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finance  :: budgeting
No matter what stage the economy is in, building trust with your partner concerning finances remains imperative.

What's Financial Infidelity?

What's Financial Infidelity?

Are You Cheating On Your Spouse... With Money


    When you make a promise to love, honor and cherish another person, the faithfulness implied doesn't have a thing to do with money. Still, according to Long Beach, Calif., psychotherapist Tina Tessina, also known as Dr. Romance, money is one of three things -- along with sex and kids -- that cause the most arguments in a marriage.

Tessina, who has written a book on the topic, says if you're not careful, lying to your partner about money -- known as financial infidelity -- can end up making your marriage miserable. And in today's tumultous economic times, losing your trust in your partner's ability to handle money can be an even tougher pill to swallow.

"The U.S. economy is still facing challenges to economic growth, but no matter what stage the economy is in, building trust with your partner concerning finances is a process that can be managed and remains imperative at all times," according to Steve Paskal and Laura Hyman, accredited wealth managers and certified divorce financial analysts with RBC Wealth Management of New York.

Unfortunately, trust is not something that all married couples have when it comes to their money. According to a 2007 survey by online payment company, PayPal, 82 percent of those who were interviewed said they lied to their spouses about shopping purchases. A majority of those surveyed said their spouse was using money to control their relationship.

A big issue for marriages, according to certified divorce financial planner Cynthia Anderson Thompson, MBA, is when spouses have varied money management styles -- saver, hoarder, spendthrift, etc. "How couples handle finances while they’re married usually reflects attitudes and habits they formed  long ago, observing their own families," Thompson said. "The problem is bad enough when their styles don’t match. Then proactive financial planning, budgeting, discussion, counseling and self awareness often can help if the spending is just about spending, and the partners are open to honest discussion, compromise, etc."

Paskal and Hyman advice that couples to make financial decisions as a team: "In all situations, and especially with disproportionate earnings between partners, steps should be taken so that both partners have equal knowledge and authority of their system for spending and saving. It is important to have a discussion identifying the ‘values’ each person attaches to their finances and how they can work together to achieve those goals. Making financial decisions as a team from the beginning ensures that both partners have equal knowledge. This increases the level of trust between them and provides a system of checks and balances."

When this doesn't happen, couples usually end up with more than financial problems -- they usually end up contemplating divorce, Thompson said. That's because they've discovered -- but not discussed -- the fact that one of them is an excessive spender and the other then becomes a secret saver in response. "When that mismatch of styles is not discussed, respected, analyzed, acknowledged, when it’s discounted, belittled or ignored, when the spending spouse  has no ability or real  intention of changing her or his actions to help meet the financial/emotional needs of the other, whether it be for security, investment or savings, then you have a classic standoff. His need to spend, invest, provide, as he alone sees fit, versus her needs for security, investment ,savings," Thompson said.

Divorce360 experts call this "financial infidelity" or lying about how money is being spent. "...A married person who habitually  spending more he makes and runs up debt or borrows from future earnings, retirement,  whether it’s hidden or not, and knows that this is contrary to his spouse’s wishes, is being unfaithful to the health of the marriage relationship. He is demonstrating a lack of  respect, reciprocity, prudence, honesty, especially if he  knows that that style of money management is distressing to his spouse. That’s why he may hide spending or he may do it without hiding, but saying 'I’m the boss – tough about your feelings on the subject.' Either way, it's a kind of financial infidelity," Thompson said.

According to a 2005 HarrisInteractive poll of almost 1,800 people, about one in three adults had lied to their significant other about how much money they spent on themselves or their children. About one in four adults called this kind of infidelity worse than sexual kind. The problem, according to Divorce360 experts, is that it can lead to bigger lies, large debt and possibility emotional cheating as well. 

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