By Stephanie Miller


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Most of us would never even think about cheating on our significant other. According to a recent survey, though, there’s a type of cheating that many consider to be even worse than a workplace affair: financial infidelity.

This type of infidelity involves lying to your significant other about money woes, spending, debt, or even hiding secret accounts – like credit cards or savings that they don’t know about. And according to 31% of respondents in a recent survey, this type of deceit is even worse than physically cheating.

So, what drives people to financial infidelity, and how can you avoid it in your own relationship?

Why It Happens

It may be surprising to learn just how prevalent this secrecy really is. Of those surveyed in January 2018, 15 million people living with their significant other said that they are currently guilty of financial infidelity. Another 9 million have been guilty of it in the past.

However, this type of secrecy can have huge impacts on a relationship, regardless of the reason for the deceit. Among respondents, a shocking 31 percent said that the act of keeping secret credit cards or bank accounts was actually worse than physically cheating. This was even more likely to be the case among those who make less than $40,000 a year, compared with those who had higher incomes. It’s obvious that financial cheating is a very big deal, and even more so the less you earn.

So, why does it happen? Well, the reasons for hiding accounts or even spending can be as innocent as sheer embarrassment… or much more deleterious.

Says Sonya Britt-Lutter, associate professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University,” A lot of it boils down to a difference in values. If there’s something that I value that you don’t value, I’m still going to spend money on it because it’s something that I think is important. I’m just not going to tell you about it to avoid the argument.”

And this may very well be the case. Perhaps someone just doesn’t want to answer for their every purchase, so the natural solution is to hide it. Or they have years of debt accumulated that they find embarrassing, and are working their way out of… so they hide it.

Maybe the reason is selfless: they could open a credit card to plan a surprise party or trip for their loved one, without running the risk of them finding out. Or maybe they are doing something shady behind their significant other’s back, worthy or going to great lengths to hide their financial infidelity.

It’s hard to know why someone would be deceitful about finances with their partner, which is precisely why it can cause so many issues. That’s also why more than a third of those surveyed find it to be more hurtful than a physical affair.

How to Avoid It

Having a open communication about finances is just as important as having open communication about your relationship as a whole. And, interestingly enough, the two go hand in hand.

If you want to ensure that you and your spouse are on the same page about money – avoiding some serious feelings of betrayal and distrust – it’s important to keep an open dialogue about finances from day one. Ideally, you’ll start candidly talking to your loved one about finances when you first move in together or get married.

This includes being open and honest about any debt you may carry, or credit-related woes you may be working to correct. If you plan to get married, premarital financial counseling may be wise. That way, both partners know that they are on the same page about spending and saving, as well as plans for the future. (Seeing as money is the top cause of friction in marriages, this is a smart topic to nip in the bud!)

If you discover that your significant other has a secret account of some kind, it’s important to address it, but try to do so in a non-combative way. The reason might be innocent (or a surprise!), but could also be a great way to open lines of financial communication in your relationship.

Partners aren’t always the same when it comes to thinking about money. Some are savers and some are spenders. Some believe in sharing every purchase and others believe that they should have some autonomy with what they buy. The important thing is to have respect and reach a mutual understanding. Even if the way you approach money is different from your significant other, there’s no reason that your relationship can’t thrive.

Talking candidly about finances, setting money goals, and working together to save or get out of debt will ensure that you avoid financial infidelity.

Most of us would never even think about cheating on our significant other. According to a recent survey, though, there’s a type of cheating that many consider to be even worse than a workplace affair: financial infidelity.

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