Financial Infidelity

The headline “Financial Infidelity” is not as grabbing as say, “Marital Infidelity.” News about a married man or woman getting caught in an extra-marital affair garners far more attention than news about a married man or woman getting caught in an extra-marital “financial affair,” which involves hiding money or purchases from their spouse.

And though financial infidelity doesn’t seem quite as shocking as marital infidelity, the effects can be just as devastating. In our book, The Necessary Nine, Dr. Peter Newhouse and I talk at length about a couple’s financial security. First of all, men and women, in general, define that term differently. For men, it is a verb. It is something they do or an action they take. For women, it is a noun. It is something they feel or a state of existence they can experience.

In the book, we also point out that money is one of the leading causes of divorce in America, but adults don’t give it the proper time and attention it deserves because it doesn’t seem critical. But people can fall in love with money as easily as they fall into an affair. The allure is similar: the danger of getting caught, the thrill of the secret, and the excitement of getting away with something. But as people quickly discover, whether it’s money or another person, infidelity is an illusion built on false promises which quickly come crashing down once the adventure runs its course.

When it comes to secret buying, everybody probably indulges a little. A coffee drink you routinely purchase. Snacks you get for the office. A book you’ve been dying to read ends up in your shopping cart. They’re not significant acquisitions, but consider why you aren’t sharing the information with your spouse. Maybe you’ve both agreed to allow purchases under a certain amount, but if you’re afraid to share purchases with your spouse, that’s a problem. Not surprisingly, men and women differ in the types of secret purchases they make. For women, the majority of money is spent on clothing and gifts, while for men it is alcohol, music, and dating sites. It seems rather obvious to me that if you’re doing something you’re afraid to tell your spouse about, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Your finances need to be out in the open where both of you can see them. Don’t close the book on trying to work as a team in getting your finances in order. There are professional programs you can attend and books you can read to help you with budgeting, dealing with debt, and understanding gender differences when it comes to finances.

Don’t think that because your infidelity is about money rather than sex, that it isn’t cheating. It’s still betrayal and violating trust, which is damaging to a relationship. If you’re hiding money or purchases from your spouse, come clean today. Get rid of the dirty laundry that’s tarnishing your relationship and finances.