One of the darkest, but often ignored, forms of relationship dishonesty comes in the form of financial infidelity. Not heard of it? That’s okay. We’ll break it down for you because the more we become aware of our seemingly harmless financial habits and behaviors – or those of our partners – the better we can deal with the tumultuous circumstances they can cause in relationships.
When you think about leaving your partner – cheating, having an affair – what comes to mind? Sex. Sexual infidelity is essentially synonymous with the word “infidelity”. Similarly, “cheating” is understood primarily in a sexual sense.
However, breaking trust in a relationship can go well beyond sexual matters. Getting out of a partner isn’t just about sleeping with someone else without their knowledge. Infidelity means hiding important secrets of all kinds about your life from your partner in a way that can negatively affect both him and the relationship.
While lying about your financial situation isn’t directly related to sex, the seemingly sexual connotations conjured up by the term “financial infidelity” aren’t entirely inappropriate. After all, both money and sex are sensitive topics that are still often considered taboo in many social contexts.
“Just like sex, we rarely talk [money] open and honest, or encouraged to be careful, ”says Lucy Rowett, certified sex coach and clinical sexologist. “We get very little good financial education or see it portrayed positively in the media.”
Unfortunately, like sex, money is an important part of life and relationships, and being able to speak openly and honestly about it with romantic partners is key to healthy relationships and finances. Whether sex or money, trust is everything when it comes to healthy long-term partnerships – monogamous, poly or otherwise.
What exactly is financial infidelity?
Put simply, when you lie to your partner about money. “In a relationship or partnership, there is financial infidelity when an individual breaches an agreement to manage, acquire, allocate, or maintain their finances,” said Jennifer Litner, MFT, sex therapist, sexologist, and founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness.
This can range from hiding your credit card debt or opening a secret credit card to owning a secret bank account that nobody knows about, to hiding a compulsive shopping habit, to completely deleting your personal (or shared) bank account. This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it does give you a glimpse into the often incredibly caustic ways financial troubles can flow into relationships.
Of course, if you learn that your entire financial security has been compromised by someone you want to spend your life with, it can turn your world upside down. “There is a sense of betrayal and suspicion when a partner refuses to talk about certain financial decisions. This makes your partner feel insecure, unsupported and vulnerable, ”says professional financial advisor Carrie Casden.
Why do people commit financial infidelity?
There are many reasons why people hide their financial shortcomings from a partner. Most of the time, it comes from a toxic culture that looks down on bad financial decisions. There is so much shame associated with losing money and debt that we hide to avoid confrontation.
In partnerships, we fear looking weak, irresponsible, or failed. According to Casden, someone who practices financial infidelity “has not learned the tools to effectively communicate their shortcomings in financial decisions – the path of avoidance and secrecy.”
At some point, you may find yourself in such a huge financial loophole that you feel like you are drowning. This can be a breaking point for some people – and for some relationships.
What to do when financial stress leads to broken relationships
1. Find out how you got here and take responsibility
The first step is to take responsibility for your situation and be honest with your partner. That may sound daunting – and that’s because it really is. “Think about why you’re hiding what the emotional root of this behavior is,” says Rowett. There are many reasons we hide money, gambling, and spending topics from our partners, but a better understanding of what made you fall into these patterns can help you feel more ready to take on yours Open partner.
2. Get outside help
One mistake many couples make is sticking to the idea that this is “only part of life” and that they should “go alone” and solve their own money problems. But the truth is that money is what struggles with most people, and it is often a source of stress for individuals and relationships. “You may need guidance or advice from a clean slate that is outside the stress line. Do whatever you can to nourish and take care of yourself so that you can give more to your partner, your children and your family, ”says Dr. Fran Walfish, psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.
3. Kindness and empathy are the keys to survival
If you decide to end your relationship, that is your decision. However, if you do decide to rebuild, both partners need to work together with kindness and empathy. Rarely are these problems created out of malice or with the intent to hurt. Usually they come from a place of despair. “Create an open discussion,” says Walfish. “Talking is the glue that holds relationships together.”
Yes, things can feel really awful right now. That was a huge breach of trust with possible long-term consequences. The question is, are you both willing to do the work to get this through together?
4. Create monthly finance meetings to show your commitment to change
You can’t just have one conversation (or even several) and then end a day. Rebuilding trust means bringing your partner to the table with you. “When you sit down to review credit reports, open accounts, bank statements, credit card statements, and other financial documents together, it shows that both people are committed to having an honest and open discussion about money,” says Casden.
“Remember, you don’t have to share every transaction with your partner; [these coping tools are] because when you realize that you have kept things from them ”or vice versa. You are not required to disclose every single purchase you make, but rather to get your partner on the secret side of those expenses. “Money is not an easy subject for anyone,” says Rowett. But “by taking action, you are preparing for a more secure future, both financially and romantically.”
This article was published in the InsideHook Newsletter. Join Now.