When we talk about cheating, it’s normally in terms of emotional or sexual infidelity—someone has an affair or makes a drunken mistake and it changes the dynamic of the relationship. But the truth is, infidelity is just a breach of trust—and that can take many different forms, including a financial one.
“Financial infidelity is when dishonesty about money creeps into a relationship,” Priya Malani, co-founder of *Stash Wealth* tells BRIDES. “It can manifest in a million different ways.” But the most common examples of financial infidelity that Malani points to is someone hoarding money and not sharing that with the other person (by keeping a secret bank account) or spending money that the other person doesn't know about (like having a secret credit card).
And the truth is, financial infidelity can have just as much of an impact on your relationship as other forms of infidelity. “A successful relationship usually requires that all aspects of that relationship be founded in trust or a mutual agreement of what will and won’t be disclosed,” Malani says. “In the case of money, if you’re hiding or spending money that your partner doesn’t know about, you’re committing financial infidelity. No ifs, ands or buts, even if you feel you’re doing it in their best interest.”
But how do you know if your partner is being unfaithful with their spending? Well, here’s how to spot it—and what to do about it.
Signs Of Financial Infidelity
Some of the signs of financial infidelity are the same signs you would expect of any infidelity—Malani points to secrecy or a lack of transparency as giveaways. And if they lie, even little white lies, it can be a sign that your partner doesn’t feel the need to be honest with you about bigger things.
But some of the signs that specifically apply to financial infidelity were particularly interesting. Malani says you should look for “seemingly irrational fear or confidence about money.” So if your partner is always worried that you can’t afford something—even though you have more than enough—that can be a sign, as can being casual about spending beyond their means. You might also see an increase in spending without a change in compensation, like if they suddenly start spending more without any signs of a bonus or a promotion.
What To Do
If you see the signs of financial infidelity, you need to confront your partner. Explain that it’s a breach of trust, just like any other. “On a granular level, financial infidelity breaks down the foundation of trust that most couples work so hard to build,” Malani says. “Money continues to be cited as the largest cause of relationship disputes and divorce. So while infidelity of any kind is harmful to a relationship, financial infidelity is even more so. It’s so important to be on the same financial page as your partner.”
Make sure that you go in gently, because money can be a very sensitive issue. Explain that you’ve seen some worrying signs and that you’re concerned. If you have any shared accounts, go over them together and see if you can ease your way into a constructive conversation.
You also should remind them that, in any marriage or long-term relationship, you’re meant to be acting in each other’s best interest. “The best way to accomplish your goals (financial or otherwise) in life, is to think and work as a team,” Malani says. “If one person is being dishonest, then you’re not going to be able to work as a team because one of you is, in essence, working again the team.”
See more: What To Do If Your Partner Is Bad With Moneyr
If your partner is resistant to the idea that they have a problem—or they admit it, but can’t seem to control it—there’s nothing wrong with getting professional help. A financial planner or a couple’s therapist can make a huge difference, depending on the severity of the problem. But don't let your partner downplay or dismiss the issue as the occasional splurge or responsible saving, if it’s really a toxic behavior that's affecting your relationship. “Money is at the core of almost every decision you make, the really small ones like going out to dinner or staying in to bigger ones like how luxurious your next vacation can be (all inclusive resort or budget-friendly hotel),” Malani says. Money affects everything—so you need to get on the same page.
Dealing with financial infidelity can be incredibly tricky—because many people aren’t great about discussing money in the first place. But if your partner is hiding things from you—or being irresponsible with your money—it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Talk to them about their spending or their saving in a gentle, compassionate way—but don't be afraid to get a third party involved. Money affects every part of your life, every day. It’s too important to let it go unnoticed.