Financial Infidelity: The 4 Signs & How To Get Help

One of the biggest topics for marital fights is money. Financial arguments not only top out the list of disagreements but are also one of the biggest reasons for divorce. And when there are secrets and hiding – Financial Infidelity – in play, things can certainly take a turn for the worse. Protect your relationship with your partner from Financial Infidelity by knowing what it is, the signs to look for, and how to save your marriage after financial infidelity.

Financial Infidelity: The 4 Signs &Amp; How To Get Help

Financial Infidelity: What is it?

If you or your spouse is making financial decisions without the other knowing, that’s Financial Infidelity. Sure, it may be as minor as not telling the ENTIRE truth about some smaller spending (think money spent on scratch-offs and work lunches). But it can also be as extreme as compulsive shopping or major gambling addiction. Like with many things, there’s an entire array of situations.

In general, it can look like a spouse possessing credit or having credit cards, having secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt, without one’s spouse, partner, or significant other knowing. In most situations, it starts out as just one spouse being untruthful, but both partners can certainly be at fault for financial infidelity simultaneously – kind of like a “Well she’s doing that, so I’m going to do it too…” scenario.

Financial Infidelity: The 4 Signs &Amp; How To Get Help

Is that something maybe you’ve encountered in your relationship? Well, you wouldn’t be alone. According to a 2022 survey by US News & World Report, as many as one in three couples deal with financial infidelity in the US alone with the issue getting more common with each passing year. What’s crazy is that 10% of those relationships lead to divorce.

READ MORE: 7 Simple Accounting Basics Everyone Should Know

But even if that isn’t the route a couple takes, it can severely impact a marriage, and cause lasting damage. If a relationship encounters time after time of hidden spending, denial, fights, and lies, it may be time to consider if it’s the larger problem at play.

The Signs to Look For

If you think financial infidelity has infested your marriage, these are the examples of financial infidelity that will begin to surface or become apparent:

Getting Cash Back Without Telling Your Spouse

We’ve probably all done it. We’re at the grocery store, making a regular trip, and decide to get $20, or $40, or more in cash back. It shows up on the bank statement as a grocery store purchase, but getting that cash out could be used for anything. The issue isn’t actually getting the cashback, it’s not being upfront and honest about how much was used as cash (as opposed to groceries), and what it’s used for afterward. It may not seem like a big deal to you but over time, it adds up!

Hiding or Lying about Spending

In general, hiding the truth about something with the purpose of deceiving or manipulating a person is still a lie. So whether it’s a straight-up lie or “just” hiding spending from a spouse, it’s just as bad for a marriage. If you or your spouse are making purchases and purposefully not telling the other, that’s financial infidelity. An example? Grabbing your online shopping packages off the porch before your spouse sees them.

Making Big Purchases Without Prior Agreement

Some things in marriage require prior discussion. Spending money on Mcdonald’s for lunch? Maybe not. Buying the entire team a fancy dinner? Yeah, probably a good idea to discuss it first. If your husband has ever gone out and purchased a TV, a car, or even something for you, it’s a sign that there’s a disconnect there and maybe a deeper issue at play.

Having Secret Credit Cards, Debt, or Savings Accounts

One day you may come to find your spouse has been saving money in an account you’re unaware of. Or maybe you found out they have way more college debt than they let on. Whatever the reason, keeping it from your spouse is a no-go, and a sure sign of financial infidelity.

READ MORE: 5 Tips to Save Money this Summer
Financial Infidelity: The 4 Signs &Amp; How To Get Help

It’s Fixable!

If your spouse has been showing any of these 4 signs of financial infidelity in marriage, there’s no need to call it quits just yet! Recovering from financial infidelity is possible. So breathe and take a minute to realize they might not even be doing it on purpose. Sure, these behaviors themselves are upsetting and probably hurting your feelings, but the actions are most likely just bad habits that haven’t been addressed and resolved. So there’s hope!

READ MORE: The Top 5 Money Mistakes College Students Make

The old saying “opposites attract” may have a lot to do with this situation. It’s quite possible that you, someone who may be more frugal attracted someone who’s more of a spender. That in itself is one way that it may appear in a relationship. Regardless of the reason, it’s time to sit down at the table and address the issues together so you can both strengthen the marriage at hand.

Acknowledge the Problem.

Continuing to hide from the problem isn’t going to solve it. Dealing with financial infidelity is the only way to solve it. Recognize the repeated financial infidelity, and the parts of the relationship that were compromised, and express your feelings of possible disappointment, sadness, betrayal, and anger. Both of you need to understand the other’s emotions. Remember that these feelings are normal and you’re not alone.

Come Clean.

Just like with romantic infidelity, it’s key to dive deep and take a look at why this problem happened in the first place. Both partners need to put a spotlight on the parts they both played. While sure, the partner doing the spending and hiding may have deeply hurt you, the passive partner may recognize they have been uptight and disagreeable with creating a budget both can agree upon. If both parties can recognize the parts they’ve played, there’s a higher success rate in solving the issue and moving on.

Listen Without Judgment

If two partners can discuss the hard topics in a healthy way, don’t feel judged, and can walk away with some sort of progress, even if a decision hasn’t been made, then there’s hope for success. If the spender is trying to explain their uncontrollable issues, and the other shuts them down, there’s too much judgment. One of the best ways to show that you care deeply is to openly listen, repeat their concerns back to them, and make them feel heard, even if you don’t agree with what they’ve done.

READ MORE: Using A Simple Household Budget Template

Communicate Your Financial Values.

We all have financial values. It’s how we were taught about money, how we were raised, and what has happened to us with money in our life. Understanding your own personal beliefs, where they differ, and what you value will help you each determine your own spending habits, and where you both can make changes.

Take A Good Look At Your Relationship.

Believe it or not, uncontrolled spending or hiding money may not be the reason, but the aftermath of a larger problem. Are you a stay-at-home parent, while your spouse works all day? Maybe you find shopping brings you the endorphins you’ve been missing in your relationship. Do a deep dive into the true root of the problem. Maybe your relationship is missing something. This is where therapy can certainly come into play.

Strive for Transparency

In an ideal world, all marriages would be transparent. Being open is key to great relationships, and certainly with keeping any financial issues in check. But ultimately, that commitment to transparency needs to come from both people in the marriage. Setting a goal to work together as a team is one sure way to reach a healthy financial relationship.

The positive takeaway is that financial infidelity is not the end of the world. Many couples can overcome the issue and not only work together but become better people and a closer couple. There’s no shame in reaching out for additional help. So, if you’re having financial infidelity issues, reach out to a financial coach or even a therapist to work through the hurdles.

Check out Daily Mom’s article on 10 Of The Best Finance Books For Kids.


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Financial Infidelity: The 4 Signs &Amp; How To Get Help



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Lauren Austin
Lauren Austin
She's a full-time Financial Coach, professional designer, and part-time home DIYer. As a business owner of Financial Fundaments, and an awesome mom to 3 young kids, she has a full plate but loves every minute of it. Lauren became a Daily Mom to satisfy her need for writing while helping other moms take control of their financial health.