The Stress of Financial Infidelity on a Relationship

By Dena Fischer

Financial Infidelity is a term popping up more in conversation these days. As someone who experienced financial infidelity at one time in my life, the term may be new to me, but I’m now realizing it’s not so uncommon and I wasn’t alone.

What exactly is financial infidelity?

The common definitions are hiding money, lying about income or debt, or trying to hide out of control spending from your partner. With or without malicious intentions, you are deceiving your partner about financial practices and money habits. All of these can destroy trust in a relationship and once lost, just like physical infidelity, it is very difficult to rebuild that trust.

So, what’s my story?

After working six jobs between the two of us in our early marriage, we finally each settled into well paying positions and I thought we were comfortably managing our finances. Until I went to work for a financial services company, I had no idea how intricately income, debt, and spending affected each other. Paychecks in, bills out, save a bit, use the rest for living your life. It seemed simple enough so I didn’t really get involved in the household finances. Paying the bills, managing the mortgage, balancing the accounts and other financial matters were his thing and I trusted that he was doing what needed to be done.

Looking back I see so clearly now: I was part of the problem, I just didn’t realize it!

He never said we can’t afford that or let’s wait on that a bit. We had a home, a small lake cabin, a series of boats (his), each a bit bigger than the last, a Seadoo (mine) and reliable newish cars. It never occurred to me that we were playing with borrowed money and that the debts were growing out of control.

He traveled for work and would use his credit card then submit expense reports for reimbursement. Rather than pay off the business credit card charges with the expense reimbursement check, he used it to fund our household and lifestyle spending. Again, I had no idea.

You know the saying fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?

Well, shame on me because the first time I discovered our debt problem, we refinanced our house, then sold it at a decent profit and moved to a smaller house. Thinking the lesson had been learned by both of us, I still didn’t take an active role in the household finances. The second time it happened we refinanced the lake house to pay off the credit cards. Our relationship never recovered, and shortly thereafter we filed for divorce (but it’s important to note it wasn’t solely because of financial reasons.)

I don’t think any of this was done with intent or malice. It’s so easy to fall into the mindset of feeling like you work hard and deserve to have all the ‘stuff’ and not realize how fast the water is rising around you.

Keeping your partner in the dark about the real state of your finances causes a lot of stress and it is going to manifest itself in every aspect of your life. As the spouse in the dark, you might not understand where the stress is coming from, but you probably sense something is off. If you have an inkling that there might be financial infidelity happening in your marriage or partnership, consider opening up a line of safe communication in hopes that the problem might be solved or managed before things get worse.

It can be awkward to start the conversation but it will be less awkward than the possibility of dealing with it and all the additional stress it can bring to the relationship in the future.

If you are the partner who lets the other handle everything and has no idea what’s going on with your finances, get involved NOW. Not only do you need to have an understanding of your spending, investing and saving, but you also need to be informed and ready to take over if something were to happen to your partner.

Be involved, understand the ins and outs of your finances and be a partner in your financial journey.

Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.

The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on May 8, 2023 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.