It was only one small purchase on credit. No one would ever find out. Except that now you’re facing thousands of dollars of debt. Do you know how your relationship with money impacts your real-life relationship? Instead, learn these tools on how to save your marriage after financial infidelity.
Understanding financial infidelity
How to save your marriage after financial infidelity starts with appreciating what financial cheating is. Most of us think of infidelity as something sexual. Nevertheless, even sexual infidelity is more than just sex. It triggers deep emotions of betrayal.
It’s the same when it comes to financial dishonesty in marriage. A partner lying about money might be as deceitful as someone lying about sleeping around. They’re just lying about different themes of life.
In general, it’s the concealment that does the most harm. Any form of lying in relationships can lead to anxiety, confusion, and fears of abandonment. To add to the pain, financial cheating often hides mountains of debt. How to save your marriage after financial infidelity can therefore feel unsurmountable.
It doesn’t have to be, though. Like with any other problem, you need to review precisely what has been spent, how much debt there is, and if any savings are left.
Of course, fixing your finances is only one part of how to save your marriage after financial infidelity. The other part is the breakdown of trust.
Emotions might be all over the place, and fear usually settles in, especially if the debt is high. Couples often turn to professional help at this stage. Either way, emotions and needs must be discussed and processed before forgiveness can start.
Typical cases of financial infidelity
Examples of financial infidelity in marriage usually involve hiding large purchases. Some people go so far as to take out a loan in their partner’s name.
Alternatively, you can have couples squirreling away money without telling each other about it or lying about their income. How to save your marriage after financial infidelity starts with getting all this out in the open.
Anyone who has been in debt knows how the desperation starts subtly but gradually takes over. You spend hours into the night applying for new credit or store cards and shifting money. It takes over your dreams, and you spend each waking hour in a state of heightened stress.
All this is not to excuse financial infidelity in marriage but to describe how the shame starts. Most people hope to fix things before they admit to their spouse what they’ve done.
On the other hand, repeated financial infidelity could signify more serious problems. A spouse lying about money, almost as if it’s a reflex, could be experiencing some form of pathological or compulsive lying.
As this group of medical authors describes in their article on Pathological Liar vs. Compulsive Liar, such repeated lying could stem from childhood issues. In those cases, saving your marriage after financial infidelity usually needs a therapist’s help.
Nevertheless, is financial infidelity abuse? When you consider that money can be used to exert control, financial infidelity can be a form of abuse. Imagine the case of a spouse who ends up in court for debts they knew nothing about?
Furthermore, as this research shows, we are happier when we lie less and are less exposed to lies. Anything that impacts your mental health can be grounds for abuse.
The warning bells of financial infidelity
The previously mentioned Financial Infidelity Scale looks at what behavior often leads to financial dishonesty in marriage. The obvious is whether people prefer to keep their purchases separate from a joint account.
Interestingly, other warning signs include people who like to shop in unnoticeable or unremarkable shops. It’s as if they want to be hidden. On top of that, those people also tend not to care that their spouse will disapprove.
How to save your marriage after financial infidelity means unpicking those signs to understand them. As you can imagine, this can get emotionally and mentally complex, so people often turn to a therapist.
In terms of practical warning bells, a spouse will hide their bank information. They also increasingly have new purchases that seem to come from nowhere. Furthermore, they aren’t comfortable talking about it.
Before you consider the question “is financial infidelity grounds for divorce” review this article on the red flags to look out for. You’ll see that there are solutions to move forwards without divorce.
15 ways to fix a marriage after financial infidelity
There is life after financial infidelity. Your marriage might even come out stronger on the other side.
Financial infidelity forces you to look at your finances and life goals together. Those are the key steps in how to save your marriage after financial infidelity.
Through the recovery process, you learn to communicate better and to be more transparent. You also start to trust each other again with better financial and life goals. All in all, you rebuild the core foundations of what makes a successful marriage.
So, how to recover from financial infidelity means working through these steps with your partner as honestly and calmly as you can.
1. Share your feelings
How to save your marriage after financial infidelity also translates into being honest about your emotions with your partner. The more we hide and suppress them, the more they make us lash out in anger.
Instead, ask open questions that encourage dialogue. These could be, for example, “what drove you to make those large purchases”? Alternatively, “what were you afraid of that made you hide them”?
We all have a range of needs, from feeling safe to feeling we belong. In relationships, we also like to feel loved and esteemed. How we prioritize these needs is different for everyone.
So, one partner might need financial security in marriage, whereas the other needs financial freedom. These two seemingly opposing needs can be reconciled with proper communication. For example, separating accounts or having a ‘freedom’ budget can be helpful.
It all starts with being curious and not critical, as Dr. Andrea and Jonathan Taylor-Cummings explain in their video on the 4 habits of successful relationships:
3. Discuss your values about money
How to save your marriage after financial infidelity can also mean reviewing how you and your partner relate to money. Some people might see money as a means to an end, but others see it as a social status.
Someone who wants to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ might fall into debt to have the latest car. This would clash intensely with a partner who needs a roof over their heads and never buys new clothes.
At this point, you might ask yourself, “is financial infidelity grounds for divorce”? After all, if your values are irreconcilable, your married life will be very miserable. Moreover, the common reasons for divorce are often infidelity and conflict, as listed in this study.
Nevertheless, it’s always worth working through problems before giving up, which can be done with professional help.
Successful marriages are formed with the common goal of supporting each other’s growth in life. That means ongoing learning and respecting different career paths. It also means having family goals and knowing where you want to live and shop.
You can’t honor the complexities of all these goals without talking about them. Sadly, many people don’t communicate properly simply because they never learned it from their parents.
Instead, how to save your marriage after financial infidelity means looking at your marriage like a small business with goals, inputs, and outputs.
5. Define your budget
Any financial advisor will tell you that the basis of financial happiness is to spend less than you earn. You can only do that with a budget. However tedious it might sound, ensure you have the fundamentals you agree are vital to buy.
6. Review check-in points
You both have to regain trust in each other after financial infidelity. Regular check-ins or meetings about your budget is a great way to start being open again.
Could you not see it as a burden, though? Why not even make it part of your date night as a reward after you’ve reviewed your finances?
7. Know your boundaries
How to save your marriage after financial infidelity is a delicate balance between openness and having boundaries. Some couples go to the extreme solution of sharing each other’s online account passwords. To others, that seems like a violation.
Discuss what feels appropriate for you both that allows you to be completely open with each other. Repeated financial infidelity can only stop with complete transparency.
Financial cheating often starts innocently enough. Many couples don’t discuss how they will deal with finances and fall into bad habits. For instance, one person picks up the responsibility because they have time rather than knowledge. Often, that’s also the more spendthrift partner.
Alternatively, some couples get excited about being a team and want to share everything. So, all accounts become one, but the stringent rules become too much. One partner invariably goes rogue.
How to save your marriage after financial infidelity can also mean finding the middle ground that meets your couple’s and individual goals. Marriage doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself or your independence. And we all need to splash out at times.
9. Tackle debt
Financial infidelity often leads to debt. The first step is to deal with this so you can alleviate some of the stress. So, consider your budget and include a monthly amount to contribute to your debt.
If your debt is overwhelmingly high, you might have to talk to a financial advisor or bank to see if you can offset it with a loan. Credit card debt is usually more expensive than a bank loan which could help you lower the burden.
10. Know your warning signs
Financial infidelity in marriage starts subtly. You can still keep an eye out for mysterious purchases and the habit of overprotecting the mail. Another clear sign is when you are taken off a joint account.
11. Take time out
How to recover from financial infidelity also means giving yourself a break. Celebrate the small successes, including putting together a budget. None of this is easy at first, so make sure you’re patient and kind to yourselves along the journey.
12. Establish shared responsibility
Don’t let the signs of financial infidelity take you by surprise. Instead, support each other and share your roles. If you want one person to be in charge of finances, get the other to audit them.
This isn’t about checking up on someone but about seeing if working together can improve things. Even better, make this a joint effort to lighten the load, especially when following the steps for how to save your marriage after financial infidelity.
13. Define joint account rules
Joint accounts are outstanding for anything shared, whether it’s for the house, the kids, or the pets. The clearer your rules, the less likely that money will get wasted. A wise approach is to limit personal shopping on the joint account.
14. Appreciate the power of money
Money can have a major impact on our emotions because of how it impacts our behaviors. As a psychiatrist explains in her article on the Psychology of Money, it’s worth thinking about your beliefs about money. Then, how does this impact your feelings and emotions?
The more self-aware you are, the more you can impact your behaviors. Moreover, you’ll better open up about them to your partner. This is a critical part of how to save your marriage after financial infidelity.
15. Get help
When considering how to recover from financial infidelity, sometimes you must consult a financial advisor or a therapist. The financial advisor can help you set up the proper process, and a therapist can help you get the awareness you need about money’s power over your relationship.
There are also some excellent financial courses to help you get the basics of financial management. Many of us never learned these skills, but they are accessible to everyone no matter who you are or what you do.
Parting words on how to recover from financial infidelity
Signs of financial infidelity vary from hiding bank statements to mysterious purchases. Despite these warning bells, the signs can be subtle and quickly lead to debt.
The good news is that there are options for how to save your marriage after financial infidelity. It starts with talking about what happened, including each other’s feelings, often with a therapist. At the same, a financial process needs to be put in place.
A financial advisor can also support you. Although, it starts with defining your goals, agreeing on your budget, and setting up a check-in process.
Is financial infidelity abuse? It can be, so it’s important to rebuild trust with the proper process and acknowledge each other’s emotions. On the flip side, if someone constantly lies without wanting to change, you must consider your safety first.
If you doubt, don’t hesitate to see a therapist and reclaim your life and mental stability.
Anne’s passion and purpose in life are to guide people to find their own path and contentment by learning about themselves. Only then can we build and nurture the deep connections we all deserve to have. With a background in Read more psychology and neuroscience coaching, she has helped countless couples transform their communication from aggression to assertiveness and appreciation.
She is both an ICF certified coach and mindfulness-certified, while being a counselor in training, meaning that she offers a holistic approach. You can expect to transform your view of yourself, your relationship, and the world by better understanding the habits of your mind and letting go of the unhelpful ones. You have power over your mind but you don’t have to do it alone.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.