I have written about this before in the past, “financial infidelity”, and in chatting with a few people recently, it seems to have come up more in relationships recently. Maybe due to the change in lifestyle we had to endure for two years due to the pandemic, and maybe also due to the loss of income and jobs during that time.
Infidelity is defined as cheating on a spouse or partner, usually associate with emotional or sexual relations. A person is going outside the relationship. It also means withholding of truths, evidence, cheating in other ways, and financially can one of those ways.
Financial infidelity occurs when someone in a relationship, such as a spouse if married, or partners living together, is not forthcoming about their finances. Which many couples are not. I have my account, they have theirs, we contribute to the household bills and that is all we know about each other’s money.
Which is fine, and it works for many couples/families.
It is when one spouse or partner has hidden debts, spends money and cannot meet their mutual obligations, and the other spouse or partner knows nothing of this, it can be seen as financial infidelity.
Many moons ago I was counselling a middle aged woman who had recently remarried. She had quite a bit of credit card debt, an even though married now and living together, she continued to spend, she had a compulsive buying disorder. She had clothes in her wardrobe she had never worn, and still had the tags on them, and she was using credit cards to fund this spending. She actually hide her purchases from her husband, so he would not know how much she had been buying and spending.
This tale has a good ending as over time she got the courage to address not only her spending, but also disclose this to her husband. He was very understanding, and between us we worked out a way for her to get out of debt.
Plan A was get more help in counselling with the spending habit.
Plan B was to have her husband cover the household bills allowing her to pay more towards the credit cards.
Plan C was to stay on-track. Be transparent to each other about their finances.
People split up and get divorced over money, it happens all the time.
When we are in love and newly dating, we never think to ask someone about their money. They may say what their job or career is, and we can guess or assume earnings from that, but to ask someone about their bills and debts, ohhh nooo!
But I do….and people may think I am a three headed alien from some distant planet. But it was my job, and still is, now for 35 years. It comes naturally to me, and people must sense it, because when I ask, they answer.
I am not suggesting people on their first date break out a calculator and spreadsheet to go over someone’s personal finances. However, eventually if you have the past partners, ex-wives, ex-husbands talk, you may want to bring up money. Especially if you are going to live together. You need to know who pays what bills, do you have a joint bank account, little questions like this need to be addressed.