Financial Infidelity

Feb 14, 2019

We all have kept something from our partner at some point in time but where is the breaking point where it can be called infidelity? This ominous word has implied meaning of sexual carousing, but it can mean much more than that and the implications just as serious. If you think infidelity only occurs between the sheets, think again.

When it come to finances, dishonesty ranges from failure to communicate to straight up deceit. Have you ever lied to your spouse or partner about how much something cost? How about racking up debt your significant other knows nothing about? Done any secret purchases? Have hidden accounts? All of these transgressions fall into the category of financial infidelity — which encompasses everything from shading the truth to omitting important (but relevant) information to outright lies.

The Financial Infidelity survey, commissioned by Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) and Credit Canada found that:

  • 34% of those in a relationship keep financial secrets from their current romantic partner.
  • 36% of those in a relationship have lied about a financial matter to a partner.
  • Younger adults who are not married, aged 18-54, tend to be victims of financial unfaithfulness.

    Another report from CreditCards.com, stated that 31% of survey respondents said keeping credit cards and other accounts from a partner is worse than physical infidelity. This is alarming when you consider a recent Ipsos survey as half of Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. With such a small amount of wiggle room, any kind of unanticipated hardship can lead to a great deal of stress and strain on a relationship. In addition, if you have suspicions that your partner is not being fully honest with you about money, it may have an adverse affect on your relationship.

    How to prevent and overcome financial infidelity:

  • Be truthful. It is commonly said to children that it is better to be the one being honest about something than for the lie to come up by some other means. As adults, we should follow that advice. If you are hiding something or suspect something the consequences grow over time, rip off the band aid and bring the elephant into the room sooner than later.

    There is no getting around the fact that honesty is really the only way forward. It will be awkward at first, but come clean to your partner, talk honestly about the emotions that drove the behavior, such as shame or embarrassment, and work together on solutions. If a one-on-one talk is not ideal – perhaps because of issues of intimidation or control in the relationship then consider having a third party mediate the topic, such as a marital therapist or a financial planner.

  • Plan together. Try scheduling a money talk over dinner (or wine) about once a month. Have an open conversation about the things that you want to accomplish in life. What does it cost? Are you both on board with aligning your current situation and spending with your goals? Look one year, five years, even 10 years into the future. Focus on being open and honest with each other and, most of all, listen.

    Like with your health, you don’t go to the gym once, you don’t have a salad once, it’s the same with your money. Don’t just talk about money once, make it a regular (monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc) conversation.

  • Be introspective. If you are committing the infidelity, ask yourself (and it's just to yourself, so you can be honest): Why do I feel like I need to keep some things hidden? It could be because you are resentful about something — maybe there is a power imbalance in the relationship or you are not on the same page when it comes to money and goals. Understand that money may be the symptom, not the problem. The money is just where it shows up; there is usually a deeper reason.

  • Create Freedom. Quite often, the reason for financial secrecy is that people just are unsure what their partner will think of a purchase. So instead of bringing it up, they just stay quiet … and then little lies turn into bigger ones. Creating some financial independence can help. If possible, set aside a set small amount of money each month (which won’t crush your budget and goals), that each of you can spend however you wish. This is your fun money and you do not have to report what you purchased or how much you spent (as long as you stay within the limits).

  • Jointly talk to a financial planner. Setting a plan by yourselves can work but sometimes getting a professional involved to act as your sounding board and for accountability can help. A planner can:

    - help define your financial goals
    - see if your goals and timelines are realistic
    - bring your spending in line with your goals
    - identify risks you didn’t know you have
    - maximize your money and reduce debt
    - give you peace of mind

    The courage to face facts, and the ability to be open to forgiveness and solutions once the cat's out of the bag, can make the difference between a happy, healthy relationship or one that is doomed to fail.

    Pamela Coquet
    Financial Strategist at Savanti Wealth Corporation



    Savanti is your no-nonsense, get it done, always got your back, tell it to you straight, make you laugh, and there if you need to cry - financial partner.

    Share on
  • Suggested Reads