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    Financial Infidelity Is Pretty Common, But It's Not Really Talked About

    Financial infidelity is more common than you think.

    Per a recent poll by CreditCards.com, 40% of people in serious relationships fessed up to committing financial infidelity through hiding a money account — think checking, savings, or a credit card — from their S.O.s.

    So I spoke with Adam H. Kol, a financial coach for couples, about the telltale signs that a partner is committing financial infidelity, why it happens, and how you can talk about it with your partner about it:

    In short, financial infidelity is defined as engaging in any behavior involving money that you know will upset your romantic partner, and intentionally hiding it from them.

    Financial infidelity can look like a lot of things and take on many forms. For instance, one partner might be hiding a money secret or isn't being straight-up about their finances.  


    They might open a bank account or credit card without letting you know. Or they might be saddled with a ton of debt or making alimony or child support payments on the DL.  

    So how can you spot financial infidelity? Look for telltale signs, like sudden big purchases or acting defensive about their money.

    unhappy woman in relationship
    Peopleimages / Getty Images

    Here are some warning signs that your partner might be concealing a money secret, per Kol: 

    - They come home with a massive purchase that you hadn't talked about before.

    - Their spending habits don't line up with what they're raking in from their job.

    - They get defensive if you ask about money. 

    - They try to turn it on you and make it sound like you're in the wrong. 

    - They ask you to do something fishy and not legit, such as paying off your joint credit card, and tell you that if you do, you can get half of what's in the joint savings.

    - They cut you off completely from credit cards or joint savings accounts. 

    - You stumble across purchases or transactions that you aren't able to track. 

    - Their purchases don't fit in with what you know about their finances — if this happens, you should get extra curious. 

    However, discovering hidden accounts, despite their claims of transparency, is the only 100% sure sign. 

    A recent study found that men were more likely than women to keep a money secret.

    Couple having problems in bed
    Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

    Per a study on financial infidelity by HelpAdvisor.com, it turns out that males are more than three times as likely to fib to their boos about investments. Further, about 25% of men are lying to their spouses about how much debt they've racked up. And get this: The average price tag of the most expensive purchase men have lied about is $500. The average cost of the most expensive purchase that women have lied about? That hovers at about $150. 

    Because financial infidelity is a betrayal on par with cheating, healing from it can take some time.

    If you're the financial adulterer, admitting wrongdoing and accepting responsibility are the first steps to healing.

    Couple having an argument
    Johnce / Getty Images

    The road to healing from betrayal and broken trust? As you might expect, it's going to be a long and hard one. The first step is accountability from the financial adulterer, explains Kol. "[If you're the financial adulterer], own up to how it has affected your partner and your relationship." Also, commit to do better. Get support from a coach, therapist, and other mediums to heal.

    And both partners will want to spend time introspecting and learning from the situation.

    Dusan Stankovic / Getty Images

    If you've been keeping an account or credit card under wraps from your partner, dig deep to figure out what led to your financial infidelity. For example, ask yourself what role shame, fear of judgment, or anxiety and the desire to control played, recommends Kol. "Focus on healing the wounds that led you down this unproductive path," he says. 

    If you were the victim of financial infidelity, start by having some serious "you time," and think about how you might've added to the sitch. For example, let's say you were unknowingly being super judgmental of your partner's money choices. Or maybe you were hell-bent on making all the major money decisions. This might've pushed your partner to carry these secrets. 

    "This does not condone financial infidelity," says Kol. Nor does it make you at fault in any way. The financial adulterer is fully responsible for their actions. "But introspection can show us how we can help build safety moving forward.

    Don't expect you and your partner to heal at the same pace. And don't expect to have the same breakthrough moments.

    timeout for couple
    Katleho Seisa / Getty Images

    "Forgiveness and healing are non-linear," says Kol. "Each person and each couple will have their own needs and path." 

    Carve out plenty of space for each other to process. "Bring patience and compassion for yourself and your partner," says Kol. "Talk it out. Then talk it out again. Then talk it out with a professional." 

    When the moment is right, take baby steps to rebuild trust. If your partner shows healthy financial behaviors, then go deeper together.

    Taking practical steps to build trust and work toward money goals can help you move forward.

    man and woman on cloud blowing money sails
    Id-work / Getty Images

    Another way for both parties to work toward healing is to take baby steps to be more transparent with one another — for instance, sharing passwords to bank accounts and credit cards. Or, if you think it's appropriate and see eye-to-eye on this, work on coming up with a way to pay off debt. 

    Know when financial infidelity is really financial abuse.

    Finally, you don't have to navigate financial infidelity alone. Talking with a therapist can help you through it.

    Couple with their arms crossed looking away from each other
    Peopleimages / Getty Images

    If your partner committed an act of financial infidelity, here are some resources that can help you work together. 

     

    American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

    Financial Therapy Association

    Open Path Collective: Affordable Counseling


    "There are no guarantees even if you tackle it head-on," says Kol. "But, at least you give yourselves a fighting chance. And with commitment, patience, and resolve, your relationship can end up in a better place." 

    Have you had any experiences with financial infidelity? If you're comfortable talking about it, share how it's affected you in the comments below.

    And for more stories about life and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts

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