Financial infidelity | CoupleWealth
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Financial infidelity can be thought of as secrecy in a relationship when it comes to financial matters.

Often unknown, financial infidelity can have a widespread impact on a relationship. Once discovered, it may leave a constant undercurrent of distrust in your relationship.

Let’s dive into the hot topic of financial infidelity.

If your spouse has been less than open with finances, if you need help with debt your spouse is unaware of, or if you want to minimize the risk proactively, this one is for you!

What is Financial Infidelity?

Financial infidelity is the act of keeping or concealing financial matters from someone with whom you share your life. Similar to more commonly thought of forms of infidelity, it can range in severity and come in many shapes and sizes.

For example, it comes in the form of seemingly minor (but unspoken) purchases, not disclosing debt, to keeping an entire financial life hidden from your partner.

As with many other matters regarding relationships, much of this is subjective. What is acceptable in one relationship may be totally out of line for another couple.

Understanding how to overcome financial infidelity requires a sense of what it is. Here are a few common examples:

  • Not disclosing debt to your partner
  • Spending more than agreed and keeping it quiet
  • Keeping a separate, hidden bank account
  • Not disclosing decisions about money and investments
  • Keeping bonuses or cash a secret

Again, because of the subjectivity of the matter, some of these may be perfectly acceptable to some. It is up to a couple to define expectations regarding handling finances within the relationship.

Why Financial Infidelity Happens

There are many reasons people might be less than forthright with their finances. It may be to hide financial stress from a partner, distrust between the couple, fear of judgment or scolding, and more.

Very often, financial infidelity may be a symptom of underlying difficulties within the relationship. For example, when there is distrust or resentment against a partner, individuals will sometimes seek autonomy where they can find it. A desire to be independent and make decisions for themselves may lead to keeping the actions under wraps.

In other instances, there may be genuine mental or psychological factors at play. For example, depression, bipolar disorder, and more can lead to erratic spending, a lack of communication, and other ways that financial infidelity comes about.

Signs of Financial Infidelity

The first step to overcoming financial infidelity is recognizing that it exists in the relationship. Once you have realized that there is financial infidelity in your relationship, you might notice some of the following things:

Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts

If you and your partner share a joint bank account and suddenly see withdrawals that aren’t spoken for or understood, this could be a sign that your spouse is hiding money or debt.

Unacknowledged purchases

If you’re seeing deliveries come without any knowledge of them, your spouse may be making purchases without you. A bit of discretionary spending may not be cause for concern, but when they are quickly whisked away or kept hidden, it may be a sign that trouble is at hand.

Defensive attitude regarding money

If there is a defensive or evasive attitude when the topic of money comes up, this could point to financial infidelity in the relationship.

Sudden changes to how money is discussed

You may feel like your spouse is keeping things from you if they are no longer enthusiastic about sharing their earnings and spending habits. If your spouse suddenly starts to withhold information on their spending, you might be experiencing financial infidelity.

The Impact of Financial Infidelity on Your Marriage and Finances

When someone discovers financial infidelity, it can be incredibly challenging to handle. Understanding the impact that this might have on your marriage and finances is crucial to determining how best to move forward.

Here are some of the most common impacts of financial infidelity:

Delayed financial progress

Financial infidelity may cause a delay to progress for your household. It can delay being able to buy a home. It may cause either individual’s credit score to go down, making it harder to qualify for lines of credit, loans, or mortgages in the future.

Dishonesty begets dishonesty

If your spouse is hiding debt from you, they may also be keeping other information away from you. The financial element may be more of a symptom of underlying struggles within the relationship, such as fear, distrust, resentment, or more. Also, dishonesty begets dishonesty.

Once an individual finds themselves comfortable with withholding one type of information from their partner, it becomes easier to keep secrets in other areas, too.

An undercurrent of distrust

Discovering financial infidelity will leave you feeling betrayed, disrespected, and making it hard to trust the spouse again in the future. This can place a very difficult strain on any relationship.

Surely, among the most severe outcomes of financial infidelity is divorce. Money issues are among the leading causes of divorce, so this drastic outcome is certainly not uncommon.

How to Overcome Financial Infidelity

There are many emotions wrapped up in this topic. Overcoming any form of distrust in a relationship is hard.

It will take time.

You will need patience.

It will take persistence.

You must be committed to grow as a couple.

Remember, every relationship is its own unique union. The following suggestions should help overcome financial infidelity in your relationship, but consider both of your personalities. Take what you both believe will work for you, and leave the rest behind!


This is priority number one.

If you and your partner don’t communicate clearly and openly about your finances, it’s easy for things to get out of hand. Be open about your feelings, and even if there is a history of financial infidelity, keep an open mind that there could be reasonable explanations.

The where and when of holding serious financial conversations is delicate. An ideal time for one of you may not be a good time for your partner. Ensure you and your partner are ready, willing, and in a good headspace before opening a potentially tumultuous conversation.

Embrace a budget

If you and your partner can agree on a plan for savings, paying off debt, and living within the means of your combined income, this will be easier to achieve. A proper budget will not only help you remain financially accountable to each other, but it will also demonstrate your dedication to responsible financial management.

Spend time together

This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes you need to hear it! Remember, financial infidelity can often be a result of underlying issues in the relationship. So, strengthen your bond!

Spend quality time together. Make sure to minimize distractions. Enjoy a weekend with no agenda, just the two of you. Enjoy activities as a couple. If you have kids, find a way just the two of you can spend time together.

While doing all of this, try to keep the focus off of money. Consider communicating and setting a budget for the activities ahead of time so when your time together officially “begins,” you won’t feel pressure about the money involved.

Be understanding

This one goes both ways. It’s not easy to trust your partner when they have violated that trust. Try to remain calm and listen without judgment. Ask questions that encourage your partner to share. On the other hand, understand if they seem closed off about the topic, it isn’t necessarily because the infidelity has continued. It may just not be the right time or place, and the conversation might be better held at another time.

Combine finances

Couples handle finances in different ways. If there have been secrets, a deep buy-in from both parties might help. Fully combining finances will be the most effective approach as it requires complete trust and dedication from both parties.

Treat one person’s debts as both of your debts.

Treat one person’s income as both of your income.

If one person is carrying more debt than the other, the couple should develop a plan for paying it down together over time, which will establish trust in the relationship. Conversely, if you are making more money than your partner, contribute to shared expenses until they can catch up.

Set a threshold for purchases

Defining what requires a conversation eliminates room for ambiguity. For example, you and your partner may decide that you don’t need to discuss purchases under $20/$50/$100. If you have an agreed-upon amount, there is room for autonomy and independence that can sometimes core cause of financial infidelity.

Get help when you need it

We can’t solve everything alone. Sometimes help is necessary. For assistance with financial difficulties, consider a debt relief attorney to explore legal options to overcome debt. For help strengthening a relationship, consider the resources made available by the Gottman Institute. To take it a step further, you may want to connect with a couples counselor to work through the matter.

In Summary

Financial infidelity is a complicated and emotionally charged matter. As with any topic that heightens emotions, it isn’t easy to discuss. But, don’t give up! It doesn’t mean you cannot save your relationship.

You just need to be willing to put in the effort. Once you’ve overcome this solvable hurdle, you and your partner can emerge with a stronger and more fulfilling relationship.

Guest Post by: Josh Richner is a personal finance writer, father, and travel enthusiast who is on a journey to financial independence with his wife, Jenalee. Josh has been helping people get out of debt and improve their credit since 2008. His accomplishments include founding a Christian debt relief company, negotiating over $7MM of debt for clients, and leading a stellar team of negotiators for a multistate consumer rights law firm. Josh believes financial independence is within reach for everyone and is shouting from the rooftops to help bring financial literacy mainstream. Connect with Josh for writing at

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