Financial Infidelity is Just as Scorching as Sexual Infidelity. Discover Why People Cheat...With Money
Dear April Masini,
My wife has never cheated on me, at least I don't think she has. But she lies to me about how much she spends, and where she spends it. I feel hurt and betrayed and I've stopped trusting her. What’s going on? Why do I feel like she's been unfaithful, when she hasn't had an affair? Do you have any advice on how I can deal with my wife's financial infidelity? It could save our relationship!"
April Masini's Advice :
Financial infidelity is just as scorching as sexual infidelity. When a spouse lies about money getting caught can lead to divorce a lot quicker than getting caught sleeping with a bimbo.
The reason is that men have a history of cheating on wives and girlfriends that is historical. And while it's not pleasant to be the victim of a spouse or partner who is cheating, it's not out of the norm.
However, cheating about money is often not expected. In fact, it's rarely on the radar screen of new couples, and so when it happens and the cheater is found out, the victim of the financial infidelity is often really stunned, and has got to wonder what else is wrong with this person, and where else is she cheating besides in matters of the wallet.
Reasons People Cheat with Money
- Fear of loss. Some partners hide assets in case of a divorce, so that the hidden assets will remain protected from a division of property. If your partner was divorced, she may have been stung, and is preparing for a worst case scenario with you. Sadly, sometimes this behavior can be like wish-fulfillment.
Fearing the worst, and then acting out in case it happens can actually create the worst case scenario. If your wife is hiding money because she is afraid that you will leave her penniless like her first husband did, you can get over this one. You need to help her do her work, in realizing her scars from her first marriage, and also allow her to see who you really are and that you are not that man who did that to her.
Baggage is really common in relationships -- whether they're dating, live-in or failed marriages. It's hard to leave behind old hurts. You may have to play out what would happen if you were to divorce, and discuss things that you never dreamed of discussing. Don't worry. That's what a relationship is about -- forging new ground together. The good news is that by discussing what could or would happen, you may be able to alleviate her fears, and allow her to come to you rather than go behind your back when it comes to money and everything else.
- Addiction. Some partners hide assets so they can fund a secret project like a financial infidelity, a drug problem, or an expensive hobby that their spouse doesn't approve of. In these cases the financial infidelity is just the tip of the iceberg that is the bigger problem. Addiction is only recently being recognized as a chemical problem that shows up socially, economically and emotionally as well as physically. But addictions that are not drug addictions are harder for most people to recognize because they happen to everyone and don't leave tell tale signs like the track marks on heroin addicts' arms or the vomiting and passing out of hardcore drunks.
There are many ways that addiction shows up and they are mostly hard to see. They can be addictions to foods or drama. They can be addiction to spending or having sex. But most importantly, addicts have trouble controlling their behavior. They will do whatever they have to do to fuel their addictions and that includes being dishonest about money.
If you suspect your partner is being dishonest about money to fuel an addiction, you will not be able to handle this problem yourself -- no matter how accomplished, bright and strong you are. Addicts have a predilection to addictive behavior, and you need to get professional help for them and yourself to solve this thorny, but not fatal, problem.
The tough part about facing this is trying to figure out if your partner's addiction is just to spending and not telling the truth about it -- or if it is the tip of the iceberg and where that iceberg ends.
- Honesty fear. Some partners lie about money because they are uncomfortable with honesty. They may feel that they will get punished or chastised for spending. This fear often comes from early family issues that have to do with self-esteem, and have gotten played out as money issues. When your wife is afraid you will say no to her spending money on something, she may rather try to hide the purchase than approach you and ask you your thoughts on her spending or else telling you matter of factly that she bought something. The truth is that you may not care if she bought it -- in fact you may even be happy she is spending and want her to -- but in her mind, she's afraid of your reaction, and this causes her to lie.
Some tender, loving talks without judgment can help and even cure this problem. It probably won't take just one talk, but when she is able to really hear your feelings about her spending, and she is able to separate them out from her past, which probably means re-hashing her past, she will be able to approach you with her spending in a straight forward way, and not lie about it any more.
Is it Ever Okay to Lie About Money?
Flexibility is the key to any relationship and one person's lie may be another person's honesty. For example, not telling a partner that you spent five hundred dollars on a gift for them -- or a dress for yourself -- may just be business as usual for the spender, while the partner may find that five hundred dollars is an exorbitant amount of money to spend on a dress, and that this shopping spree should have been disclosed. This is one of those differences where communication can solve everything. You may think your partner is not telling the truth about money, and they may think that they're being truthful enough. Getting to know your partner means finding out how they think and act with money -- and what their history with it is. This will help you figure out where your compatibility is, and where your differences are. Then, you can be flexible!
If you've got a partner who loves to surprise you with lavish gifts, you should find a way to be okay with a certain amount of your household budget being spent on this -- the same way you would be okay if he had a hobby like buying and using sporting events tickets or ski trips or scuba diving equipment and lessons. Open your mind so you don't just see it as his or her spending, but as his or her hobby -- and that the financial investment in this hobby is a margin of your household budget. If you're too strict with money, you'll bump up against control issues.
Control freaks will want to know where every penny is spent and how, and financial infidelity is just one way that these victims of control freaks act passively aggressive in response to the imposed control. For example, control freaks will not want their partner to have freedom with spending. They will want every receipt from a credit card, and they will go over every bank statement looking for deception. What happens is that the victims of control freaks often get tired of being controlled, and they naturally start to stash money or find ways to spend it so that they won't be accountable to their partners. This is not a healthy dynamic, and there are practical ways of addressing it.
Allow each partner to have a monthly budget that they do not have to account for. See how that works, and be flexible with trying to allow for spending and saving habits. Again, this is a difference where good communication can solve this problem.