It’s interesting to discuss human nature and what self-preservation means to different people in relationships or what infidelity means and the different masks it can wear. An interesting form of infidelity is financial infidelity, which is a form of financial cheating whereby a spouse can decide to hide purchases from their spouse, have secret personal bank and credit card accounts or even siphon off cash from the family’s funds to pay off some gambling debts. Oftentimes, the infidelity can seem so subtle that the person who is cheating does not realize they are doing anything wrong.  

How Can Financial Infidelity Hurt a Relationship?

You have the utmost trust in your partner – you are in love. You trust this person with your heart, life and your money. Finding out that your loved one has financially cheated on you can be quite devastating; it can make you question the very foundation your relationship stands on and it can make you lose all trust. How do you know where else they have cheated on you? Your perception becomes skewed. You know your loved one is capable of hiding things and this is unhealthy for a relationship that ought to thrive and grow.

 What’s Worse – Physical or Financial Infidelity?

Physical and emotional infidelity are two different animals. Some people have no tolerance for either, while some consider cheating on your significant other financially is beyond repairable. It all comes down to trust in the relationship. If you give your loved one your trust with your finances, you want to know that they are in it for the greater good of everyone – not just themselves.

Many people base their tolerance on their personal history. Someone with a history filled with financial infidelities or arguments amongst parents about money may cringe at the thought of anything but complete honesty when it comes to finances. Others may be able to overlook a few financial issues here or there, but have no tolerance for physical or emotional cheating. If you think about it, any type of infidelity involves a third-party – person or thing – something gets in the way of your relationship and tears things apart. It is important to understand who you are in a relationship and where to draw the line when it comes to protecting your mental health.

 Should you End the Relationship?

Any type of cheating begs the question – should you end the relationship? Obviously, this is a personal decision, but ask yourself the following:

  • Can you forgive the other person for the infidelity?
  • Will the other person fess up to his/her mistakes?
  • Are you willing to admit your role in the issues, even if they are indirect?
  • Are you both willing to work on the issues?
  • Do you feel as if your spouse holds money over your head?
  • Do either of you feel remorseful for what’s occurred?
  • Do you feel resentful because you now have to help clean up something you weren’t even aware of?

It all comes down to how accountable each party will hold themselves and how willing you are to meet one another halfway. This isn’t about pointing fingers or placing blame – it’s about ensuring that both parties feel validated, loved, and supported as you work to fix things.

 Can you Move Forward?

The bigger question is can you both move forward in the process? This requires getting over the ‘blame’ and working together to formulate a plan. Each plan will look different, but it may include some of the following:

  • Getting honest with each other – This part may be difficult. You may want to pull your credit reports and assess the damage. When you see everything at once, you can decide what to do next. Do you need to file bankruptcy, get credit counseling, or just formulate your own plan to get back on track?
  • Figure out a plan – Once you know you’re on the same page, it’s time to create a plan. Work together to determine what this looks like. It may include creating a new budget, putting the other party in charge of the finances, and/or setting up regular meetings to assess your progress and make any necessary changes. You may need to separate your finances until trust can be re-established in your relationship.
  • Consider counseling – If you can’t come to an agreement or just feel as if a neutral third party may help mellow things out, consider counseling. Look for a counselor that specializes in financial infidelity and together, you can attend sessions. If your significant other has certain habits, such as gambling or compulsive shopping, he/she may want to consider individual sessions as well.

For many, it’s about their history. If you’ve had a trying history with financial issues – such as parents that always fought about money or you have anxiety surrounding money, it can feel like a punch in the gut if your significant other betrays you financially. Breaking the patterns of financial infidelity can be difficult because income disparity can create a sense of superiority or feelings of deficiency. The former spouse may feel that they are ‘above’ their spouse and don’t have to account for their actions. They may not feel remorseful and almost feel entitled to their actions. Spouses that don’t make money often feel controlled by their high-income spouses and may spend money out of spite. This is why purging these emotions when taking actions to rectify the financial infidelity is critical towards repairing the relationship.

No matter the type of cheating that occurs, it ends up with hurt on both sides of the relationship. The layer of trust is gone, but hopefully not unrepairable. You’ll have to do some soul searching and decide if you can forgive the infidelity or if it’s time to call it quits. Only you and your significant other know the way forward.