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Sweet Little Lies: Is Financial Infidelity Ruining Your Relationship?

by on January 7, 2013

Financial Infidelity

You just couldn’t resist that exorbitantly priced handbag, could you? Every time you passed the store window, it beckoned to you with its buttery leather and shiny gold hardware. You tried to be good, but eventually you gave in to temptation. Embarrassed by these apparently ungovernable appetites and this lack of self-control, you then lied and told your husband that you got it on sale. Sound familiar? We bring it up only because we care about you, and here’s something to think about: those little white lies you tell your significant other about how much you actually spent on that purse or that new gadget could actually ruin your relationship. Couples with money issues are 30% more likely to end up divorced.

In a 2012 survey conducted by Self Magazine and Today.com, 70% of women and 63% of men said financial infidelity is just as bad as physical infidelity. Whether it’s a lie about something little (like how big your shoe budget was last month) or something big (like the massive credit card debt you’ve accrued over the past few years), to many people it’s a breach of trust, and that makes it a big deal. About a third of participants felt that financial infidelity could actually lead to sexual infidelity – if you’re dishonest about money, you’ll probably be dishonest in other ways too. And financial dishonesty can be indicative of bigger problems in the relationship. Said therapist and social worker John K. Bell, “Financial infidelity is marked by secrecy. Secrecy is a hallmark of the loss of intimacy.”

Despite a strong distaste for financial infidelity, people are still doing it. A lot. Over half (56%) of the 23,000 women surveyed and 37% of the men ‘fessed up about their secret spending. Why is this such a persistent issue? Probably because money is an uncomfortable subject. According to money expert and funky jacket connoisseur Suze Orman, this is particularly true for women because men have traditionally been the money handlers in the relationship. Though social mores have changed, women are still a bit more hesitant to talk money with their partners.

In her book “Women and Money,” Orman recommends coming clean with your partner and then setting realistic goals together – but she also suggests allowing for some independence. For example, you and your significant other could set up separate bank accounts. Then, after the bills are paid and shared monthly savings goals are met, any extra money can be divided equally. You can place that money into the accounts or spend it freely. We recommend saving up your extra dough and taking your boo on a little vacation to make up for those sweet little lies you told.

Financial infidelity is a problem, no doubt. But instead of seeing it as the harbinger of a relationship’s end, we like to think of it as a chance for a new beginning. By recognizing it, you can also perhaps bring to light other, deeper problems in your relationship. Then you can fix them. Have your own experience with financial infidelity? Let us know the sordid details in the comment section.

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