Most people associate the idea of infidelity with cheating — that is, crossing a physical or emotional boundary outside of a committed relationship. Situations like these can lead to distrust and hurt for everyone involved, which is likely why they’re culturally regarded as one of the most significant relationship “no-nos.”
But there’s another kind of infidelity in relationships on the rise, known as financial infidelity. Keep reading to learn more about this topic and how it can impact modern relationships.
How Common Is Financial Infidelity?
As CNBC points out, “experts say keeping money secrets from your significant other — no matter how big or small — technically counts as financial infidelity.”
This definition offers a very straightforward look at what constitutes financial infidelity. But in practice, it’s not always so evident to people when their behavior crosses the line.
A survey of more than 400 U.S. adults by researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi uncovered some interesting results surrounding the idea of financial infidelity and how people define it.
According to the survey’s findings, more than half (53 percent) of respondents said they had kept money secrets from a partner, like hiding receipts or lying about how much they paid for something. And yet, despite this admission, only 27 percent of respondents admitted to having committed financial infidelity.
Another 2018 survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that two in five American adults (41 percent) who have combined their finances with a partner own up to committing financial deceptions against a said partner. And here’s the kicker: Three out of four survey respondents believe the deceit has affected their relationship in some way.
Avoiding the Negative Effects of Financial Infidelity
The motivation to hide purchases or decisions from a partner typically stems from a feeling that the partner will pass judgment or not approve. While this is certainly understandable, it’s important to realize how even the smallest distortion or omission can end up affecting a partner’s trust in you down the line — especially if you’re operating with a joint financial model in which your decisions affect your partner and vice versa.
Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of, “It’s not what you did, it’s the principle of the thing?” Any form of deceit can be very damaging in relationships for this exact reason. Say you’ve just found out your partner purchased something behind your back and hid it from you. You’ll likely feel more betrayed by their action and subsequent coverup than you will be concerned with the exact price tag of the secret purchase.
Honesty and transparency are crucial to avoiding the adverse effects of financial infidelity. Both partners need to agree to be honest about the purchases they make with joint funds, as well as their debts and credit rating. Only then can you reach an agreement together about the best path forward — whether that may be taking out a debt consolidation loan, saving a certain amount each per month to put toward shared goals, or building your credit scores together.
Schedule time to sit down and have routine, honest talks about money with your significant other. The Motley Fool suggests framing these discussions as an opportunity to touch base on team goals rather than a place for confessions or judgment. Come up with a workable budget for both of you — one comfortable enough to help you work toward your goals, pay for living expenses, and have fun —without encouraging either partner to resort to financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity encompasses any money secret a partner keeps from the other, large or small. It can destroy trust in the relationship, which is why it’s so important to talk about money and cultivate an open line of communication.