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How to Recover from Financial Infidelity

financial infidelity

Some of us are keeping secrets from our partners — and it’s not about a significant other in the wings. Your relationship could be suffering from financial infidelity.

Nearly one in five U.S. adults who are in a live-in relationship are hiding a checking, savings or credit card account from their partner, according to CreditCards.com’s financial infidelity poll.

More than half of survey respondents said that discovering that their partner is hiding a secret account is about the same — or worse — than if they were physically cheating on them with another romantic interest. But few said they’d do anything about it. Just 2% said they’d break up if they found out their significant other had $5,000 in secret credit card debt.

The survey found that millennials were most likely to be hiding a financial account. They are almost twice as likely to “cheat” financially on their romantic partner than older generations.

What is Financial Infidelity?

Financial infidelity can come in many forms. A spouse might hide their spending by keeping purchases or credit card bills out of sight or eschewing other bills to pay for their splurges. They also could take out their own credit card without their partner’s knowledge, running up debt on the card.

When one spouse is making significant financial moves without the knowledge of the other partner, it can endanger the financial future of both. Financial infidelity can be a sign of disregard for a fundamental part of a healthy relationship: trust and communication.

“Discovering that your partner has any kind of secret can have a major impact on any relationship. And the nature of the secret itself isn’t necessarily an issue,” Carissa Coulston, a clinical psychologist and author of The Eternity Rose blog, told CreditCards.com. It’s not about the lies, she said, but about the trust that has been broken.

Recovery From Financial Infidelity

So, what should you do if you discover that your partner has been sneaking around with money? Here are four suggestions.

Set a Time to Talk

Instead of immediately confronting your partner with the discovery, Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family therapist, told CreditCards.com that he recommends taking a breath. Instead of angrily confronting them with what you’ve learned, set a time to have a thoughtful discussion about the issue when you both are prepared to have it, he told CreditCards.com. From there, agree to have regular conversations about financial issues to keep things out in the open.

Find Out Why

Not all financial infidelity is serious, of course. But if you agreed to trim your budget and not buy lunch during the week to save up for a vacation, and your spouse has been hitting up the local sandwich shop anyway, it’s worth asking why. Maybe there are ways that, together, you can make the task of making lunches at home easier for all involved.

Other examples, however, aren’t so easy to overcome, including a massive hidden credit card debt or a retirement account that’s dwindled because they’ve spent all the money. In those circumstances, you may need to check in with a therapist or advisor to understand why spending has gotten out of control to prevent it from continuing.

Get on the Same Page

Going forward, you’ll need to get back on the right track — and figure out a way to stay there. The National Endowment for Financial Education has a couple of online tools that will help you both set the tone and conversation. The Life Values Quiz assesses a person’s values as it relates to the financial decisions they make. The Financial Identity Quiz helps people determine where they are in their own financial journey. With both, couples can compare results and see where they work well together and where they need some work.

Make a Plan to Pay it Off

If your partner has run up a large amount of debt, you may need to bring in an expert to help you pay it off, so you can return to solid financial ground. A debt management counselor and plan can assist you in consolidating what’s owed and mapping out a strategy for what’s next.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. ​Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.


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