The Infidelity of Financial Affairs

Marc Arthrell |

A recent survey conducted by GK Roper revealed that nearly 55% of respondents reported hiding some aspect of their finances from their spouse or significant other.  Few would argue that financial infidelity is as devastating as a marital infidelity, but most would agree that deceit is deceit, which leads to an evaporation of trust no matter where it comes from. 

Therapists and relationship experts all agree that concealing financial issues from one another prior to, and during a marriage, is as big a sign of trouble for a relationship, as is concealing a romantic affair. Couples can recover from infidelity; but it’s the lack of trust and respect that are the destructive elements. Most men and women believe that if their spouse is able to deceive in one aspect of their lives, they are more likely to deceive in others.

The study found that many conceal credit card accounts from their partner. In most cases, these are accounts established before they entered the relationship, so it might seem harmless that someone would simply forget to tell their partner, or perhaps even choose not to, because it seems like such a small thing.  While that may be true for some, others have experienced major problems, especially when it turns out to be not just one account, but several, and they are used extensively.  At that point, it’s not just the concealment of a credit card account that threatens the relationship, it’s the concealment of spending habits that could ultimately harm the relationship.  The reality is that irresponsible use of credit by one spouse, even if the accounts are held in separate names, can wreak havoc on the credit of both spouses.

Why Do It?

There are a number of reasons why a spouse might conceal financial activities – fear of reproach, hiding a spending addiction, security concerns, or even fear over loss of financial control. All of these suggest that the relationship is already lacking in trust and open communication, which is more of the root problem, than is the concealment. Couples who avoid or refrain from discussing finances including their credit situations, and their preferences and priorities, are destined for trouble especially if the problems are left to fester.

There are situations in which leading separate financial lives may be appropriate, and even preferable, such as in a second marriage where both spouses are financially independent, or even when one of the spouses is substantially more well-off.  Single people who choose to live together, may also be better off with separate finances. In these situations, trust may not be a factor in how finances are discussed. However, open communication about all matters including finances, can only strengthen the relationship.

The study also found that many people also hide chequing and savings accounts from their partners. Considering that statistically, people in relationships will, at some point, find themselves either divorced or widowed, this finding isn’t all that surprising. It’s sad commentary on our society that people feel they must take such measures to protect themselves, and it’s made worse when some people feel as though they can’t tell their spouse for fear of reprisal.

Changing attitudes and shifting trends are leading more couples to join in increasingly collaborative relationship when it comes to finances. Respect for each other’s dignity and independence is the cornerstone for a relationship that approaches the management of finances as though each has an equal stake regardless of who “brings home the bacon”. When each partner feels more secure about the other’s attitudes and actions with regards to finances, they are more likely to feel secure in all aspects of their relationship.

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