Have you ever lied to your spouse about a purchase or hidden money? A poll from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 2 in 5 Americans admit to lying about or withholding money information from their partner. USA Today reports that 15 million people have admitted to hiding financial information from their spouse, and 9 million used to but don’t anymore. Why is financial infidelity so common?
What Is Financial Infidelity?
Just like any other form of unfaithfulness, financial infidelity occurs when one (or both) partners hide (or misconstrue) financial information from the other – such as past debts, spending habits, or other bank accounts.
This is a growing problem. The National Endowment for Financial Education states that financial infidelity can be just as significant as emotional or sexual infidelity in marriage. And Financial Family law attorney Steven Mindel says, “More marriages fall apart for financial reasons than for fidelity reasons…marriages are built on trust and anytime you breach the trust of the other party, it damages the relationship. Getting married is like the merging of two enterprises.”
Why Does it Happen?
Often times a spouse may lie to avoid conflict or ignore financial problems. Sometimes the truth is not told because one spouse had no confidence in the other.
Maybe a husband or wife thought they shouldn’t burden the other with the truth from their financial history and was trying to take care of it on their own. Many women take misguided advice and open their own secret checking account “just in case”.
People who are keeping secrets about their finances usually aren’t trying to hide criminal activity or an affair or have malicious intent…they’re just embarrassed. Sometimes admitting you have a problem and feel embarrassed is more difficult than admitting you messed up.
Even though the intent is usually not to harm the other, the truth will eventually come out and the results can be painful. Someone is hurt, loses respect and trust for the other and wonders what else may be hidden. The entire marriage relationship may be questioned because trust is lost.
What If You’re Suspicious?
If you’re suspicious, don’t stress. Go to the Lord. Ask Him to give you discernment and peace. Then, approach your spouse with humility and love. Don’t catch him or her off guard.
If you’ve started noticing some red flags (you found a receipt for an unfamiliar purchase, an unexplained charge on the credit card, or are unable to locate a bill or credit card statement), stop and pray. Before you ask your spouse about it, ask the Lord to give you the right words to say and to prepare your spouse’s heart to answer with the truth.
If your spouse gets defensive or withdrawn when asked about it, don’t lose your patience. Stay calm and don’t get flustered or incessant. Proverbs 3:3-4 says, Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.
What If You’re Hiding Information?
If you need to confess to your spouse, pick an appropriate time and share your desire to get on the same page. Be fully honest and transparent. Apologize for anything you’ve done and be the first to forgive.
Recognize that there may be extra work that needs to be done to repair both your finances and trust. Reach out to a trustworthy pastor, mentor, or counselor for help.
Solomon said, “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.”
How Do You Move Forward?
Then, create goals to plan for your future. Trust must be rebuilt so learn how to better communicate about finances. Hold each other accountable and find ways to celebrate your improved relationship and bank accounts.
Proverbs 10:9, He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out. It may take a hard conversation, but I’m challenging you today to sit down and be honest with your spouse about your money.
Trust is a currency of greater value than any amount of money. And, it’s foundational in marriage.
Paul said in Colossians 3:9-10, Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Commit to be honest with one another and pursue God’s plan for your marriage and finances.
If you’re not sure how to take the next steps towards unity and honesty with your spouse, read Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. My wife, Ann, and I wrote this book together after almost 40 years of marriage and decades of mistakes. It’s our hope that this book encourages other couples and helps them avoid some of the mistakes we made in our marriage. You can buy your copy here.