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Recognizing The Signs of Financial Infidelity

Is she addicted to retail? Is he a bigamist? Zero tolerance for money secrets is key to protecting your marriage—and yourself.

Hiding or lying about income. Some people understate how much they actually make. Others hide income from other sources, such as a bonus or raise, freelance work, a second job, or gifts from relatives. On the other hand, people may pretend they make more money than they actually do, or even lie about having income when they actually don’t have a job at all. You or your partner may be tempted to lie about your job situation due to shame, or fear that being unemployed may cause a break-up. Some pretend to work, desperately trying to find a new job before their spouses know they’ve lost the old one. In any case, hiding the truth about your income status puts both your household finances as well as your relationship at risk, in part because to maintain the charade you must continue to spend in ways that make no sense based on how much money is actually coming in. All of these issues can create major problems in an otherwise healthy relationship.

One or both spouses keep details of their income and expenses secret from each other, budgeting as singles even though their finances are intermingled in the eyes of the law. Failing to work from a combined household budget and to manage finances jointly and openly is a recipe for financial infidelity. Must you have joint banking, credit card and other accounts? Not necessarily. But both of you must be fully aware of all accounts, what’s in them and what’s owed on them. More importantly, you need to be in agreement on what they’re for and how they are to be managed. Income deception is nearly impossible to maintain when both spouses are involved with managing the household budget, which should always be the case. If one of you is always in the dark about when, how and whether expenses are being paid—or worse, even what they are—that’s a problem.

Knowing each others financial history is especially important if this is not your first marriage, if you or your spouse have children from other relationships, or if you have assumed legal or fiduciary responsibility for a parent or other relative. That’s because a former spouse, a parent of your child, or someone else outside of your marriage could have rights or make decisions that could directly impact your current financial situation—and of course, cause stress, arguments and other threats to peace in your marriage.

For example, your spouse needs to know that you co-signed on your mother’s mortgage from you, not from the banker who ran your credit reports and is now rejecting your mortgage application for your own home purchase because of it.

Better to get all issues out on the table up front, so that together you can decide how you will handle them and plan accordingly. Ideally, you should do this before you put a ring on it. But if you are already married, you need to come clean about the details of your financial history, information and obligations right away. Remember, a marriage is a financial contract as much as it is an emotional and spiritual one. Lies about money violate the trust necessary to hold a healthy relationship together. Don’t let financial infidelity murder your finances and kill your marriage.

This blog is dedicated to my thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership, mentorship and other things I need to get #OffMyChest. Follow me on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.

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