Financial infidelity means keeping a money secret from your spouse. With a divorce rate today of about 50 percent, any form of infidelity could easily lead to a relationship breakdown. And while a little white lie about money may seem like no big deal, but financial infidelity is as serious as any relationship secret. Let’s take a look at how money and relationships intersect and what you can do to make your relationship as open, honest, and fair as possible with a focus on long-term relationship success.
Is financial infidelity a big problem?
Before we dive into how to solve money troubles with a significant other, it is important to understand the problem. If you fight with your significant other about money, you are not alone. A study last year found that 48 percent of American couples argue about finances. That is huge! Nearly half of all couples argue about money.
A study from SunTrust found that money is the leading cause of relationship stress. The survey found that 1 in 5 Americans has made a purchase of $500 or more secretly without telling their spouse. Six percent of respondents go as far as to keep a secret bank account! If you don’t trust your spouse so much that you need to secretly keep money without their knowledge, you probably have bigger relationship and trust issues than just money, but money is clearly the big symptom of the discord.
How to avoid money fights in a relationship
There are a few specific personality traits and money disagreements that tend to percolate to the top. According to Elite Daily, here are the four biggest causes of money friction in a relationship:
- Spending versus saving – If you have a saver mentality and are dating or married to a spender, you know how frustrating it can be when your SO (significant other) splurges on even the smallest purchases. From a daily lunch at the local burrito or sandwich shop to a big dollar purchase online or at the store, watching money fly out the window can push you to the edge! If this is an issue in your relationship, consider the other’s perspective and try to calmly explain yours. Finding middle ground and creating fun money budgets for each half of the couple can help smooth things out.
- Expectations that one partner pays more – The battle over who pays goes far beyond the first date. Even long-time couples often have different views on who should be bringing what to the table. In many cases, the male is expected to pay for the majority of costs, even if both partners have similar earnings. There is no right or wrong way to approach this. Open communication and setting clear expectations can help avoid this little argument turning into a blowout.
- One partner earns a lot more – If you earn a lot more than your partner, or they earn a lot more than you, stress and double standards are probably not far behind. It is easy for the lower earner to expect the higher earner to pay more. But when income in a relationship is not distributed equally or distributed as earned, it can lead to resentment.
- Wants versus needs – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One partner’s need is another partner’s frivolous purchase. What one of you thinks is a need versus a want may differ. It is okay to have different values, as long as they don’t bust the budget. This is where a fun money budget comes into play. If you have a certain amount to spend guilt-free, you don’t have to fight over it.
Set shared goals but allow for individual freedom
In real life, things don’t always look like a movie. After the honeymoon period wears off, real-life goals, stresses, and obligations remain. Never go into a relationship expecting your partner to change. If you don’t like their money habits, it may be better to cut things off from the start. (Credit score dating anyone?)
When you do get into a serious relationship, you have many money questions ahead. As you tackle them one by one, remember that it isn’t reasonable to expect your SO to never spend money. Even if you are the primary income earner with a stay-at-home spouse, you have to expect that they will want to treat themselves every once in a while. And that’s just fine!
To find the right balance between family savings, shared fun money, and individual fun money, work together to create a good budget you can stick with over time. Tweak as necessary until you have it right and both of you are on board with the plan.
Work together for a financial infidelity free lifestyle
Just as you wouldn’t want to find out your significant other had a secret relationship on the side, it can be devastating to land on the wrong end of financial infidelity. If you are keeping financial secrets, it’s time to change that and move to an open and honest relationship with clear, trusted communication about money. If you suspect your spouse is cheating with money, consider confronting them for an honest discussion. Long-term financial success requires an effort on both sides, and with honesty and a team driven focus on your money goals, you can get on track for a long and happy financial future together.