A recent study reveals that in almost a third of marriages, one spouse lies to the other about how money is spent, how much money there is and how much money is earned. Here’s a link to the article in Forbes.
This issue is a pretty important one to consider, as it is one of the leading causes of separation and divorce. I answered some questions on The Early Show about financial infidelity and things that you can do to be aware of its presence, as well as things to do to improve your relationship if it is happening in your home.
WHY IS MONEY SUCH A SENSITIVE TOPIC?
Money means different things to different people. People often choose to talk about ANYTHING but money. It can symbolize power, control, security, even love. Since it can be so fraught with emotion, people tend to shy away from discussing money, what it means, how to manage it in a relationship, as these discussions can lead to arguments or conflict.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON “MONEY” LIES COUPLES TELL EACH OTHER?
According to a survey done by ForbesWoman and the National Endowment for Financial Education, the top three money-related lies told are about hiding cash, making minor purchases and bills. Additionally, people hide major purchases, keep bank accounts secretive and may lie about the amount of debt they have or how much they earn. A third of the 2,000people surveyed report lying about money in some way, which is a very significant amount. This type of behavior can cause significant damage to a relationship.
IS THIS CHEATING?
Lying is a form of betrayal, and to some, it can be as damaging as cheating. Just the presence of lying, as we know, can create a loss of trust, which can lead to the downfall of relationships. As noted, money is rich with emotional reactions, so dishonesty about it can feel, to some, as badly as if they were cheated on by a spouse. The object of the cheating is just different. According to the study, 2/3 of the people impacted by “financial infidelity” argued about it, and 42% said it definitely created a loss of trust in the relationship. Even more interesting is that 16% of people involved in lies about money ended up divorced, while 11% ended up separated. So, although the idea of cheating is different, the outcome, to many, may be the same.
ARE THERE WARNING SIGNS?
There are some “warning signs”, to look for if you are concerned that your partner may not be completely honest when it comes to finances.
- Does your partner change the topic or get defensive when discussing money? Noticing emotional reactions to simple questions is really important. Maybe this was never a problem before, but now, any time the topic comes up your partner gets defensive or quickly changes the subject. Or maybe their reaction to a simple money question is out ofproportion to the question. Defensiveness and avoidance can be red flags that something is wrong.
- Does your partner insist on managing the finances? Many people do not have an idea that there is something to be concerned about because they allow their partner be in full control of the finances. It’s much easier to hide something if you are the only one with access to it.
- Is your partner dishonest with OTHERS about money? You can tell a lotabout your partner when you observe him/her with others. If he/she is willing to lie to other people, he/she may be just as willing to lie to you.
- Does your partners parents have an unhealthy relationship around money? Just as with other behaviors in our lives, we learn about money within our families. If your partner’s parents have an unhealthy approach to money, it’s likely that your partner may too.
- What’s your gut telling you? Do you have the instinct that something is not right? Your gut is your best barometer of how things are. If you feel as though something isn’t right, you may be right. Check it out.
- Does the spending not match the earning? If you notice new things popping up and can’t make it work with the amount of money you believe you have, that’s a big red flag that something is going on.
- Is there a history? Maybe you have caught your spouse doing this before…that’s going to make it harder to trust, and easier to see when it’s happening again.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP ON THE TOPIC OF $$$?
- Talk about it: Find a neutral time to talk about issues related to money, preferable before things get out of hand. If you wait until there is a problem, there are more emotional issues to deal with and it’s harder to hear and be heard.
- Negotiate: Give a little to get a little. Be willing to open up about your hopes and fears about money, and hopefully your partner will be willing to do the same. This is important in helping to determine how to manage money moving forward.
- Recognize your own feelings about money: Be honest with yourself about how you feel about money, and subsequently be honest with your partner about these feelings. If you don’t, you may end up feeling resentful of your partner’s approach to money, which could lead you to lie about different situations.
- Seek help: If it’s too difficult to discuss on your own, bring in a counselor (financial or marriage) to help you sort through it.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever been financially unfaithful? Or been “cheated” on?