financial infidelityIn the past, it used to be a given that newlyweds would unconditionally apply the “What’s mine is yours; yours, mine” mentality to everything, including their finances.

Most of us probably recall our parents pooling all of their money into a joint bank account. In contrast, many of my newlywed friends have told me that they keep a personal checking account, separate from their husbands’.

While everyone has their own reasons for keeping their own checking accounts, this modern trend reflects the growing number of financially-empowered women, as well as a heightened wariness amid higher divorce rates and perhaps practicality within remarriages.

Married With Separate Checking Accounts?

Having a separate checking account is in itself neither good nor bad–but it’s giving some of us an excuse to act badly. In 2013 Self.com and Today.com conducted a survey of almost 24,000 men and women and found that almost 50% of married adults admitted to keeping money secrets from their spouses.

37% of men and 56% of women admitted to lying to their partner about money. Nearly four in ten women–37% of them–won’t confess to buying a new dress or pair of shoes. Only 9% of men feel so guilty about their clothes shopping that they lie about it (on the other hand, 29% of men do not come clean on how much they are spending on gadgets).

Which brings us to a critical question: If you aren’t telling your spouse what you are spending money on, are you considered a financial cheater? The survey found that 63% of men and 70% of women agreed that being honest about money was as important as being monogamous.

So how does this happen? Why does the honesty stop when it comes to bank accounts?

Jenny Giblin, a therapist, told GoGirl that financial cheating happens when trust is broken over a major money issue:

“This happens when someone in the relationship acts out of fear–both about money itself and their partner’s reaction toward it. It is important to remember that there is a reason behind this fear–money can bring up a lot of emotionally charged issues for most people. There is also a reason it feels like cheating–it equally triggers the fear surrounding money for the other person involved, and then leads to trust issues.”

How to Avoid Financial Infidelity

What can you do to avoid financial infidelity in your relationship? Here are some of Giblin’s tips:

1. Avoid using language that blames the other person: For example, “you always/never.” That will make your partner feel even worse.

2. Don’t be confrontational:  Giblin says, “It can help to talk about your first memories of money, in order to gain a better understanding of the fear behind it or any similarities/differences in your upbringing. It also helps you see how many unresolved issues from the past may be reflected in your current situation.”
3. Come up with a financial plan: Giblin suggests setting a budget plan but putting a positive spin on it. “Instead of saying something like ‘We can’t afford that,’ it’s better to say, ‘It’s not a no, just a not right now’ or to emphasize that you are just being conscious of money right now.  Look at what you want to save for and invest in, and focus on that in a way that makes you feel more excited about it. Have a conversation about what it is that you actually both want, because making sure you are on the same page (or are taking the steps to get there) is essential,” she said.
4. Bring in outside help: If you are finding you and your partner are having recurring problems, especially those involving high amounts of money and risk, take the necessary financial steps to protect yourself and contact a therapist who can help.
Money needs to be an open and honest issue. The topic may go under the radar for a while, but it will eventually surface as a problem. “Money has a value but your relationship could be priceless, and it is worth resolving this issue no matter what it takes,” said Giblin.