By Tracy Scott
Money issues can wreak havoc on relationships, especially when one partner is hiding information from the other. When one partner lies to the other about their combined finances, it’s considered financial infidelity. It carries the double whammy of a deceitful act followed by its concealment.
Financial infidelity can jeopardize FICO® scores, endanger the cash held in bank accounts, and put your relationship at risk.
If you recently discovered a secret account, hidden credit cards, or undisclosed debt, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. The healing process will take understanding and patience from both parties. When you’re ready and willing to address the issue together and move forward, remember these suggestions:
Focus on the Facts
You’re likely overwhelmed by a variety of emotions making it hard to talk about the deceit. Hurt and anger might top the list, but you can’t let those feelings overshadow the recovery process. Whether your significant other came clean or you stumbled upon a secret bank account, you’ll make considerable progress by separating your emotions from the facts.
Focus on what happened and how to fix it. For example, if you found a new credit card with $5,000 in purchases, work together to create a repayment plan that allows you to get back on track as soon as possible. Remind your partner that when they take on new credit, you could be held legally responsible for the debt too. The level of responsibility will vary depending on your state of residence and other factors.
Understanding that a secret debt is unlikely to remain hidden forever, such as in the event of their death or a debt collection lawsuit, might deter the opening of future accounts without your knowledge.
Clarify Your Financial Goals
Couples who have competing financial priorities set themselves up for future heartbreak. For example, if you dream of the two of you retiring by age 45 and traveling the globe, but your partner continues to open new credit card accounts without your knowledge, you’re not chasing the same dreams. You’ll need to clearly define your financial goals as a team. When you agree on money priorities, it becomes easier to see how accumulating side debt can derail those plans.
Be Prepared to Deal with Underlying Issues
Depending on the severity of the financial betrayal, other issues may be contributing to the financial infidelity. If this isn’t your first talk about unhealthy money behaviors, then the latest incident might be a sign of deeper problems. A partner or spouse with a shopping or gambling addiction might benefit from a support group. Talking to others in a group counseling session can help them identify and replace financially destructive behaviors with positive ones.
Seek Professional Counseling
Repairing relationship damage caused by a lack of transparency may require the assistance of a licensed couples therapist. For couples who need expert guidance getting their finances back on track, Generations Federal Credit Union encourages members to schedule a free, anonymous debt counseling session via GreenPath Financial Wellness. Certified financial counselors can help couples develop a plan for dealing with the consequences of financial infidelity.
Merging finances is an act of trust. A recent Harris Poll survey found that 60% of those who committed financial deception against a partner cited fear or disapproval as the reason for remaining silent. Despite the reason, financial dishonesty can rock the relationship to its core. Communicate often about finances to avoid the damage caused by financial infidelity.