The word “infidelity” is pretty common these days, with examples daily in the news. Celebrities, neighbors and friends all have a story to tell about how they have been betrayed by their partner’s sexual indiscretions. Usually we think about infidelity as sexual or emotional betrayal, being lied to and deceived by a partner in the worst way that we can imagine. But there’s another type of infidelity that is becoming more common, and that is of financial infidelity. This type of cheating pushes at the hot button for many relationships and marriages- that of money and finances.
Financial infidelity is defined as being dishonest with your partner, either blatantly or by omission, about what you have done with the family finances. Examples are running up credit cards into the thousands, forging a partner’s signature to open a new loan or credit line, hiding large debts or financial obligations, all without your partner’s knowledge or consent. Being dishonest about money is a form of cheating, just like sexual or emotional cheating, because you have lied and broken your partner’s trust in the relationship. Just like sexual cheating, financial infidelity can be devastating to the relationship. A loss of intimacy, loss of trust, or loss of hope for the future is all common feelings and reactions when this type of behavior happens.
Now, some of you may think that a few little lies about money can’t hurt anyone, right? Fudging a little about how much you spent for that last pair of shoes or that great new fishing rod can’t be harmful. Well, there are lies and then there are LIES. While it may be true that a lie of $20 dollars may not be harmful, racking up $5000 dollars without discussing it with your partner ahead of time could be very harmful. In a recent Redbook survey, 96% of couples thought that it was their partner’s responsibility to be open and honest about finances. So, is it okay to lie about a small purchase that you made? Telling a lie, ANY lie, is a trust eroding behavior. As with any behavior, starting with a little bit of a lie can turn quickly into a big lie. And the person telling the lie doesn’t feel very good either.
So, what can a couple that has experienced financial infidelity do to begin rebuilding the relationship? The steps involved are similar to any other betrayal and how to trust again.
Be transparent. The first step in rebuilding trust involves both partners being fully accountable for their actions when it comes to finances. This means giving one another information about, as well as access to, all financial records, such as credit card statements, bank accounts, loans, etc. Information like this may be extremely uncomfortable to disclose, but it is crucial to begin repairing the financial damage that has been done, it also demonstrates an openness that is necessary if trust is to be rebuilt.
Work together to create a financial recovery plan. This is extremely important- especially when the financial cheating has affected the both of you, and your credit. Working together to create a recovery plan helps to build trust, and to begin accountability with each other. Your plan might include steps for repaying the debt, creating a budget, and working with a credit counseling agency.
Compromise. It is not possible for both people in a relationship to always get their way when it comes to money. You and your partner both have valid points of view about spending, saving and investing that you both need to acknowledge. Try to understand your partner’s particular financial style and be willing to meet in the middle. This will allow both of you to get at least some of what you want which, in turn, will lead to greater trust in one another.
Remember, it takes time to rebuilding trust between you and your partner. Rebuilding trust is a process that will occur gradually over time as you both follow these positive steps. Consistency is everything, so make time to sit down with your partner on a regular basis to talk about how things are going and re-evaluate your financial goals. You will be amazed at the progress that is being made.