“No your butt doesn’t look big in those pants.” “Your jokes are really funny.” “That dinner was so delicious.” “Of course you could take him in a fight, I would put my money on you.” “These clothes are old; I have had them for months.” “I have no idea where the two hundred dollars went.” “I didn’t open that credit card.” Whoa, stop right there! Yes, there are times in a relationship or marriage when a little white lie or not telling the whole truth is okay, especially if it is to protect the other person’s feelings, but lying about finances and spending or withholding information about one’s financial situation are areas in which it is not okay to be dishonest and withdrawn.

Financial infidelity is a money disorder (a pattern of self-destructive behaviors that can lead to anxiety, stress, emotional issues, or significant problems in one’s life) in which there is deliberate lying, secrets, or hiding of money, spending, or financial information from one’s partner/spouse or significant other. Financial infidelity occurs when there is a shared belief between the partners/spouses or significant others of mutual honesty and open communication about money but in which lying or hiding occurs regarding financial matters, such as having a private credit card, hidden accounts or investments, borrowing or lending in secret, etc. It has been shown that financial infidelity can be extremely detrimental to relationships and can even cause the relationship to end. Financial infidelity can also cause significant anxiety, distress, and impairment in daily living to the person doing the hiding or lying.
Psychological aspects of financial infidelity can include, but are not limited to:

  • lack of trust or insecurity in the relationship and/or partner/significant other
  • attempting to avoid conflict over financial decisions
  • making purchases in an attempt to improve mood or self-image or to avoid discomfort
  • seeking validation or trying to “fit in”
  • compensating for a perceived deficit in an area of one’s life
  • showing love or affection, or to trying to feel powerful or in control
  • consequences of financial infidelity can include, but are not limited to:
  • damage to one’s reputation or credit history
  • significant debt or financial issues
  • loss of trust in the relationship
  • conflict and discord
  • separation or divorce

If you were to ask a group of people what they think are the essential values for a healthy, lasting relationship I am willing to bet that trust, open communication, and honesty are high on the list. In my work with couples, the majority of the issues I see are related to problems with communication and/or trust. Add onto that another layer of financial issues and it can become a serious and detrimental issue fast. Financial infidelity is a serious problem to both the individual who is keeping things a secret and to the relationship itself and needs to be addressed in order for a couple to have a healthy, honest, and lasting relationship. With the help of a financial therapist in individual therapy, one can begin to understand areas such as the underlying causes of their secret or poor spending habits, their negative beliefs about money and finances, trust issues in general or with their partner, etc. and to begin to learn and implement more appropriate thoughts, behaviors, and communication styles. Couples therapy could also be a helpful format for couples to be able to discuss financial issues or difficulties in an open, non-judgmental, safe space and acquire better tools to use outside of the therapy office.

Please contact Symmetry Counseling today to schedule an appointment with a financial therapist if you need help with financial infidelity or any other negative impacts to your relationships or mental health due to issues with money or finances.

Source: Klontz, B.T., Britt, S.L., & Archuleta, K.L. (2015) Financial Therapy, Theory, Research, and Practice. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.