Financial infidelity occurs when you’re not aware of your spouse’s financial situation, and these secrets ultimately cause a negative impact on your own financial position. Financial infidelity could be as simple as unknown credit cards opened by your spouse. Your spouse may have debt they borrowed against their 401k or your children’s college fund. Or you could even be in foreclosure and not even know it. These examples aren’t made up, but instead actual experiences I’ve learned about from case studies, working with organizations who help people in these situations, or stories I’ve heard while promoting financial literacy to women.
Financial Infidelity doesn’t have to Involve Another Woman
Financial infidelity doesn’t mean your husband is using joint money to cheat on you with another woman. Or to play devil’s advocate, it doesn’t mean a woman is using her money to finance an affair. Financial infidelity means your spouse is hiding financial transactions or information from you. Typically, when a spouse finds out about financial infidelity, it’s usually when financial consequences start to show. Typically, there is an immediate loss of trust when the truth comes out.
In one extreme case, the reason for financial infidelity was actual marital infidelity. The husband had an outside child he was hiding from his wife for years. The financial strain of this secret second family made the wife dig deeper into their finances, upon which she found out the truth.
Financial infidelity can be nuanced and small secrets. It could be an extra credit card you didn’t know about or an extra bank account you were unaware of. These small secrets your husband holds can still affect you, your finances, and your credit.
Financial infidelity can start on the first day of marriage. Your husband is committing financial infidelity If he goes into the relationship hiding negative financial information from you. When you’re dating, you and your future spouse want to put your best foot forward. But while getting to know the person, you may miss some of the financial red flags.
In some examples, spouses found out after they were married that creditors were chasing their partner. In some cases, their new husband came into the marriage in extreme debt. In another situation, the wife found that their partner had filed for bankruptcy before their marriage.
These issues can be compounded if you live in a community property state like I do. I live in a community property state, so all assets and debts acquired during a marriage are divided equally during a divorce. Hence, if you don’t know about the little things like a secret credit card, it will be a surprise when you get half of the debt at your divorce.
How do You Confess Financial Infidelity?
When you confess financial infidelity be ready to tell the truth. You need to come into this conversation ready to tell the whole story about your financial infidelity, plus have answers to the numerous follow-up questions you’re about to answer. For example, if you’re coming clean that the house is in foreclosure, be ready to answer how your family got to this point. Be ready to answer in detail if the cause is overspending, gambling, or marital infidelity. If you don’t know an answer to something, you need to research the answer before you confess. Your spouse will not believe that “you don’t know”. If you have too much debt, be sure to know the amount and on what credit cards they are on. If you’re going to confess, your spouse will not be in the mood for you to guess on follow-up answers.
Trying to keep up with the secrets is mentally and emotionally draining. Telling the truth about financial infidelity will take the weight off. It’s important to know your spouse’s heart. If your spouse cares deeply about your children’s future, and you negatively affected their college fund, you better have solutions on hand.
You should probably have the discussion publicly in the hopes of keeping the conversation civil. The most important thing is to be ready to tell the whole truth. Because the worst thing that can happen is that they find out your truth through third parties. In this case you may never be able to get back that trust. Many times, you can salvage a lot if you can be the one that delivers the whole truth and stay open about the financial situation.
Why do Men Commit Financial Infidelity?
Men want to be the provider. There is a common misconception that the man must be the provider, that this is a man’s world, and they must be the bread winner. Though financial infidelity can be due to adultery, there are times where a man just wants to be the provider. He has good intentions for his family, but then he puts the family in a financial situation that is beyond what his financial position can handle.
Then, the husband will try to hide the mess they created so that the family doesn’t have to worry about financial issues. What he doesn’t realize is that communication can help because his wife may have a solution that the husband cannot see because he’s in panic mode. He’s trying to portray a financial picture that looks great but is really a blank canvas.
If the financial problem is overspending, a wife may want to work with the husband to get spending under control. Maybe she’s understanding, and willing to give up the boat or the nice SUV to help the finances.
There are also other times where men are caught up in a lifestyle they are trying to keep. Men want to portray control of their financial lives, even when that’s not the real situation. But they let ego, pride, and shame force them into a situation where truth and communication could have alleviated financial infidelity.
What are the Signs of Financial Infidelity?
Depending on how savvy your spouse may be, you may never find any signs until it’s too late. Here are some signs your spouse could be committing financial infidelity:
- They are not open about their paycheck, or money that should be in the joint account is not there.
- Bank accounts aren’t adding up. They are giving excuses month after month, but the basic math of money coming in and costs going out do not add up to what’s expected.
- They send mail to another place or P.O. box.
- You’re finding credit card statements in the mail that you’re not aware of. If there’s one you don’t know about, then there may be two or twelve credit cards you are unaware of.
- Your spouse starts getting random phone calls, and they leave the room in a hurry to take them. These may be creditors looking for payment.
- They want to start cutting expenses suddenly. The debt has now stacked up and they start to over-monitor your spending.
I’ve seen a couple hundred dollars of debt the spouse was unaware of, and I’ve seen half a million in debt that the spouse was unaware of. I’ve seen these situations five or six times, you may be trying to buy a new car or purchase a new home, and all of the sudden your spouse gets very cautious. But in your mind, you were working towards a financial goal. It’s okay if they’ve been noting that they want the market to be less hot, or maybe their job has been a little shaky, but if they suddenly come out of nowhere that they don’t want to do these purchases, it’s definitely a red flag.
How do I deal with my husband’s financial Infidelity?
The first step is to not blame yourself. Your spouse made the decision to keep financial secrets from you. You need time to sit with that and digest it. You don’t want the other party to potentially feel like you’re a part of the problem. This is something I’ve seen as well. Take the time you need to process. Be open to sharing your feelings and what you’re going through. It is okay to be angry. It’s okay to cry it out. You don’t want to bottle up your emotions.
If you were blindsided by this, or maybe you found out about the financial infidelity outside of your husband telling you the truth, you need to seek outside help. That could be listening to a podcast, seeking a therapist, or talking to a CPA. Because if you have to confront your husband about his financial infidelity, you need to go in with a clear mind and heart. Because if you want to try to mend the marriage, you will need to help get your husband to be honest with you. If not, the financial infidelity will continue and the next outside help you’ll seek is a divorce lawyer.
How do you Gain Trust after Financial Infidelity?
Communication and transparency. Also know that you may need outside help. Both parties need to be open to sharing the truth. Outside help is unbiased and seeking to mend the broken situation. Figuring out different avenues, surrounding yourself with people you trust, and seeking outside help will help mend the relationship. Schedule money dates and budget conversations to start to rebuild trust.
You also can’t just sweep it under the rug because you said your truth. You must give your spouse time to process this new reality. You need to give them time to process, but you do have to get back into the situation to solve the financial problems together. You also need to make sure that you’re all in on building that trust. But you also must be accepting if your spouse isn’t all-in on building their trust back in you.
Is Financial Infidelity Abuse?
Financial infidelity is a form of abuse. Abuse does not have to be directly emotional, physical, or mental. But financial infidelity can impact a person emotionally, mentally, and even physically upon the other party. If you’re continuing to be financially victimized by someone else’s negative conduct, then the situation is abuse.
Are We Contributing to our Husband’s Financial Infidelity?
Sometimes, because I’ve seen this, we are allowing financial infidelity to occur. We know they are financially irresponsible, but because we love them, we continue to patch a negative situation hoping they will change. If you end up in a situation where you’re worried about where you’re going to live, the creditors keep calling, you’re questioning what’s really happening financially. These are red flags, but many times we see the signs, but then we disregard the signs. We really must have accountability in ourselves. If you don’t want to access the bank accounts because you don’t want to rock the boat, then are we contributing to the financial infidelity by accepting what’s happening.
I’ve seen it where a wife is $30,000 in debt but hasn’t spent anything! Or in another case, a wife is taking a personal loan out just to keep the roof over her head. Or you know on Fridays you’ll have to make a bank transfer because you know your husband will wipe the bank account before the weekend’s over. Or suddenly there are lavish things like a boat, or an RV and you know your family cannot afford these things.
But you’re not alone. Male, female and every tax bracket has dealt with financial hardships, and you should not be ashamed if you’re in this situation. Your husband’s financial infidelity is not your fault, it is his fault, but if you do not address the issues, you will help contribute to the problems.
Financial infidelity is about a spouse hiding the truth from their partner. It can happen if to you regardless of if you’re a man or a woman. It can happen to you regardless of which tax bracket you fall under. Financial infidelity may not coincide with cheating. A husband may be hiding his finances due to shame and pride. If you want to end your financial infidelity, be ready to be fully open with your spouse. Gaining trust will take time and effort.