According to a study by the National Endowment for Financial Education, one in three Americans who have combined their finances admitted to financial infidelity in their relationships. Sixty-seven percent said the deception led to an argument, 42% said it caused a loss of trust in the relationship, 11% said it led to separation and 16% said the lies about money led to a divorce.
Bottom line: Lying about money in your marriage is never a good idea. Lying about money may not seem as severe as physically cheating on your spouse with another person, but it can often lead to the same loss of trust.
When your husband lies about money
While it’s mostly women who hide purchases from men—a whopping 72% compared to just 26% of men, according to a poll by CreditCards.com—financial infidelity doesn’t discriminate.
I know the feeling all too well. More than a year ago, right before our one-year anniversary, I found out about a credit card that my husband was using to rack up purchases. He had some good intentions—such as spending $75 for some Valentine’s Day flowers for myself. But for the most part, I only saw red.
I was angry—furious, even—and most of all hurt. I had been working so hard to pay off our debt and save money, and now here I was stuck with a credit card bill to pay off my husband’s mostly foolish purchases.
Overcoming financial infidelity together
After a week of brewing, I decided to get down to business and fix the problem. Like almost all problems in a marriage, it’s never 100% one person’s fault. Yes, my husband hid purchases from me, but I had created such a stingy financial environment that left my husband feeling suffocated whenever he spent money. I would question every $5 purchase. The man couldn’t even grab a cup of coffee without hearing a five-minute speech about how every $5 purchase could add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
We sat down and discussed the best way to stick to our budget and provide an environment where my husband could spend money in any way he chooses. We agreed to a weekly cash allowance for each of us that allows us to spend this money any way we want, no questions asked.
Tips on talking about money
Due to our dire financial circumstances at the time, such as living in a one-room shack to save money so that my husband could attend school, and working to pay off more than $30,000 in debt, the cash allowance wasn’t anything steep. It really only allowed for an occasional splurge. However, we budgeted for it, and perhaps sacrificed some other items to give ourselves this breathing room that we desperately needed.
In addition to weekly allowances, we started learning to talk about money. I had become the tyrannical CFO of our family; I made all the financial decisions and was convinced that I knew the best way to manage our money, given my husband’s very poor financial track record. However, I wasn’t teaching my husband anything about the proper way to manage finances just by doing the job for him.
We sat down, discussed our goals, what it would be like to be debt free, and what we had to do to get to that secure financial standing ground that we both wanted.
There were still moments throughout this process that I constantly had to remind myself not to freak out over a $10 impulse purchase. And I don’t want to give the impression that this was a smooth, two-week process. It has taken several months to get to the point where we are today. More than two years into our marriage, and we really are seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to finances and our goals.