Financial infidelity in marriage occurs when one person in the marriage habitually lies to their partner about their spending habits, and it is done in such a way that it is threatening the health of the marital relationship. Sometimes the person has racked up hidden credit card debt; sometimes they have hidden away a bonus so they can secretly spend the unexpected windfall.
In fact, financial infidelity may actually be more common than sexual infidelity in marriages. Studies estimate that as many as 41% of US adults admitted to lying to their spouse partner about their accounts, debts, or spending habits.
Financial Infidelity in Marriage Destroys Trust
Financial infidelity in marriage deteriorates trust; infidelity, sexual or otherwise, creating distance in the relationship and thus making it virtually impossible for the couple to be emotionally intimate. Couples that engage in financial infidelity are sabotaging their relationship and denying themselves the tremendous emotional benefits that marriage has to offer. Often times they do not believe they deserve love and care from their partner and are unconsciously pushing that person away through self-defeating behaviors.
Depression and Shopping Make a Dangerous Cocktail
People who commit financial infidelity in marriage often do so out of feelings of low self-worth, as shopping can be a brief anesthetic from emotional pain. These individuals have difficulty controlling their impulses and often have significant shame, guilt, and depression regarding this behavior since they often do not understand it themselves. Buying something new may make them euphoric for a short period of time. The fix is temporary, however, and this brief jolt of excitement is usually not worth it for them; they ultimately do not enjoy their new purchase and feel even worse for having lied about it.
Money Means Something Different for Everyone
Sometimes financial infidelity in marriage occurs for less serious reasons. For example, a couple may simply have different ideas regarding spending and what money represents. Take flowers, for example. Perhaps the wife really enjoys having fresh-cut flowers in the home as it brightens things up and adds life to the home. The husband might feel this is an extravagant, wasteful expense and that the money should go into the retirement or college fund, where it would be useful. To avoid conflict, the wife may say, “Mrs. So-and-So cut these flowers for me from her garden, isn’t that sweet?” or “They were only $2 at Trader Joe’s, what a bargain!”
While this may not feel as serious as other forms of financial infidelity, it still requires lying to one’s spouse, which eats away at trust and can eventually cause issues.
Money Secrets are Disrespectful to Your Spouse
Unfortunately, this behavior creates more distance, less intimacy, and ultimately, is emotionally disrespectful. Friction and conflict are sometimes needed to become emotionally closer and it can take some emotional turbulence in the short-term to work through each other’s needs and expectations, financial or otherwise. It shows disrespect for the other partner’s views, feelings, and wants to stop this process from happening.
Dealing With Financial Infidelity in Marriage? Marriage Counseling Can Help
Financial infidelity can be just as damaging to a marriage as sexual infidelity. If you and your spouse are currently working through this issue, marriage counseling with Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW, can help you. She is a marriage counselor in the Newport Beach, Irvine, and Orange County area. She specializes in relationships and depression. To schedule an appointment, you can call her at (949) 251-8797 or visit her website.