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Sex with Dr. Jess


November 24, 2021

Financial Infidelity. Have you cheated…financially?

43 percent of adults say they’ve cheated on their partner…financially. Jess joined Carolyn & Jess of The Morning Show to dive into the topic of financial infidelity.

Check out the discussion (notes and video) below.

What is financial infidelity? 

Some people set the bar for fidelity at a level that most of us can’t live up to. They define financial cheating as anything spending at all that you hide from your partner. Do you sneak in a few clothing items at the grocery store or treat yourself to special edition sneakers and hide the receipts? Some people consider that cheating.

For others, it’s about a secret bank account, undisclosed debt, losses from investments that went wrong. If you’re hiding it, you might consider it cheating.

But the reality is that we’ve likely all covered something up or neglected to mention (AKA lied by omission) some purchases. Sometimes it’s not relevant to your budget or even your relationship because some people keep their finances separate.

If you’re breaking an agreed-upon contract or lying directly, you may be cheating financially.


Why do we hide finances from our partners (and friends and loved ones)?

Sometimes it has to do with shame and fear of judgment. We’re ashamed that we made an impulse buy. We’re embarrassed that we still carry student or credit card debt. We don’t want to be judged.

Others hide their habits because they fundamentally disagree with their partner on financial values. If that’s the case, it might be easier to keep money separate.

And sometimes lies are pro-social (we use them to support others). For example, perhaps you hide a parking ticket because you know it might stress them out.

If you’ve been hiding something for a while now, is it worth coming clean? 

If it’s causing you distress or adversely affecting the relationship, you might want to find a way to speak up. Perhaps do it with a therapist or financial counsellor’s support and guidance. You’re going to have to take responsibility first, and it can help explain why you’ve been cheating (e.g. shame, fear) and have a plan in place for recovery/moving forward.

There are no universal rules for sharing and disclosure in relationships; some people believe you should share everything and others value separation and privacy.

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.


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

Keep an open mind. Can you contemplate why they might have felt pressure to lie about money?

When you talk to them, consider seeking professional support. The stress of financial infidelity can be similar to that of sexual infidelity, so you may have to rebuild trust.

As we move into the holidays, how can we manage the financial stress if we aren’t on the same page about spending?

Come up with a budget now — for food, drink, gifts, entertaining, and build in a margin of 10% for overspending.

Consider setting limits on gift values or cutting back on monetary gifts if you’re under financial pressure this year.

If you disagree, talk about the values that underly what you want. Do you want to spend more on gifts for your parents because they do so much to help you with your kids and you want to show appreciation? Do you want to spend less on your families because you’d rather spend quality time together? Do gifts really matter to you because your parents made them extra special when you were growing up despite not having much money? When you understand what motivates each other’s spending (or saving/not spending), it can help reduce the tension so you can arrive at common ground.