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Your Partner Has Been Lying About Money. Should You Forgive Them?

Rena Philips  |  February 28, 2023

Some financial infidelity can be hard to forgive. Here’s experts' advice on moving past a partner lying about money.  

You found out your partner has been lying about how much money they make. By a lot.

They left their laptop open, and you accidentally saw the balance. There are thousands of dollars that have been tucked into a secret bank account. At first, you couldn’t believe it. As you scrolled through the history of the deposits, your heart sank. Then so many questions popped into your brain.

Why were they hiding money?

What should you do about it?

Will you ever be able to trust them again? 

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Unfortunately, financial infidelity happens more often than you might think. Nearly one-third of respondents in a recent survey by U.S. News & World Report say they have experienced some type of financial infidelity, which occurs when one partner hides or lies about a money-related decision.

“He could have a credit card account without telling you. He could be lying about income or draining your savings account,” says Beverly Harzog, credit card expert at U.S. News & World Report. 

Only 10 percent of victims find out about financial unfaithfulness through a confession, according to the survey. The vast majority (90 percent) discover it on their own. For example, they might notice a large unexpected purchase; discover an account balance is off, or observe secrecy when their partner uses an electronic device.

The most common money deceptions?

  • Making secret purchases
  • Hiding debts or accounts
  • Lying about income
  • Draining funds from savings
  • Lending money without a partner’s consent.

Financial infidelity a tense topic

“Financial infidelity in couples is at least as common a problem as physical infidelity,” says Corey Voorman, founder and president of Voorman Investment Counsel. “Financial infidelity can have the same destructive effects on a relationship.”

Once the infidelity is detected, couples should work together to get to the root of the problem, Voorman said. Why is a partner behaving in this way? Does he feel that he has no financial freedom or say in how money is saved or spent? Is there a deeper problem?

If there is a social-emotional issue, counseling may be necessary.

“Finances are always a tense topic,” Voorman says. “Hiring an expert can bring much-needed relief and clarity to a couple’s finances.”

Don’t ambush your partner

When you discover the unfaithfulness, don’t ambush your partner, says Justin Pritchard, CFP with Approach Financial, Inc. Find a time when you both can calmly talk through what’s going on.

“Things may go smoother if you get a professional involved,” Pritchard says. “Some financial therapists have professional licenses as well as financial expertise, and they may be extremely helpful.”

Twenty-four percent of survey respondents say they separated from their partner. Nineteen percent did nothing.

Positive outcomes are possible

About one-third of survey respondents began talking regularly about finances; about one-quarter began making a budget and setting goals; and some 10 percent of respondents reported attending counseling.

The best way to get beyond the infidelity is to open lines of communication and to come up with a money plan, Harzog says. Goal-setting should involve a hard look at your revenue and expenses. Audit your budget and make sure you are tracking all of your spending. Allow your partner to have plenty of input: “Nobody wants to be in a relationship where the partner feels like they’re being put on an allowance.” 

“If you want the relationship to work out, you’re going to have to forgive and move on,” Harzog says. “That’s hard when you have been betrayed, but if you want to save your relationship, you will have to take some steps to do so.”

It’s important to note, Harzog adds, that she is not talking about financial abuse, which is using money to exert control over another person. That is domestic abuse and should not be tolerated.

Yours, Mine, and Ours

Couples experiencing financial infidelity may consider having joint accounts for shared expenses and separate accounts to provide some autonomy. Twenty-one percent of survey respondents opened separate accounts after discovering the unfaithfulness.

“You might use a ‘yours, mine, and ours’ approach,’ Pritchard says. “You each have your own bank accounts to spend on whatever you want without putting the household at risk or needing to account for your spending. No guilt. Of course, the household needs enough financial stability for that to be feasible.”

The purpose of the survey is not to cause alarm. Harzog’s hope is that by becoming aware of the common occurrence of financial infidelity, more couples will set the stage so that no one feels the need to cheat.

“Open up your communication,” she says. “You want to have these conversations before you get married. If you are already married, then start now. It’s never too late to try to be financially successful together.” 


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