Are you committing financial infidelity?


Have you ever made a sneaky purchase behind your partner's back or maintained a secret credit card? Come on, don't lie to us. One in three people in the UK have misled their partners about the state of their financial situation, according to an AXA study cited by Moneywise.


Financial infidelity is not as rare as you might expect and can easily turn into a habit, say experts. Here's what you need to know about this common relationship mistake: 

What is financial infidelity?
Whether you have just bought a pair of shoes on sale and then gone on to say, "Oh no darling, these are really old," or have gone to the extreme of taking out a secret finance on your home, both are examples of financial infidelity. Even small slips, such as neglecting to tell your partner about a recent purchase counts. 

Experts say that many people are unaware that they are committing financial infidelity or that small financial fibs can cause serious damage to a relationship. However, hiding financial decisions from your partner can lead to major problems down the road.

"The more serious financial lies can be incredibly damaging and jeopardising," said a spokesperson for Consumer Credit Counselling Services in an interview with Moneywise. "If you have a house with a mortgage and are consistently spending on credit but not telling your partner, this could affect mortgage repayments and even lead to your house being repossessed."

What are we hiding?
Research conducted by American nonprofit, the National Endowment for Financial Education, found that the five most common forms of financial infidelity include: 

  • Hiding money.
  • Hiding a minor purchase.
  • Hiding a bill.
  • Hiding a major purchase.
  • Hiding a bank account.

The reasons for people's actions differ, say experts. Some are considering ending the relationship, while others fear what reaction they would get if they told the truth.

Men and women are equally guilty
Some may assume that it is usually the female who spends money behind her partner's back or keeps quiet about that extra credit card. However, research shows that men are up to the same old tricks, just for different reasons. Men are more likely to lie about smaller purchases, whilst women are inclined to lie about their personal debt or income, say experts.

The emotional toll of financial infidelity
Naturally, financial infidelity could cause money problems for you and your partner. However, it could cause trust issues to surface between you as well. If you have joint bank accounts, for example, you could end up arguing over more than just your joint accounts if one partner finds out that the other has been less than honest about his or her spending. You may also begin to mistrust each other in others areas of your life. 

Many people treat and react to financial infidelity similarly to being cheated on in a sexual or emotion manner. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education study, 16% of couples said that the financial infidelity eventually led them to divorce, while 42% said that it eroded trust in the relationship. 19% of couples said that the financial infidelity ultimately caused them to split up their finances.  

In addition to causing major money and relationship problems between partners, some researchers have found that this form of financial cheating can be passed on to children, particularly between mother and daughter. Parents should be particularly careful about what habits they are passing on to their kids, warn experts, as financial infidelity can easily slide out of control.

Tip: You might not think that hiding that small purchase from your partner is a big deal, but money and relationships go hand in hand. Always be honest with your partner about your finances and expect your partner to do the same.  

 See related: Dealing with credit card debt during a divorce; 5 common love and money mistakes

Published: 10 August 2011