When you hear the word infidelity, you might think about situations where your spouse runs off with another person. But there is a different kind of cheating that’s more commonplace than many people think. Financial infidelity can end up causing havoc and ruin your finances. What exactly is financial infidelity, and how can you deal with it?
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What is financial infidelity?
Financial infidelity refers to the act of lying about money and finances to your spouse.
Examples of financial infidelity in action can look like this:
- You don’t share how much money you make.
- You lie about or hide information about your spending.
- You aren’t honest about what you’re spending money on.
- You conceal the amount of debt you have.
Money is still a big taboo in our society, and financial infidelity is much more common than you might think. A 2019 study conducted by Lloyds Bank found that over a fifth (23%) of people in a relationship admitted to lying about money to their partner. The most common lie was to conceal the amount of debt they had. While the lies are not always big, continuous small lies can be just as harmful to relationships.
What to do you if you suspect financial infidelity?
The consequences of financial infidelity can be devastating, especially if the lies have been going on for years or even decades. In many cases, financial infidelity can feel worse than finding your spouse in bed with someone else.
What are the practical steps you should take to deal with financial infidelity?
Talk to your spouse
The first thing to do is to open a dialogue with your spouse. You shouldn’t run to them and accuse them of hiding or lying. Approaching your spouse with pitchforks will rarely lead to a good outcome. If you feel angry, then it’s a good idea to let your feelings calm down a little before talking.
The main thing is to have an open conversation. You want to get to the bottom of the issue once and for all! However, it would help if you didn’t try solving all your problems at once. If the conversation seems to be going nowhere, it might even be worth seeking outside help, such as counselling or mediation.
Open up about finances
It’s also essential for both of you to start opening up about your finances. If you’ve never discussed finances before, then now is an excellent time to start. Go over your financial situation together, as partners. You can start creating a roadmap together out of the situation and set rules regarding how you want to handle and talk about money going forward.
Find outside help
Depending on the severity of the financial situation, you need to get to the bottom of the behaviour. Spending can spiral out of control, and your spouse might be acting recklessly because of another deep-rooted issue. Mind is a fantastic charity providing lots of help and resources for people suffering from problem spending. Likewise, you might also want to have private conversations with other parties to help you deal with the feelings of betrayal, anger, or resentment you might feel towards your spouse. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
There is also financial counselling available. It’s essential to get help if you aren’t sure how to get out of the debt your spouse has put you in. Later in this article, you can find details of services offering help with debt repayment and budgeting. Depending on the kind of behaviour your partner is going through, it can be worth contacting organisations such as BeGambleAware. The NHS also provides lots of information and tools for people suffering from addictions. You can learn more about how to deal with addictive behaviour and receive practical tips to prevent future spending.
Create a financial plan for the future
If the financial infidelity has led to a lot of debt, you need to create a debt repayment plan. The best thing to do is make it together after you have both come clean about your finances. If your relationship with your partner has completely broken down, get help to fully understand what a possible divorce might mean for your finances. There is legal help available to you. You can find free tools and resources through Citizens Advice or Divorce Aid; both offer information as well as tips on how to contact a divorce lawyer.
If you have a joint account with your partner, then it’s a good idea to contact the bank or building society and ask for certain restrictions. For example, if you are worried your spouse will keep withdrawing large sums of money from the account, you can place restrictions on withdrawals. For joint accounts, it is possible to make it so that both account holders must give permission for certain things.
You could also consider contacting and registering with Cifas. It offers a Protective Registration service that contacts you if anyone makes account applications in your name. This can be a good system if you are worried your spouse might use your private information to open new credit card accounts or take out loans.
What if you have been lying about money to your spouse?
You might be reading this article and realise that you are the one hiding a secret. As the earlier statistic showed, lying about finances to your spouse is relatively common. What should you do if you feel like you’ve not been honest about money?
The most important thing is to start that dialogue and come clean. It can feel scary, but financial infidelity doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship. You should also remember to reach out to the organisations listed above. They can help you deal with any addictive behaviour you might have and offer practical advice.
Don’t forget, you can also contact the following organisations to deal with your debt issues:
- The National Debtline - A free service to provide independent debt advice
- Step Change Charity - Free help from the UK’s leading debt charity
- Financial Wellness Group - Another free charity supporting people with money problems
Dealing with financial infidelity
We spoke to Polly Dallyn, Senior Associate at Family Law Partners, who told Pension Times: "Talking about finances with your spouse or partner can be difficult. Money is often an emotive topic and one that individuals avoid or consider embarrassing to discuss. This can lead to so-called financial infidelity and can cause the breakdown of relationships which may have continued had open conversations taken place earlier.
"There are many ways to approach financial discussions and support is available at all stages. At the outset of a relationship when a couple is not married but is thinking about living together, it is important and helpful to talk through how you want to manage finances. Many couples now enter into Cohabitation Agreements, this type of document can regulate the financial arrangements they have agreed on whilst together and if they separate. Cohabitation Agreements have many advantages, one of which being that they involve a process of sharing financial information with your partner so that you each have a clear idea of what the other’s finances look like from the start, which aids transparency from an early stage.
"Establishing a positive grounding of financial openness and having an agreement from the earliest stages of your relationship makes things easier as your lives, and often finances, become more intertwined, and Cohabitation Agreements can be converted into Pre or Post Nuptial Agreements (nuptial agreements) if you decide to marry or enter into a Civil Partnership in the future. Again, this provides a helpful framework for how finances might be managed both during the partnership and if you separate and ensures that you each partner has a clear picture of the other’s finances at the time of your marriage or civil partnership.
"Whilst these good practice tips can minimise the risk of financial infidelity, it can still happen and if you find yourself in a relationship where financial infidelity is a feature it is important to take early advice on your position and how you might protect yourself and mitigate your position. You may also decide to work with your partner to improve things, but if discussing things with your partner or spouse directly feels impossible, or discussions lead to disagreements, it can be helpful to involve a neutral third party such as a mediator or counsellor to help you work through the issues that have arisen and work towards a solution."
Financial infidelity can feel like the end of the world. But it doesn’t have to be. The important thing is to start talking about money and figuring out a path forward. It’s important to step away to avoid immediate reaction and rash decisions. Remember, there is a lot of help available to deal with the emotional impact and help you move forward to a better financial future.