Married couples, take note: Infidelity isn’t limited to just sex. Secrets about money can cheat you or your spouse out of household harmony.
According to research conducted by Jeffrey Dew, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University, couples who argue about finances at least once a week were 30% more likely to divorce than couples who argue about money less often. In addition, he says that the more consumer debt a couple has, the more often they will fight about both money and non-money related topics.
Add to that the possibility of one party’s indiscretions dragging down their significant other’s credit score, and you’ve got a complicated credit love triangle.
Lying and keeping secrets about cash flow is, in fact, disloyal behavior. In fact, say many, financial infidelity is the new adultery. Here, experts warn about how money can make a marriage go very, very wrong.
Lying about purchase prices – though common – can be a major marriage no-no. “The main reason people do this is to avoid fighting about it. It’s short-term avoiding the hassle traded for long-term destroying the marriage,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.”
Socking funds away
You may say it’s for a “rainy day,” but maintaining money that your spouse doesn’t know about is – say it together now – sneaky. Hiding things like a bonus you received at work, a savings account, or risky investments may cause your spouse to lose trust in you once it all comes out in the open (and it usually does). “This leaves your spouse to wonder what other secrets you’re keeping from them,” says Brad Klontz, Psy.D., co-author of “Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders that Threaten Our Financial Health.”
To avoid telling your spouse that you spent a big wad of cash – or more likely maxed out a credit card — on a luxury, or to purchase an item and hide it is an epic fail. That’s because your credit mishaps can damage your credit score, which in turn can affect your future (and your spouse’s!). And don’t think that buying something new and making it look old to fool your spouse isn’t just as bad, Klontz says.
Spending marital funds on addictions
Using your money to support an addiction, be it to drugs, expensive clothes, gambling, shoes or toys — you name it – is harmful to a marriage in more ways than one. Often, people with such addictions will even take cash advances on credit cards or forge a spouse’s signature on a credit application, a surefire recipe for marital and credit score disaster.
Racking up credit card or loan debt
Irresponsible spending is untrustworthy toward your spouse whether the account is joint or single – even if you didn’t open the account behind his or her back. Your indiscretions can wreak havoc on your credit score, which in turn can cause you to be denied for a mortgage or car loan application, and more.
Loaning or giving money to friends or family
Tessina warns against giving sizeable amounts of marital money – more than $50 – to a child, relative, or friend without discussing it beforehand with your spouse.
Thinking money can be a substitute for love
A study co-authored by Jason Carroll, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, concludes that materialistic spouses are about 40% more likely than non-materialistic spouses to believe that there are problems in the marriage. “They start to see their marriage as a means for having that kind of lifestyle and providing that kind of materialistic living; if that’s not what’s happening, sometimes that can be interpreted as a flaw in the marriage,” says Carroll.
The Solution: Money Talks
No matter which of the above sins is the culprit, the pricey fact remains: Disagreements about money are the number one cause of marital conflict and the top reason for divorce during the first three years of marriage, according to Klontz. “Money is taboo to many people and rarely do couples talk about it,” he says. “Each partner has his or her own set of values about money and [chances are] slim that both have the same beliefs.”
What’s more, many couples often learn about money misdeeds after being denied credit or receiving correspondence from debt collectors. To keep things honest, it’s good for your finances – and for your relationship – to request a copy of your credit reports and share them with each other at least once a year. That way there are no surprises and you can work together to overcome financial struggles.
Although financial infidelities can be damaging to a marriage, there are ways to regain trust. Tessina recommends regular financial meetings. “Don’t expect to be able to discuss finances successfully while you’re on the run, when it’s late at night, or while watching TV,” she says. Make a date for discussing finances and take the time to sit down together and discuss your needs, wants and means.
If one spouse is materialistic or likes to spend like there’s no tomorrow, a mutual agreement can help get finances on track – and a credit report will keep everyone honest. “They might work toward determining what their fixed expenses are and set up a separate account for that amount of money to be deposited monthly,” says Colleen O’Donnell, a Certified Financial Planner for Lincoln Financial Advisors in Dallas, Texas.
After agreeing to a percentage of the excess that should be devoted to savings, the remainder may be used as discretionary income. Or, specify a dollar amount that either can spend without answering to the other each month. One spouse may choose to spend a little each week while the other makes one bigger purchase each month.
“You may not think of your marriage as a business deal, but a huge part of it is just that,” says Tessina. Marriages — like some businesses — are called partnerships, and there is a reason for this. “Just like a business, a marriage takes in income, pays expenses, and is supposed to have a little profit (savings) left over.” Couples can avoid financial blowouts with regular sit-downs about money, and putting all their credit score cards on the table face-up for the other spouse to see.
Financial Infidelity Is the New Adultery is provided by Experian.com