I don’t know which would be worse: finding out my wife had cheated on me sexually or deceived me financially.
I’ve had a taste of the latter in my two failed marriages, and it’s devastating. Financial infidelity destroys trust as much as sexual infidelity.
In a marriage, the man and woman are supposedly pulling in the same direction. The family finances should be out in the open and spending discussed together.
But in many marriages, one party or the other (or both) are secretly spending on items that benefit themselves – and, in the process, damaging the joint finances. Sometimes the secret spender feels he or she is entitled to the purchase and doesn’t need to discuss it beforehand.
“Financial infidelity is rampant,” writes money expert Liz Pulliam Weston on MSN Money. “With money and marriage, there are lies. Then there are Big Lies. Telling your spouse you bought something on sale when you didn’t is a lie. Hiding five-figure credit card debt is a Big Lie.”
Personally, I believe couples should have a joint account with most of their money. And I think couples should each have smaller, separate accounts for discretionary purchases.
In the separate accounts, the man or woman should be free to spend as he or she wants. But in the joint account, major purchases should be discussed in advance. And even smaller purchases should be recorded so they’re clearly visible to both parties.
I’m amazed at how often money problems doom a marriage. In both my marriages, financial friction played a large role in the divorce. I’m guessing that financial infidelity is much more prevalent than sexual infidelity.
In a good marriage, each party considers the welfare of the couple more important than his or her own welfare. Secret spending drives a wedge between a husband and wife that can be hard to overcome.
These days, most men and women in a marriage work. So they should each contribute income to the joint account, right?
But sometimes, the financial deception comes in the area of income, not spending. The man or woman may not reveal all of their income and, therefore, not contribute as much as they could.
So the other party doesn’t have an accurate picture of how much money they have for expenses, savings and discretionary spending. Usually, I think, one person takes most of the responsibility for paying the bills.
And if that person worries that there’s not enough money to cover the bills, enormous stress can result. I know. I’ve been there.
I’m a fervent believer in pre-marital counseling. Big issues such as sex, children, faith, and money should be discussed in detail. I think most financial infidelity occurs because the money talk didn’t happen.
Which is worse—financial or sexual infidelity?
Now, back to my question in the first sentence. I would argue that financial infidelity is often more detrimental to a marriage than sexual infidelity.
If the man or woman commits adultery, it could have occurred spontaneous and only once. Secret spending, or lying about income, rarely occurs once. Instead, a pattern of financial deception develops and can continue for years. When the lying comes to light, it can be hard for the other person to forgive and move on.
A person who is irresponsible financially rarely changes, whereas a person who strays sexually may feel tremendous remorse and commit to rebuilding the marriage.
I’ve often said I’ll never marry again. The fear of financial deception is one of the main reasons. As a single person, I know exactly how much money I have and how much I spend.
I don’t want to run the risk of marrying a woman who is loosey-goosey with money and unwilling to stick to a joint financial strategy.
One of the big pluses of being single: You’re in control of your money. If you decide to get married, realize that money could be a huge source of tension. Don’t chase love at the expense of financial chaos.