By Janet Howard
Whether you have been married for years or are just sailing off on your honeymoon, you trust your spouse to be faithful, but infidelity can take many different forms. Even if your husband or wife never sleeps with another person, he or she could still be cheating on you, and this type of cheating could hit you right in the pocketbook. Financial infidelity can be a huge problem in relationships, and disagreements over spending, saving and investing have derailed many a marriage. If you want to avoid the pain, uncertainty and fear that financial infidelity leaves in its wake, it is important to understand the root causes for these troubling types of behavior. It is important to understand, for instance, that shame is a common motivator for financial infidelity.
A partner who enters into the marriage with a huge amount of student loan debt, for instance, may be reluctant to disclose that fact even as they are walking down the aisle. They may be ashamed that they are underemployed, or fearful that they will never be able to pay back what they owe, and the early lies and untruths continue to build and compound until revealing the truth would simply be too painful and embarrassing.
As a result, the other spouse is missing a key piece of information, one that could have a profound impact on the marital finances going forward. Shame may also play a role when there is a gambling addiction or other form of compulsive behavior at play. If one spouse or partner is suffering from an addiction, their shame may cause them to hide that fact, and the compulsion they feel may spark a string of financial infidelities in the coming years. Guilt and shame are common motivating factors for financial infidelity, but there could be other emotions at play as well. Anger or a desire for revenge, for instance, could cause one spouse to overspend or life about their spending. Some couples get caught up in a tit for tat cycle in which one spouse makes a large purchase and the other spouse tries to get even by buying something equally frivolous and equally expensive.
In the end, this type of destructive cycle can only end one way, and that could mean the end of the marriage and the shattering of their shared finances as a result. In other cases the financial infidelity comes from a deeper place, one driven by social pressures and underlying feelings of insecurity. Keeping up with the Joneses can be hard on the family finances, and even harder on the relationship.
Differences in background and lived experience can also set the stage for financial infidelity, especially when one spouse was raised by savers and the other by spenders. Early life experiences from childhood can create patterns that are difficult to break as an adult, and lies about finances and monetary infidelity are often the results.
Romantic infidelity may get all the headlines, but the financial kind of cheating can be equally devastating to the relationship and the marriage. No one writes soap operas about this kind of infidelity, but that does not mean it is not important, or that spouses should not heed the warning signs if they suspect there might be a problem. Now that you know the factors that often play into financial infidelity, you can enter the marriage better armed to combat it.