What is Financial Infidelity?

January 14, 2021

A common reason for relationship or marital discord is financial issues. In many households, one person pays the bills and manages the finances. This arrangement can leave the other person unaware of the couple’s true financial picture. In some cases, one person will hide their spending, loan and credit card debt, or even income from the other person, which is commonly referred to as financial infidelity.

Research from the The Journal of Financial Therapy shows that:

  • Out of the study respondents, 27 percent had kept a financial secret from their partner.
  • Twenty-five percent of respondents admitted to committing financial infidelity.
  • Out of the respondents, 50 percent said they had done something that could be defined as financial infidelity.
  • Out of the couples who experienced financial infidelity, 76 percent reported that it harmed their relationship, and 10 percent said it resulted in divorce.

What are the Signs of Financial Infidelity?

Financial infidelity takes a variety of forms. Sometimes, it is egregious behavior, such as acquiring large amounts of secret credit card debt. Other times, the behavior is more subtle, such as pilfering money from a savings account for a hobby without telling the other person.

While some of these actions may be poor communication, the behavior is deceitful in many cases. The following are common signs that could indicate financial infidelity:

  • Not seeing bank, credit card, or investment account statements that are typically mailed to the home.
  • Noticing withdrawals from a bank account or checks made out to cash with no explanation from the other person.
  • Discovering a partner’s secret bank account or credit card.
  • Getting late notices for mortgages and other bills that were supposedly paid.
  • Seeing an abundance of new merchandise in the house, including gifts.
  • Experiencing changes in income or cash flow or not seeing expected income in a bank account.
  • Noticing atypical behavior from the other partner or a change in habits related to spending and finances.

How can I Prevent Financial Infidelity?

As with many other aspects of a relationship, transparency and communication are key. The following are some tips that experts say can help prevent financial infidelity:

  • Share responsibilities related to household finances. This includes bill paying, account reconciliation, investments, loans, and other financial matters.
  • Build a realistic household budget together. Each person should know where the money goes each month to each item in the budget.
  • Develop long-term financial goals and investment strategies as a couple. This includes savings goals, emergency funds, and retirement assets.
  • Do not make major purchases without consulting the other person. It can be easy to do an impulse buy, but it should be discussed with one’s partner.
  • Stick to a shared level of debt each person is comfortable with. Credit card, loan, or line of credit debt can easily escalate. Stay within agreed-upon boundaries, and check credit scores often.
  • Share a bank account for household expenses. This way, each person can see spending, income, and balances.
  • Decide if each person should have their own bank account. While there is nothing wrong with couples having separate bank accounts, if doing so leads to financial problems in the relationship, then consider a change. Some couples set a limit of what each person can accumulate in their own account.
  • Communicate with each other. At the first sign of a problem or suspicion of financial infidelity, have an open discussion.

What if I Suspect Financial Infidelity?

The first step is to communicate with each other. Sometimes, having transparent discussions about expectations can bring issues to light and quell suspicions. If the couple cannot resolve matters through discussion, it can be beneficial to seek counseling.

Sometimes, the stress and mistrust surrounding financial infidelity will be great enough to end a marriage. If a spouse is considering divorce, they should speak to a lawyer.

Moorestown Divorce Lawyers at Stockton Family Law Advocate for Victims of Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity can cause enough mistrust and anger to irretrievably break a relationship. If this happens, one of our experienced Moorestown divorce lawyers at Stockton Family Law can help. Call us at 856-412-5052 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Moorestown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mount Laurel, Burlington County, and Camden County.