Financial infidelity in romantic relationships

Imagine you have been with someone for several years. They’ve gone to sumptuous sushi restaurants for dinner, flown to Miami for a beach trip together, and attended a Rolling Stones concert where tickets were a priority. Her partner always wears nice clothes, recently got a new car and even brought home a purebred dog. Life is good, and you and your partner are planning to tie the knot. As you discuss finances, a taboo subject you have tactfully avoided throughout your relationship, you learn that your partner has racked up thousands of dollars in debt! How would you feel in this situation?

Finance is one of the most taboo topics of conversation in relationships.

It feels awkward or awkward to talk about finances with our friends or co-workers and this feeling carries over when we talk about finances in our romantic relationships. Earning a salary you are not proud of, investing in a business or venture that has flopped, or carrying debt on your behalf can be embarrassing and often difficult to admit to your partner with full transparency. Due to the uncomfortable personal finances, romantic partners can resort to financial infidelity.

Financial infidelity is defined as any financial behavior that is expected to be frowned upon by the romantic partner and willfully fails to mention that behavior to them. Common examples of financial infidelity include hiding excess earnings or secret savings accounts, lying about how much debt is in your name, or making expensive purchases that you don’t tell your partner about. Money is the number one source of tension between romantic partners, and sexual infidelity (ie, cheating) is a well-known recipe for disaster in romantic relationships. This research combines these two concepts and defines and examines how often financial infidelity between partners occurs.

Types of financial infidelity

In a sample of a large group of participants, the researchers found that financial infidelity typically falls into six categories: spending, saving, debt, giving, gambling, and income. Three common behaviors that participants admitted were:

  • If I really wanted to buy something but my partner didn’t agree with the price, I would still consider it and not tell him/her. (Expenditure)
  • I would hide a bill from my partner so as not to upset him/her. (Debts)
  • Sometimes I avoid telling my partner how much money I spend on gifts to avoid confrontation. (gift giving)

The researchers found that 85 percent of those in romantic relationships had hidden or lied about their expenses at least once, 59 percent had hidden or lied about their savings, and 40 percent had taken on debt without telling their partner. As you might imagine, financial infidelity is detrimental to supporting healthy, transparent relationships.

Opening up and being honest with your partner about personal finances isn’t easy, but it’s important. It’s not necessary to tell your partner about every little purchase or gift you buy, but mentioning the big things is. While it may feel easier right now to lie or hide the truth about a financial decision your partner may not like to hear, honesty pays off when you trust your partner, ultimately leading to a stronger and healthier relationship.

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