It’s often said that money might make the world go round, but it often sends relationships spinning out of control. More than 70% of US adults admit lying to their spouses/partners about money. Hidden bank accounts, purchases and debt are a devastating betrayal of trust.
Called financial infidelity, this behavior often has a serious impact on a relationship. The motives behind it may be “innocent” enough (or not), but the consequences are often costly beyond the dollars and cents. If you’re wondering what financial infidelity might look like, here are just a few red flags to watch for in your relationship.
- You/your partner often changes the topic away from money
- You/your partner easily becomes defensive after money questions or purchases
- You/your partner insist on handling the finances alone
- You/your partner lies about money
- Spending is inconsistent with income
- Mail suddenly stops being delivered/Hiding bills
- Bank statements disappear or received online
Why does financial infidelity happen? Although there are several reasons, the reasons I’ve experienced the most during counseling couples are power imbalances, shame, childhood influences (how he/she saw money handled in their home), and lack of financial knowledge. The result of financial infidelity can lead to erosion of trust, damaged self-esteem, depression, anxiety, poor credit scores, bankruptcy and of course divorce.
To ensure you are having a healthy financial relationship, you must agree to talk often about money. Agree to have total transparency way before you say “I do.” I often suggest to couples to make time to talk, whether it’s weekly, monthly or whatever best works for you; make it happen. In our day-to-day of life, we can become easily distracted from finances until it’s time to pay bills or until someone notices that something didn’t get paid. Make your finances a priority, because it’s your work plan to a healthy financial future. Decide on the duties of handling the finances such as who will be responsible for paying the bills, reviewing statements, negotiating contracts/services, etc. Just because someone appears to be more knowledgeable about finances doesn’t necessarily mean they are automatically designated as the bill payer. Both parties should be involved and share the duties. If you are unable to come to an agreeable solution or are consistently challenged by finances, you may need to seek some outside help such as a credit counseling agency, or a well trusted friend or relative to assist you. There’s no shame in asking for help. What’s shameful is that you begin to have financial ruins that could potentially lead to divorce.
This Valentine’s Day you don’t necessarily have to bring your credit report and finances to the candlelit dinner, but schedule regular talks about money and you’ll increase the chances of enjoying more of those special nights together.