3 Ways to Prevent Financial Infidelity

Relationship DifficultiesA recent Marie Claire article described incidents of financial infidelity that would curl your hair.

One woman had no idea her family was swimming in unpaid bills and eviction notices—until she found a wad of them, stuffed into the lining of her husband’s jacket.

Could this happen in your own marriage? Maybe not. But nearly a third of couples admit they’ve lied about money to their spouses, according to one survey.

It's less about cash than relationship dynamics, values, and expectations, says Barbara Nusbaum, Ph.D., a New York psychologist specializing in money and relationships.

Follow these guidelines to understand yours, and forge a healthier financial connection:

Dig up the past. What messages (verbal and nonverbal) did you get from your family about generosity, earning, spending? What “rules” did you absorb about how to handle money and discuss it? Spouses are often shocked to learn how different their internal blueprints are, Nusbaum says.
Clarify expectations. Articulate your expectations about lifestyle, savings, who handles which money chores, etc. Exploring assumptions can help expose deeply held values.
Stay involved. Not all money secrets start out as deep deception, Nusbaum says: “The person keeping secrets could’ve gotten stuck, they could be deceiving themselves, or there could be mutual confusion.”

The only way to know for sure—and to prevent white lies from turning into a crisis—is for both people to get and stay involved in household money management. And swapping credit reports once a year might not be a bad idea either.

’Fess up. Is lying about money so bad? Don’t spouses deserve financial privacy?