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Financial Infidelity

Why Spouses Keep Money Secrets From Each Other

Marital infidelity is undoubtedly the most common reason why couples break up, but it turns out there is a more alarming form of betrayal that is as damaging as an extramarital affair in a marriage.

Financial infidelity is on the rise, with 41% of adults surveyed in America admitting to doing so, according to a study commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).

The study, which was conducted by Harris Poll, revealed that out of five married adults surveyed in America, two confessed to hiding money secrets from their respective spouses with whom they share financial obligations at home.

So why did they do it? What lured them into lying to their spouses about money?

Financial Secrets: As Devastating As Cheating On Your Partner​

They say a lie is a lie, no matter the intent. Financial infidelity – the act of making financial decisions without the knowledge of your partner – is just as damaging to a marriage as discovering that your spouse is having an affair. This is because it involves the very same actions that define sexual infidelity, including deception, secrecy, and betrayal of trust.

The unfortunate thing about it is that those who hide money secrets from their significant others don’t think that it is wrong to do so, especially if they don’t do it on purpose. For some, spending too much on shopping is not the same as, say, intentionally hiding a huge debt.

Yet, experts say, intent is what separates a lie that is harmless from one that can be potentially damaging to a marriage. For example, when you discover that your spouse has been hiding a little cash in order to buy you a special anniversary gift, you don’t harbor any ill feelings towards it but rather find it thoughtful.

But when you discover that your partner has been making financial decisions without your knowledge like borrowing huge sums of money which could affect the financial future of the family, this would most probably cause you to question if you actually know the person you are married to. How do you know if the lie is harmless or not? Is it a matter of amount? Probably not. How do you know if the lie is something you will never forgive and could break your marriage apart?

Money Secrets Can Take Many Forms

Financial infidelity can manifest in many shapes, with some types less toxic and malicious than others.

1. Hiding debt

Concealed borrowing of money, while not very common, is a serious type of financial infidelity. Hiding from your partner that you have accumulated a large amount of debt without their knowledge can have a huge impact on the family’s financial condition.

The most common form of concealed debt is borrowing through credit cards. As credit cards are accessible anytime, a partner can easily charge any amount and simply hide the credit card statement from their spouse.

And with the popularity of paperless billing, hiding evidence is easier, as the credit card statement can simply be accessed by the borrower online or through a mobile phone.

The serious thing about hiding debt from a spouse is that it can stay hidden for months, even years. The only time it will most probably be discovered is when your spouse can no longer pay off the credit card company and simply decides to come clean about it.

2. Uncontrolled spending

When a spouse lies about their spending habits, this constitutes infidelity about money. Most married people are guilty about this and can be driven by a lot of reasons. For married men, it can be about spending on expensive hobbies or gadgets; for wives, it can be about spending on clothes, jewelry, and shoes.

While most would see this as harmless spending, especially if one simply spends on themselves, it could become a problem when your spouse can no longer control their spending and eventually they get buried in debt.

Even a minor purchase can be a burden when your spouse keeps on shopping for things they don’t actually need.

3. Hiding what a spouse typically earns

When a spouse lies about their income, it makes one question if trust truly exists in the marriage. When you swore to become one during your marriage vows, this involves everything both of you own, including income.

So when your significant other lies about how much money they make from their job, it becomes unforgivable to the other, as it indicates that the intent to hide something is there.

4. Keeping secret bank accounts

Hiding bank accounts from a partner is not common in marriages, but there are still some who get away with it. It is actually more common among couples who don’t live or share a home together.

How Do You Know When Your Spouse Is Hiding Money Secrets

There are some signs that are more obvious than others and quickly clue you in on what your spouse is doing financially behind your back. There are some, however, that can be hard to detect. When you see a combination of these red flags, it’s time for the talk.

  • Stop making it about you... Be suspicious when your spouse gets obsessed about getting the mail and be alert when you see them going through the mail as if screening or filtering it, before letting you see it.

  • Your spouse takes up a new expensive hobby... Don’t sit it out when you begin to see your spouse engaging in a hobby that could put a dent on your joint bank account. Such hobbies include gambling or vices like alcohol and cigarettes.

  • You discover you no longer have access to the joint bank account or credit card... Speaking of joint bank accounts, be vigilant when your spouse suddenly cuts you off as an authorized signatory to your joint account or removes you from your joint credit card. This could be a sign that your spouse doesn’t want you to know about unplanned purchases they have been making.

  • You find out about missing cash or unexpected withdrawals... If you still do have access to your joint bank account, be alerted when you see unexpected purchases on your bank statement or huge withdrawals that you don’t remember being spent on you and the family.

  • Be on the lookout for new purchases... When you see your spouse with a new phone or any new extravagant possession, it’s a sign that they are spending on things they don’t bother telling you about.

Financial Infidelity - Why Do They Do It?

When you are presented with evidence, the first thing that comes to mind is why they did it. What drove them to lie to you about money?

There are a variety of reasons why a spouse might hide money secrets from their partner. It could be a lack of communication, of setting clear expectations on how each of you should spend.

It could also be a case of they don’t want you to know about how much or little they make, for fear that you will spend all of their earnings or that they are embarrassed about their low income.

It could also be a control issue and trying to be sure they control their money. It may also be about compulsive spending; a habit they don’t have control over. More often than not, though, it is a case of “it just happened” and they didn’t plan to intentionally hide money secrets from you.

How To Deal With Financial Infidelity

Lying about money to your partner can cause conflict within a marriage. It may result in more fights than usual, which could lead to the dissolution of marriage.

It is even harder when all the possessions or money accumulated during the marriage are affected when your spouse can no longer afford to recover everything that has been lost.

When you find yourself in this situation, it can be very hard to bounce back financially, especially when you decide to divorce your spouse because of it.

It is recommended that you consult a professional to help you recover from this traumatic experience, and more importantly, to give you insights on how you can be financially empowered again.

A divorce financial analyst can get you back on track and help you realize that there’s life after financial infidelity. You will be able to take the necessary steps to gain financial freedom once more, this time as a single, empowered individual.

Take Control of Your Future

Whether relocating after a divorce is by choice or not, our team will help you plan for your move while keeping your financial well-being in mind. Kimberly Surber and Leslie Valant, both Certified Divorce Financial Analysts® can guide you in your financial decisions that will help transition you to your new life in your new location successfully.

Both Kimberly and Leslie provide step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, our team will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.

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