Is Your Partner Financially Unfaithful? (1 in 3 Are)


One in three adults in a combined financial relationship admits to financially deceiving their partner, according to a recent poll published by the National Endowment for Financial Education. Even worse, 76% admit that financial deceptions have had an impact on their relationship. (See also: 7 Questions That Reveal If You and Your Partner Are a Money Match)

Hiding money, bills, or purchases from a partner can have severe repercussions on a relationship, including arguments, broken trust, and even divorce or separation. Why do partners lie about money and what can you do to uncover the fraud? Even more important, how can you rebuild a relationship that's been shaken by a partner who's been dishonest about your combined cash flow?

Why Partners Cheat

Being unfaithful with finances often comes down to a sense of shame or embarrassment about money choices. Men and women don't often see eye-to-eye about the importance of each other's purchases. "I find that women don't see the value in the cost of two sporting event tickets," says Patricia Nelson, founder of the community outreach program Wise Women Workshop. "Likewise, men are confused that women can spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes." Those who fear judgement from their partner often choose to hide their financial choices, instead of coming clean.

Tell Tale Signs of Infidelity

Dishonesty — be it in the bedroom or in the joint checkbook — can have a detrimental affect on an intimate relationship. "Any behavior that seems out of the ordinary should act as a red flag," says Nelson. Your partner may be hiding something if you:

  • Find receipts for purchases you don't recognize (or you haven't discussed as a couple).
  • Are denied access to the monthly bills.
  • Witness defensive or withdrawn behavior when you broach the topic of money.

Nelson suggests all couples should pull their credit histories annually, as a matter of course (to monitor for external fraud). "If your partner doesn't want you to have access to tax or credit report information," she says, "that could be the biggest red flag of all."

How to Talk About It

While most couples polled were adversely affected by financial infidelity, some used the experience as a springboard for more effective and frequent conversations about money. Eight percent of those surveyed said the experience actually brought them closer together. "If you can find the source of the secrecy," says Nelson, "you can fix anything."

When broaching the subject:

  • Know that there will be some sensitivity around the financial infidelity. Your partner may already feel guilty about his or her actions.
  • Come prepared with the points you want to make. Pivotal relationship discussions won't be effective if they're planned on the fly.
  • Work together to uncover solutions that will allow each of you to feel financially secure within the relationship. "You need to have the freedom to save and spend," says Nelson, "without feeling like you're on an austerity diet."

Rebuilding the Relationship

"Sometimes talking about money is as uncomfortable as talking about sex," says Nelson. She suggests a monthly accounting date, where couples can work through bills and budgeting together. "If you set goals together, review progress together, and reach goals together — you also have the opportunity to celebrate your successes together." Working together to rebuild your finances gives you the opportunity to restore something equally important to long-lasting couples — your trust in each other.

Have you and your partner ever hid money decisions from each other? Were you able to overcome the infidelity. If so, how? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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