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Lying to Your Partner About Money? How to Come Clean

Rena Philips  |  March 7, 2023

New research shows 30% of Americans have either lied about money or have been lied to. Here are six steps to break the cycle and come clean.  

You come home at lunch to hide the Amazon boxes piled up at the front door.

You keep the bags of new clothes from your favorite boutique hidden in the trunk of your car until you can sneak them in without your partner noticing. When your spouse compliments the expensive earrings you’re wearing, you say they’re costume jewelry you found at a clearance sale.

You have a shopping addiction, and you’ve been draining money out of your joint account, or loading up debt on credit cards, to support your habit.

 It’s time to come clean… But how?

“Step up, confess, and apologize,” says Beverly Harzog, credit card expert with U.S. News & World Report.

 And take heart. You are not the only person cheating on your spouse with money. In fact, about a third of the respondents to a U.S. News & World Report survey reported that they have experienced financial infidelity, which is when one partner hides or lies about money. The most common type of financial infidelity is making secret purchases. That’s followed by hiding debts or accounts; lying about income; draining money from savings; and lending money without your partner’s consent.

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 Only 10 percent of those experiencing financial infidelity reported in the survey that the guilty party actually confessed. A whopping 90 percent said the deceptions were discovered by the partner.

 “You’re going to get caught sooner or later,” Harzog says. “You need to go ahead and have a heart-to-heart and talk about what is going on.”

How to Come Clean

Try to identify why you committed financial infidelity and address that issue with your partner. The longer the deception continues, the more detrimental it will be.

“The only way out is total honesty,” Harzog says. You’ve broken the trust, and now you are going to have to earn it back.

“The relationship cannot survive if you do not trust each other,” Harzog says. “It is important for the victim to heal, for you to take ownership of your actions, even if you feel you were justified.”

The most common reasons given in the survey for cheating with money was to avoid an argument or to feel more in control with the family finances. Others reported that they were embarrassed about mishandling money, that they had a desire to help someone else, or that they were stressed about living pay-check-to-paycheck.

Learn the Art of Compromise

Regardless of your reason, Harzog says, you are going to have to show that you will do whatever you can to earn their trust again. That may include seeing a marriage counselor, a personal counselor, or a financial adviser.

“If you are hiding finances from your spouse, you need to come clean, and you may need some professional help,” says Jay Zigmont, founder of Childfree Wealth. “If you have an addiction – to spending, gambling or whatever – chances are that you will need to enlist a financial therapist or others to help you with your addiction.”

Though many people worry about being judged by their financial situation and mistakes, Zigmont says your spouse deserves to know the whole truth.

“Your spouse may be able to help you through it,” he says.

You Have To Be Honest

 Curtis J. Crossland, managing member of Suttle Crossland Wealth Advisors, LLC, agrees: “Most people are more understanding of an issue if you bring it to them and ask for help and guidance. Sitting them down for an honest conversation and explaining where you’re at is a start.”

Come together as a couple and set a budget. Factoring in an allowance might be what you need to keep the issue under control.

“Every situation is different,” Crossland said,” but nothing changes if you aren’t willing to take the steps.”

The good news is that more survey respondents who reported financial infidelity said they began talking regularly about finances (33 percent) and/or making a budget and setting goals (26 percent) than those who decided to separate (24 percent).

Harzog offers these six suggestions on keeping your relationship on track, post confession:

Identify your money personalities. If one of you is a spender and one is a saver, “merge your talents so you can become financially successful as a couple.”

Learn the art of compromise. You may have to agree to disagree on some things, but try to find common ground in setting your overall financial goals.

Allow each other a little financial freedom. That way neither of you feels trapped or out of control.

Create a budget, and make sure you are tracking all of your expenses. Revisit your budget regularly.

Talk to each other. Hold weekly meetings, and hold each other accountable so you can reach your financial goals.

Get counseling. If you have a worrisome amount of credit card debt, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. (link to this: NFCC – National Foundation for Credit Counseling – Home)


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