Infidelity in any form hurts a relationship, and it takes time and planning to rebuild trust and recover from the infidelity – if the relationship recovers at all. That does not just apply to matters of love and sex, but also for financial matters.
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) conducted an online survey earlier this year and discovered an increase in spouses hiding purchases, bills, or income from their spouse. This “financial infidelity” is up to 35% of respondents with combined finances, a 4% rise from a similar survey conducted in 2011. In 13% of the cases, the deception extended to extreme cases like lying to their spouses about how much money the respondents owed or made in income.
Disagreements about money are a well-known contributor to marital stress, and when these disagreements are combined with dishonesty, the foundation of the relationship can be eroded. The survey backed up this premise, with 16% of respondents saying that deception about finances led to divorce.
How do you avoid falling into this trap?
- Be Honest with Each Other, and with Yourself – That may be obvious, but how else can we put it? Lying breeds mistrust, regardless of the subject.
Start by being honest with yourself and get to the root of the problem. For example, do you feel the need to keep an account secret because you cannot agree with your spouse on what items your money should be spent on? Do you just have a hard time giving up any control over finances?
Introspection can help you identify the real problem and give you a head start on proposing a compromise with your spouse. Be prepared to be fully open with each other, open to compromise, and to stay positive. Focus on what you both want instead of what you both do not want.
- Agree On Your Financial Goals – Retirement, buying a home, raising a family… all of these have financial implications. It is important that you reach a compromise on these goals and how they are prioritized.
Once you agree on those goals, outline a spending and savings plan and stick to it. When you agree on how much discretionary income you can afford as a family, you remove the stress levels of having mismatched goals.
- Be Transparent – Both spouses should have access to, and understanding of, all joint accounts. One spouse may not be interested in it unless things go awry, but he or she still must have access to it.
It is perfectly fine to have separate finances. Some couples prefer to keep things that way and divide up the bills and expenses; others like to have discretionary money available in their own account just for “fun” purchases. All you have to do is keep things just as transparent, and respect each other’s right for discretionary purposes within limits that you can afford.
Agree on a general spending limit beyond where you consult each other about purchases, even if they are from your own account.
- Stay in Communication – There is another similarity between keeping financial and marital harmony – it is important to communicate with your partner as equals. Whether through a regular meeting or just daily conversation, keep your partner informed about significant financial changes.
It is always in your best interests to be honest with your partner about finances. If you think lying to your partner about finances can be expensive in the short run, consult with a divorce lawyer and you will find out how expensive it is in the long run.