to financial infidelity to keep their transgressions under wraps. Hotel bills, gifts, dinners, vacations – all have to be paid for discreetly

Related Reading: Money And Marriage Tips: 12 Ways To Sort Out Finances In A Marriage And Grow Rich

What Are The Signs Of Financial Infidelity In A Relationship?

Financial infidelity leads to divorce or partners parting ways in a substantial number of cases. Even if, a couple decides to stay together, the quality of their relationship undoubtedly takes a hit. Not to mention the toll it can take on your future security and stability.

Considering these factors, it is safe to say that financial secrecy in relationships can be as harmful cheating or emotional infidelity, if not more. Since it is also widespread, learning to notice the red flags early on may help couples in surviving financial infidelity.

Here are the top 10 signs of financial infidelity to take note of:

1. Lack of clarity about a partner’s earnings

Irrespective of whether you’re married or in a long-term relationship, if your finances are merged, there has to be transparency about how much each partner earns.

Do you know how much your partner makes? Have you seen their paychecks or stubs? What about their bank statements? Do they discuss bonuses and salary raises with you? These are all crucial for maintaining transparency on the money front.

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it is one of the first glaring signs of financial infidelity in the relationship.

2. You have no idea where the money goes

You and your partner may be contributing a portion of your earnings toward shared expenses. But what about the rest? Do you know how your partner spends the rest of the amount? And do they? Because of this lack of clarity, have you found yourself wondering is it wrong to hide money from your spouse or partner?

If a large chunk of each other’s earning is unaccounted for, you need to talk to your partner about it. This kind of financial secrecy in relationships is often a breeding ground for trouble.

Related Reading: He sends money back to his parents; why can’t I?

3. Credit cards, bank accounts you didn’t know of

Have you just discovered a credit card or bank account in your partner’s name that you knew nothing about? We hate to break it to you that this indicates that your partner has been practising repeated financial infidelity. Often, it can also be linked to emotional or physical infidelity.

Maybe they’re having an affair and this undisclosed credit card or bank account was their way of covering their tracks. Perhaps, they were simply trying to save some extra money. Or trying to keep certain luxury expenditures under the radar.

The reason notwithstanding, such a discovery can dent trust in a relationship, shaking its very foundation.

4. Hiding new purchases

Have you ever hid a shopping bag under the car seat and snuck it in when your partner wasn’t around? Or have you noticed them wearing something new but when asked they say the item was always in their wardrobe? These actions may seem inconsequential but you’re committing financial infidelity.

The fact that you feel the need to hide purchases from each other indicates that you have underlying issues to deal with. Often, these go beyond just fighting and stress about money.

5. Being defensive about money points to financial infidelity

Does your partner close up whenever you try to discuss budget or financial plans? Do they deflect by questioning your spending habits? Or change the topic altogether? This defensiveness and lack of will to have an open discourse is a major red flag.

financial infidelity leads to divorce

Not willing to have an open discourse about money

If you have been experiencing this regularly, you must try to breach this wall your partner tends to build around them. Getting across to them is the only way of understanding how deep the problem run and if your relationship has a shot at surviving financial infidelity.

Related Reading: Financial tips for Double Income couples

6. No access to their financial information

Even though you may have shared your online banking passwords and credit card PIN with them, your partner hasn’t reciprocated with the same openness. If you do ask them for the same kind of access, they either become withdrawn or blow their top.

This wall of secrecy is a surefire sign that your partner has something to hide. They aren’t being honest with you about their financial status – that is the very definition of financial infidelity.

7. You have noticed money missing

You have noticed money going missing, be it from a joint account or a stash of the emergency fund at home. At first, perhaps, you thought it was an error in calculation on your part. But eventually, it has become evident that something isn’t adding up.

If you and your partner are the only two people who have access to these funds, it is abundantly clear that they’re siphoning off you. This could be indicative of an addiction problem or a huge debt that you’re unaware of. Either way, this is unhealthy behavior. You have some serious introspection to do. Besides, it is equally important that you don’t keep ignoring this worrying sign of financial infidelity.

Talk to your partner once you’re sure that they’ve been taking money without accounting for it.

8. Being removed as a signatory

Let’s say your partner is the primary account holder for a credit card, and they suddenly drop you as the add-on authorized signatory on it. Or you had a joint account from which you have been removed. To make matter worse, your partner hasn’t discussed these decisions with you nor informed you about them.

You find out through an email from the bank. It’s bound to leave you feeling shocked, aghast, and humiliated. Such actions can become a major contentious issue in the relationship. One that can escalate to a point where financial infidelity leads to divorce or separation.

9. They have assets you know nothing about

financial secrecy in relationships

Hiding financial details from one’s partner

Financial infidelity isn’t just about hiding expenditure from a partner. Building a fortune secretly is also equally damaging. Let’s say, your partner has invested in a property or they have started diverting a major chunk of their savings into a trust that you know nothing about, it’s a troubling sign that must not be taken lightly.

The possibility that they feel that your marriage or relationship has run its course and waiting to be on a secure financial footing to tell you that cannot be ruled out.

Related Reading: My husband is stingy and his only focus in life is money, even if it’s at the cost of his relationships

10. Discussing financial distress in hypotheticals

What if you default on the mortgage and the house is declared forfeit? Have you ever considered living in a smaller apartment? What if we had to move to a place where the cost of living isn’t so high? Do the kids have to attend a private school?

If you partner bringing up such ‘hypothetical’ scenarios just to gauge your reaction, it’s a clear sign that they can see a financial hardship in the offing. Perhaps, due to some investment decisions gone wrong, secret spending or extravagant lifestyle.

In case, these ominous questions are thrown your way often, confront them, and ask what’s going on rather than being taken by surprise later.

Looking at the financial infidelity and rates of divorce co-relation, it’s evident that this breach of trust can threaten your relationship. That’s why, if you can relate with these signs of financial infidelity, it is imperative to act swiftly. Talking about the problem is the only way of tackling it.

You must do so calmly, without cornering the erring partner or being accusatory in your approach. Perhaps, lay the groundwork by talking about a shared goal such as early retirement or buying a house. Then, steer the conversation toward how repeated financial infidelity can stop these dreams in their tracks.

If your attempts to resolve this issue through discussion lead to you fighting about money, you can lean on experts for help.

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