Financial Infidelity

by Candace Bahr, CEA, CDFA and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP(r), CDS

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Infidelity. Most couples think it's a relationship breaker. But in many relationships, a surprising amount of infidelity goes on every day without a word. Financial infidelity, rampant in many relationships, may go unnoticed at first. It could be as little as hiding small purchases from a spouse or as large as blatant disregard for a partner's input on large investments. And like sexual infidelity, unhealthy communication concerning money can shatter relationships.

Here's an example. Lauri and Jason discuss financial goals frequently and believe they are on solid financial footing, but unknowingly they are beginning to chip away at their financial stability and ultimately their marriage.

How can that be? Take a typical shopping day. After getting everything on her list, Lauri buys a new blouse that's over her budget. Feeling a little guilty, she also grabs a shirt for Jason, charging the expense to their joint credit card.

Jason acts pleased about the shirt, but inside he is upset that Lauri spent the extra money, and so begins the cycle. On his next trip to the hardware store, he buys a new drill and doesn't tell Lauri.

Lauri and Jason are on their way toward a crisis of financial infidelity. By lying about money, or even just not telling the whole truth, the foundation of their trust and loyalty is beginning to crack. According to Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., the author of Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker this seemingly trivial behavior can hurt any relationship, and if steps are not taken, eventually destroy it.

If this situation sounds familiar, it's not too late to reverse course and confide in your partner. Have the courage to tell the truth and initiate a frank discussion about finances. Keeping financial secrets is destructive to your relationship.

Take responsibility for your mistakes. If you bounced a check, made a stupid purchase, or forgot to mail the bills, don't hide it. Though you are embarrassed, your partner will respect you for telling the truth.

It is true that talking about money can lead to arguments, but financial disagreements are almost never about money. They are usually about fundamental values, mutual consideration and personal control. Realizing the large part money plays in your life and how it affects your relationships, you can work to make positive changes in your financial behavior. A successful relationship grows with an understanding of financial needs, which will strengthen your relationship and enable you to create a secure, productive partnership together.

Reprinted with permission from Women's Institute for Financial Education and

Founded in 1988, WIFE is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial education for women. © 2009

Take the Next Step:

  • Resolve to begin financial dialogue with your spouse. A successful relationship grows with an understanding of financial needs, which will strengthen your relationship and enable you to create a secure, productive partnership together.

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