Financial infidelity and divorce: when money matters

Financial infidelity and divorce: when money matters

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

One of you is a rabid spender. The other the most miserly of money Scrooges. But you fell for each other and thought it was a match made in heaven. How many couples talk about money issues before they get married? Take heart if you didn’t quiz each other on your spending and saving habits long before you got married and you find yourselves squarely facing money and honesty issues in your marriage now. Many couples wake up one day long into their marriage and realize that they have money honesty issues with each other that keep coming up as a source of arguments. And, dishonesty around spending habits in a marriage can just as likely lead to divorce as physical or emotional infidelity.

What is financial infidelity?


Financial infidelity is where one person in a relationship is dishonest with his per her partner about spending habits. Financial infidelity can be what may be considered small (you’ll just sneak that Target shoes and purse purchase into the grocery budget this month and he’ll never know) or large (one partner sells a large amount of stock meant for retirement or the kids’ college fund without telling his spouse). It can lead to a cancer that erodes the trust and foundation in any marriage and it’s more commonplace than you might think.  A recent Harris Interactive poll of nearly 2000 adults cited one in three adults as having lied to their partner about how they spent their money. And money has been called one of the top three reasons for divorce.

What can be done


Getting the topic out in the open — whether you’re just engaged or 20 years into a marriage — is key when it comes to financial infidelity.

1. Get it out in the open – Let your issues see the light of day. Truly talk with each other regularly about spending or saving habits. If you’re not yet married, talk about how money was treated in your family and what your goals are for saving and buying (would you rather build up your retirement with any extra savings or enjoy a vacation?) Some couples even investigate and share their credit ratings with each other to see their compatibility on spending and saving before they get married.

2. Budgeting and tracking – Take action and set up a plan for spending and saving. This can be as simple as setting up a spreadsheet with categories for your expenses and jointly making sure you have enough left over at the end of  each month. Or, you can download an app that lets you each track your purchases and automatically send to each other that syncs to a money management software tool.

3. Acknowledge your money differences – If one of you makes more money than the other, it may be important for the spouse with less earnings to feel they have control in the relationship as well to spend a certain amount of money as they see fit each month. You may need to acknowledge to the other that you may not always agree with how your spouse wants to spend the money — but that you need to hear about it from each other so there is no sneaking around.

4. Treat each other with respect – Ask yourself before clicking that link to buy or hand over your credit card to the clerk at the register, is this something I’d feel comfortable with my spouse knowing about? If the answer is “no” it may be financial infidelity to purchase and not tell or discuss it with your partner in advance.

Serious financial infidelity issues can be irreparable. You may have heard stories about couples bankrupt because one person in the marriage spent what they didn’t have as a couple and this ultimately ended their marriage. If so, it is critical to seek the advice of a good divorce attorney skilled in financial issues of divorce to help you become financially whole again.

Related links 


Getting a fresh financial start

If you choose divorce: the process