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June 11, 2019

Here’s What You Should Know About Financial Infidelity

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Research suggests that over a third of Canadians have lied to their partner about money and an equal number of been on the receiving end of financial infidelity. Jess has worked with more cases of financial infidelity than she can count, so she joined Carolyn and Jeff to discuss this hot topic on The Morning Show today.

1. What is financial infidelity?

Financial infidelity can take many forms. It might involve hiding money, lying about debt or income, inflating or deflating figures, falsifying records or using financial power to manipulate your partner. It can wreak havoc on a relationship, but it can also be a symptom of relationship troubles as opposed to the root issue itself. Oftentimes it stems from telling smaller lies at the beginning of the relationship, which snowball into additional lies intended to support the original falsehood.

2. Why do people lie about money?

Oftentimes, it’s related to shame and judgment, but there are many reasons why one might be inclined to hide their financial habits or status. Some feel guilty when their discretionary spending doesn’t align with their partner’s values; you might have a passion for an expensive habit like golf or art collecting and your partner might consider it frivolous. Others begin with a small lie that blossoms into ongoing deception. Oftentimes, we feel pressure to meet societal, familial or cultural expectations with regard to earning, saving and building wealth. If you’ve been financially successful in one endeavour and you lose in another, you might be embarrassed to come clean about your loss.

3. Are there any signs that your partner isn’t being honest about money?

If you’re worried that your partner is being dishonest, you’ve likely encountered some of the red flags: they hide their mail or rush to get the mail so that you can’t open it, they might change their banking passwords often, they might hide or discard receipts, or they might insist that you sign documents without reading them. They may refuse to set a budget and/or become defensive, avoidant or highly emotional when you try to talk about money.

4. What if you’re the one who has been hiding money or debt? How do you come clean?

You can come clean and overcome financial infidelity if you’re honest about your behaviour, demonstrate remorse and come clean about the reasons you’ve lied about money. Take responsibility; don’t blame your partner. Did you hide money because you fear that you’ll run out? Did you lie about debt because you felt intimidated by your partner’s financial status? Did you inflate your salary because you felt unworthy? Have you been giving your parents money out of a sense of obligation?

If you’re willing to open up about the vulnerable feelings that underpinned your financial infidelity, your partner is more likely to be understanding and work toward a collaborative resolution.

5. What should you do if you discover that your partner is being financially dishonest?

Show empathy and keep an open mind. Consider why they might have felt pressure to lie about money.

Let them know what you’ve discovered and be honest about how it makes you feel. I suggest you see a therapist together, as oftentimes the conflict and tension that arises from financial infidelity can be  similar to what you experience in response to sexual infidelity. You will need to make a financial plan for the future and look for ways to hold one another accountable without checking up and monitoring one another’s finances on the daily.

6. Should you be concerned about telling little lies once in awhile? For example, if you don’t tell your partner about a parking ticket, does this qualify as financial infidelity?

We all lie. And pro-social lies may have positive outcomes if your intent is to support your partner’s best interests. For example, do you hide the parking ticket because it might stress them out? If so, this might be considered a pro-social lie. On the other hand, if you hide the parking ticket to cover up your own behaviour, it is more likely to be considered an anti-social lie which can be detrimental to the relationship. Check out last week’s segment on the science of lying to learn more.

To learn more, check out this blog on how to handle financial stress with your partner.