5 Tips To Overcome Financial Infidelity Plus What It Looks Like

communication financial infidelity Feb 23, 2022

Financial infidelity is when one partner hides financial information from the other. This can take the form of hiding spending, hiding investments or savings, or hiding debt. If you're keeping financial secrets in your relationship you're experiencing financial infidelity. 

Financial infidelity is almost always destructive to a relationship. It can erode trust and connection.

Keeping financial secrets can quickly snowball where one financial lie necessitates another in order to keep the truth from your partner. This creates stress, tension, and discontent in relationships where there was once openness and connection.

There are many reasons that people keep financial secrets from their partner.

We'll dive deep into the three types of financial infidelity described above, explore why these occur, and what to do if you've experienced financial infidelity in your relationship in this blog. 


Why Does Financial Infidelity Occur? 

Money can be a huge stressor for many people. And most people don't know how to communicate with others about money.

They may experience dread, tension, stress, or fear when the topic of money comes up. So instead of talking openly with their partner about money, they end up avoiding those discussions altogether so that they don't have to deal with the potentially uncomfortable emotions involved with discussing their finances openly. 

Financial infidelity can occur for a number of reasons. 

These include: 

  • Past financial trauma
  • Issues with trust
  • Financial fears and worries
  • Poor communication skills
  • Discomfort with discussing financial matters
  • Difficulty managing emotion when it comes to money
  • Fear of partner's judgment or criticism
  • Differing values or beliefs about money
  • Feeling entitled to spend more money 
  • Not wanting to upset the other partner


Examples of Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity is, unfortunately, quite common.

You may recognize some of the behaviors below in yourself, your friends, or your family. 


Hiding Spending

This is one of the most common forms of financial infidelity.

This is when one partner hides their spending from the other.

There are various degrees of this form of financial infidelity.

At the one end is someone who purchases name brands at the grocery store but hides the receipt from their partner because their partner feels it's unnecessary to buy name-brand groceries.

Another example is someone who goes out shopping and keeps the bags hidden in the trunk of the car until their partner goes out so that their partner doesn't know about their spending or ask about how much they've spent.

A more extreme form of this type of financial infidelity is when someone spends excessively. This can look like spending well beyond a "spending threshold" that the couple has agreed upon. For example, perhaps the couple has agreed that they don't need to check in with each other if they're going to spend less than $500. However, one partner then goes and buys a new vintage guitar on eBay for 8,000 without discussing it with their partner as agreed. 


Hiding Investments and Savings

When savings and investments are kept secret, it can often be due to a lack of communication and trust in the relationship.

There are a number of reasons this might occur. 

One reason is when one member of the couple is responsible for monitoring the finances and is in charge of savings, retirement accounts, and investments. When one partner is solely responsible for this it can often mean that the other partner doesn't understand the need for or utility of those investments or the amount needed to put aside into them each month. Rather than risk having an argument or having to explain themselves, the partner who is in charge of investments will often not discuss these things with their partner. This can lead to conflict because the partner who isn't involved with these accounts then doesn't understand why the other partner gets angry about spending. 

Another way this type of financial infidelity crops up is when someone is taking out more risky investments without discussing them with their partner. Things like day trading, cryptocurrency investing, or investing in a new business or real estate can be very tantalizing to someone who would like a quick return on their investment. However, when these things are kept from the other partner they can become the equivalent of having a gambling problem since loss can often happen in these more risky investment schemes. 

A third way that savings and investment accounts are related to financial infidelity is when one partner keeps accounts secret from the other partner in order to feel safe. This partner may feel that they need to have a "just in case" fund squirreled away in the event that something goes wrong with the relationship. This type of financial infidelity can be due to a couple of things. One is due to issues with trauma like unexpected medical expenses or poverty experiences growing up. The second is that one partner may have had a breach of trust either in the current relationship or in past relationships (like a messy divorce) which has made the person hiding the accounts fearful of what can happen. 

Hiding Debt

Hiding debt is a third major category of financial infidelity.

This is when one partner has significant debt, like credit card debt or student loan debt, that they hide from the other partner.

This type of financial infidelity can often be motivated by shame and guilt. The person who is hiding the debt may feel ashamed of having accrued the debt and feel irresponsible for having it.

Additionally, this type of financial infidelity can often take place when one member of a couple makes loans to others without discussing it with their partner. I often see this with family members. One member of the couple makes a loan to the family member out of a sense of obligation even though they know their partner wouldn't approve. 

What To Do About Financial Infidelity? 

Be Transparent and Honest

Learn how to be honest and open with your partner about your financial reality so that you no longer feel the need to keep financial secrets.

Come together regularly to discuss your finances openly and honestly.

Consider having an open book policy when it comes to your financial accounts so that you and your partner both know exactly what's going on. Or have an agreement that a certain amount of money is a "fun fund" that you can each do as you please with each month to give you both freedom while maintaining openness. 

Deal With Past Trauma

Learn how your past experiences have impacted your present so that the past no longer controls your current behavior.

Your experiences growing up have inevitably impacted your behavior, beliefs, and feelings about money now.

Whether your dad lost his job when you were young meaning your family ended up struggling to put food on the table for a few years, or your parents made you believe that your self-worth depended on your net-worth. These experiences are important to unearth and discuss with your partner. 

Cultivate Financial Empathy

Cultivate financial empathy and understanding for one another.

One of the best ways to do this is by taking the time to dive deep into each of your stories with money.

This means exploring what your childhoods were like, how your parents behaved with money, beliefs you took on growing up, and even formative past relationships that may have impacted your ability to trust others financially.

When you understand one another you become more able to offer each other understanding without judgment for your financial decisions, fears, and desires. 

Learn Good Communication Skills

Without good communication skills, you can't talk about money. Period.

Without being able to talk about money you can't get on the same page with your partner and secrets become inevitable.

Learning to talk about money, even when it's uncomfortable, is one of the foundational skills to learn to create a satisfying financial and intimate life. 

Come Clean Now

If you've been hiding any financial secrets from your partner it's time to come clean.

The longer you hide financial secrets from your partner the more emotional weight that secret gains. Plus, if your partner discovers the financial secret before you've talked to them it can result in mistrust and a whole slew of relationship problems down the line.

To do this take responsibility without making excuses, be upfront and open with your partner, and apologize for keeping the secret.

Consider seeking out help if this seems overwhelming to you. 


All of the skills that can help you overcome financial infidelity are at the core of what you'll be learning in my new course The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy. If you've experienced financial secrets that are getting in the way of intimacy in your relationship check out the course now. 


Would you like more 1 on 1 support through the journey of recovery? Then perhaps Therapy Informed Financial Planning is for the two of you. I invite you to schedule your free 30-minute discovery call today.

Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,

Ed Coambs




Curious About Your Attachment Style? 

Take the Attachment Style Quiz now and learn how it impacts your relationships, finances, and life!