Financial Infidelity: 5 Tips to Cope

Financial infidelity happens when couples with combined finances lie to each other about money. Moving forward after financial infidelity requires open and honest conversations about spending, income and financial decisions.

Has your significant other ever made an expensive purchase without consulting you? Or have you ever signed up for a new credit card without first talking to your partner? If you and your partner have encountered money-related tension, it’s possible that your relationship has felt the sting of financial infidelity which many consider to be a form of cheating.

What is Financial Infidelity?

According to Investopedia, “Financial infidelity occurs when couples with combined finances lie to each other about money.”1 This includes hiding or withholding money-related issues and decisions from a partner. Examples of financial infidelity include:

  • Secretly making large discretionary expenditures.

  • Hiding purchases.

  • Hiding debt.

  • Withdrawing large sums of money from joint accounts without explanation.

  • Contributing less than the agreed-upon share to a joint account.

  • Hiding financial decisions that go against expectations.

  • Hiding financial decisions outside an agreed-upon budget.

  • Lying about use of money.

How Does Financial Infidelity Impact a Relationship?

Money is a sensitive subject, even for people in committed relationships. Lying or hiding the truth about financial matters can destroy trust in a relationship and create emotions such as betrayal, anger and confusion. Once financial trust is violated, it can be difficult to recover. However, there are ways to repair the relationship and move forward if both parties are willing to be open and honest about finances.

5 Tips for Coping with Financial Infidelity

If you believe there is financial infidelity in your relationship, here are five tips to help you cope.

1. Focus on Facts

When confronting your partner about financial infidelity, it’s important to not approach the situation with accusations and blame. Instead, gather the facts and present them in a levelheaded way, while also being open for scrutiny and discussion. You and your partner can then decide together how to move forward.

2. Consider Couples’ Financial Therapy

Attending couples’ financial therapy can help create a safe space for you and your partner to sort through financial infidelity issues and figure out a way to work toward shared financial goals. A certified financial therapist can advise you on spending and investing while also helping you unpack the underlying emotions that may be contributing to the financial infidelity.

3. Work Together on Shared Financial Goals

Whether you need to tackle debt, make a budget or save for retirement, it’s important to work together and collaborate with your partner on shared financial goals. When you work together as a team, there will be more room for transparency and trust.

4. Schedule Monthly Check-ins

Changing habits is hard, especially when it comes to money. After discovering financial infidelity, monthly financial check-ins can help foster accountability and trust. During check-ins, you and your partner can review your budget, accounts, expenditures and goal progress.

5. Don’t Get Stuck in the Past

Keep check-ins positive and productive by not digging up past mistakes and hurts. Getting stuck in the past can cast a dark shadow over your present and future relationship and finances. If you find yourself frequently tempted to bring up past financial infidelity, you may have work to do processing your feelings and closing the chapter on that issue. If you’re seeing a financial therapist, they should be able to give you tools to put the past behind you.

Next Steps...

Moving forward after financial fidelity requires open and honest conversations about spending, income and financial decisions. Pursuing professional help from a certified financial therapist can be beneficial and give you and your partner the tools you need to navigate the aftermath. 

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