You would never dream of sleeping with another man, yet you hide receipts in your underwear drawer after an afternoon at the mall. Your heart is bursting with love, but your bank account is down to the last dollar. You’re not ashamed to come home late from a night out with your girlfriends, but you refuse to show your spouse the credit card bill.
Hate to break it to you sister, but you’re guilty of infidelity…
According to a joint survey by Today.com and SELF magazine, roughly 46 percent of people admit to having lied to their partner about money. This includes lying about purchases and masking suspicious bank account withdrawals. The poll, which surveyed some 23,000 online users, also found that more than 60 percent of both men and women consider financial infidelity to be just as heinous as a physical affair. What’s more, one-third of respondents felt that financial infidelity could lead to sexual infidelity.
Honesty is the best policy
Admitting you have lied about your financial problems is hard, but if this survey tells us anything, it’s that couples regularly lie about what’s in their wallets. And the weakness spans both sexes. According to another study on financial secrecy by American Consumer Credit Counselling, close to 20 percent of all men and women admit that they hide their spending habits because the truth would worry their spouse or cause friction in their relationship.
While coming clean about your financial troubles can be difficult, being upfront is the best way to conquer these and other marital problems. This open approach to money management will not only improve your household budgeting process, but it will help you and your spouse learn how to broach difficult topics. While you may not always agree with your spouse’s financial choices, it’s crucial that you discuss them and are capable of supporting them or working together to change them. Taking the time to discuss one another’s spending habits will help you to understand your partner’s financial strengths and weaknesses.
Personal financial behaviour
While some financial problems are caused by a simple lack of understanding, research suggests that complex behavioural issues are at the root of the most serious financial missteps. From impulse buying to excessive materialism, the key to understanding personal financial behaviour (and its impact on your relationship with your spouse) requires more than a balanced chequebook. Emotions, personality traits and an individual’s attitude towards money are all factors that can contribute to unhealthy financial choices.
Money and emotions
Have you ever gone on a shopping spree in order to overcome sadness? Have you maxed out your credit card trying to buy someone’s love? Using money as an emotional crutch can be toxic – to yourself and your relationships.
Problematic money management patterns are often related to painful emotions like guilt, fear and anxiety. It is these overwhelming feelings that lead to destructive actions, the most common of which is escape. Spending money irresponsibly often enables us to avoid our current emotions, giving us a momentary feeling of happiness and satisfaction. The refusal to recognize or acknowledge this cycle is a classic form of denial.
If your emotions are clouding your judgement about money, don’t avoid the issues. Accepting your feelings and behaviours is the best way to decrease the intensity of your emotional reaction to money and improve your emotional and financial intelligence. Sit down with your spouse and look at the ways in which you are both sabotaging your financial stability. Be honest and upfront in order to ensure full disclosure and devise a better action plan for the future.
What’s your money personality?
The personal characteristics that you find attractive in your spouse, like their spontaneity or carefree attitude, could also be the very reason why they struggle with financial fidelity. A wife who values spontaneity may resist financial planning, budgeting and saving. On the other hand, a husband who values authority, control and stability may refuse to share financial responsibilities with his spouse. When financial infidelity rears its ugly head in your relationship, don’t immediately assume that your spouse is exhibiting this behaviour to spite you. It may be a part of their personality; it is your responsibility as a couple to better understand these actions and work with each of your unique traits to decrease unhealthy spending habits.
What’s with the attitude?
Financial behaviour is also affected by a person’s ingrained attitudes towards money. This is partially determined by your childhood. Think back to when you were a kid – did your parents argue about money frequently? Did your spouse come from an affluent family and as a consequence, has never had the need to budget or save? Before you can move forward with your financial future, you may need to review your experiences with money in the past. This will help you to better understand and correct your current behaviours.
Relationship weaknesses and money
While it’s easy to see how money can impact a relationship, it’s often more difficult to see how issues in your marriage can change the way you handle your finances. If your relationship is plagued by mistrust, poor communication, selfishness or manipulation, your money problems could be routed there. If your relationship has hit a rocky patch, don’t let these emotions find their way into your wallet. Your poor financial decisions may be routed in something deeper – identify and deal with these problems in order to prevent future financial mistakes.
It starts with trust
According to the poll conducted by SELF and Today.com, nearly 70 percent of women and 63 percent of men thought that honesty about money was as important to their marriage as remaining monogamous. If you’re struggling with financial infidelity, don’t wait to seek help.
Remember: the love you feel from the dollars in your bank account is nothing compared to the love of a trusting spouse.
GoldenGirlFinance.ca is a free personal finance and education site for women.
Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.