By now, we have all heard that financial issues are the most common reason for divorce, many times with underlying financial infidelity as a cause. With a society that is built on credit and sustaining debt, it isn’t surprising that the stress of this “normalcy” would affect our relationships.
I was reading a newsletter the other day and found interesting survey results by Nefe.org:
Financial infidelity can be just as significant among couples as emotional/sexual infidelity. This survey finds that one in three people who combine finances with their partner admit to committing a financial deception. The study also finds that 76 percent of these secretive behaviors are having an effect on the relationship.
Financial infidelity is the secretive act of spending money, possessing credit and credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt unknown to one’s spouse, partner, or significant other. Adding to the monetary strain commonly associated with financial infidelity in a relationship is a subsequent loss of intimacy and trust in the relationship. Financial infidelity appears to be on the rise, with a 2005 study showing that 30% of respondents had lied about financial information and 25% had withheld information,whereas a 2008 study showed that half the respondents had committed some form of financial infidelity.
Financial Infidelity – My Story
I wish I could say I haven’t been guilty of this, but I have been. There are a couple issues I’ve had to face in figuring out how to work with my husband and our finances. One got sorted out before we got married. The other came in time, quite a bit of time 😳 .
Financial independence has been something my mother instilled in me since a young child. She would always quote my grandmother (Imagine an older Jamaican woman of Indian descent) saying something like, “Whenever you go out with a guy, make sure you have enough money to take a taxi home.” For my mom, and later myself, the lesson was to never allow yourself to be totally dependent on anyone for anything – EVER.
I grew up being used to my mom having stashes of money kept away for emergencies. When I became an adult, she and I even opened up a savings account for her to stock pile emergency funds. My father always knew she always had some money ferreted away, but I honestly don’t know how he felt about it. I thought it was smart because she would never drown, or cause her family to drown, if she didn’t agree with some of my dad’s financial decisions.
While Khaleef and I were dating and he came to know more about my family, he let me know that ferreting away wasn’t acceptable. I remember feeling defiant, still deciding that I will always protect myself regardless of what he thought. After a lot of discussion, consideration, and prayer, I knew that behavior was dishonest and would diminish the trusting relationship we were trying to build.
The second behavior I had to curb was my “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” attitude. Anyone who knows Khaleef knows he is a very laid back guy (that is, unless he is watching a sport event or competing in one). Instead of discussing certain purchases with him and contemplating if we could afford it, I opted to buy things and just inform him afterward. There have been countless times when I have taken him for granted by purchasing items I’ve wanted, because he would never get angry with me.
I often justified my behavior by insisting it was not a big deal because I am not a big spender. I would spend a few dollars here or there, not considering how those little purchases were setting us back from our goal of getting out of debt. This only changed in my life because I came to realize how manipulative and selfish I was being, and through a lot of prayer and spiritual growth was it able to be overcome.
Although we did not deal with this together, a huge part of the change in my heart was confessing to him and asking for his forgiveness.
Steps to Recovering from Financial Infidelity
As you can see from my story and the definition, there are different ways of committing financial infidelity. As you traverse this landscape of getting your finances together, here are 3 things you should do to start mending your relationship if you have been financially unfaithful.
1. Confess – As I stated in my story, the beginning of my behavioral change was confessing and asking for forgiveness. This may be hard for many of us because our minds are great at justifying the behavior. Ask yourself, how important is your relationship? How important is your pride?
Some people keep things from their significant other, having convinced themselves that they are protecting the other person and can handle things alone. This attitude, for instance, does not build trust but tears it down. It diminishes the other person’s role and robs them of the chance of growing as a person, and as a couple, through the difficulties.
Even though it may not be easy, convenient, or comfortable – by confessing, you are able to clear the air and make decisions based on truth, not deception.
2. Commit – After confessing, all is not well because you got it off your chest. The next step is committing to your partner to strive toward a new direction. My pastor always says “it’s not the perfection of your life, it’s the direction of your life” and I think it’s very poignant in this scenario.
You are not promising to be perfect, because we do make mistakes. What you are doing, is guaranteeing that your mind and convictions have changed about your behavior. You will no longer just settled for the way things were before.
3. Cooperate – Many times, financial infidelity occurs because someone is leaving another person out of some financial details, or neither person knows how to have a discourse about the issues. Even though this may also be difficult, it is important that both parties be involved in what’s happening in your financial life. Even if one person handles the finances, it would be a worthy goal to ensure the other person is involved and equally able to identify and articulate the nuances of your finances.
As in other areas of relationships, there is always hope. Trust can be rebuilt, and in time (sometimes A LOT of time) broken situations can be healed. Identifying financial infidelity doesn’t have to be the end, it can be the building of a stronger relationship than ever before!
Have you committed financial infidelity? Are you the recipient of someone else’s financial dishonesty? How have you overcome these behaviors?