“Financial infidelity” is a form of cheating in a relationship

MAlong with emotions, time, and energy, money is on the list of things you’ll naturally invest in a relationship, whether you’re spending it directly on your partner or on the things you do together. And just as the emotional and energetic investments you make in a partner have an effect on their livelihood, so do the financial investments you are able to contribute to the partnership. Therefore, withholding key financial details from a partner can be a form of infidelity, similar to physical or emotional cheating in the way it misleads a partner about your overall commitment to the relationship.

“Whether or not you’ve chosen to merge your finances with a partner, your financial situation will likely affect your relationship,” says Maya Maria Brown, relationship expert and creative strategist at relationship wellness app Coupleness. “For example, if your partner wants to go on a lavish vacation and expects to split the bill, but it’s not in your budget, you’ll need to talk about your monetary approach to vacation planning. Or, if you expect to receive an inheritance and plan to give away a large portion of it, but your partner would like you to keep it for your future together, there’s a discussion to be had there.

“If you aren’t honest about your financial situation from the start, it’s likely that when the truth finally comes out, your partner will feel misled.” —Maya Maria Brown, Relationship Expert

Overall, the mix of life that occurs in a romantic relationship tends to involve the money of all parties involved, which is the main reason why keeping money matters a secret can have the effect of cheating. a partner. “If you’re not honest about your financial situation from the start, chances are that when the truth finally comes out, your partner will feel misled,” Brown says. Without forgetting to deliberately retain any information from your partner about something involving them can damage trust in your relationship.

But just like with emotional and physical cheating, financial infidelity isn’t always so clear cut in practice. Do you have to reveal everything of your financial situation to a partner? And at what point in a relationship should you share money matters? Below, financial and relationship experts explain what financial infidelity really looks like, why some people have it, and how avoiding it through honest discussions about money can help protect your relationship.

What constitutes financial infidelity?

Hiding financial matters from your partner in a way that misleads them about your financial situation can be considered a form of infidelity, says financial coach Dasha Kennedy, wellness expert at wedding planning website The Knot . Even if you don’t intention when cheating on your partner, keeping secrets about the money you have (or don’t) can have this effect – much like flirting with someone who isn’t your partner could be seen as emotional cheating even if you don’t don’t intend to cheat on or hurt your partner.

Because every relationship is different, however, there is no singular rule why money matters should be disclosed in order to avoid being financially unfaithful. That’s why it’s so important to align early with your partner about money topics that you’ll share and not share in the same way you would communicate any other relationship expectation, Brown says.

As a general rule, however, if you feel dishonest for not Being open about a particular piece of your financial puzzle is a good sign that withholding it constitutes financial infidelity, Brown says. “This can include any debt you have, such as credit card debt or student loan, savings, impending inheritance, your credit score, any investments you have made, and your spending habits.”

Holding back these kinds of things can quickly escalate to the level of financial infidelity because of how they relate to elements of your personality, your past, and the life you may lead in the future. And in many cases, the consequences – good or bad – of those secret savings, debts, or investments will directly implicate a partner down the line, raising the question of why you hid them in the first place.

“One of the most common financial issues I’ve seen spouses hide away is a personal credit card,” says divorce attorney Hailee Zabrin, a partner at law firm Berger Schatz. “A lot of times a person will do this to bill for personal expenses that they don’t want their spouse to know about for some reason.” But then, if they’re unable to pay the credit card charges with personal funds, the debt is suddenly the problem of the spouse who didn’t know it before, she says.

Even in situations outside of marriage or where the partner is not held accountable for a financial matter that was previously hidden from them, failure to disclose essential financial realities can be considered infidelity. This is true for the same reason that making secret emotional investments could be considered emotional cheating: a partner doesn’t have to to find of an unfaithful act so that it constitutes cheating.

Why are some people tempted to hide the truth about their finances from a partner?

The underlying reason for financial infidelity is different in people who are dishonest about a financial challenge (such as debt, loans, or a habit of spending with a credit card) than in people who hide a financial advantage (such as a secret savings account, trust fund or inheritance).

In the case of the former, it’s likely that the choice to keep it low stems from a place of shame or fear, Brown says. Perhaps they fear that their partner will think differently from them (or even leave them) if they find out about the secret debt or loans. While in the latter case, the person may be holding a secret stash of money and may struggle with trust issues or feel unsafe in the relationship, Brown says.

“It’s better to be honest about money issues, both because they might affect your partner, and so that your partner can help you overcome them. -Brown

If you fall into the first category, Brown suggests talking to a therapist so you feel more comfortable sharing what’s going on with your partner. “It’s better to be honest about money issues, both because they might affect your partner, and so your partner can help you get through them,” she says. And if you fall into the second category, it’s worth making a bigger assessment of the quality of your relationship as a whole. Holding on to money for lack of trust in your partner could mean it’s time to leave the relationship, Brown says.

Why sharing financial matters with a partner is so important

As stated above, your financial situation directly involves your partner’s livelihood. “A financial boon like an inheritance, or challenges like debt, bad credit, or bad spending habits could influence your partner’s life,” says Brown.

For married people, this influence is legal: “In the State of Illinois, for example, when two people are married and one of the spouses incurs debts during the marriage and does not pay his creditors, these creditors can obtain a judgment against property that the spouses hold jointly,” explains Zabrin. “If the judgment is not satisfied, the property held in common may be sold or liquidated to satisfy the debt of a single spouse.”

But even in unmarried relationships, one person’s financial situation could certainly have a direct effect on how the other can live their life. “Money impacts every decision you and your partner will make,” says Kennedy, “determining where you live, what kind of dates you can go on, and even decisions about having kids or marry”. While these things may not be on your radar at the start of a relationship, “Once you start having conversations with a partner about merging aspects of your life, talking about your financial situation is a important step in developing these plans,” says Brown.

Perhaps the most essential thing to discuss with a partner first is your spending habits, says Kennedy. “Knowing your partner’s spending risk factors, or whether they tend to spend impulsively or responsibly, can help you be on the same page when it comes to investing, paying off debt, and management of bank accounts. Once you start having these kinds of conversations about money, you can dive even deeper into “how you feel about your finances, what makes you nervous, and what’s on your wish list,” says Brown.

Achieving this kind of deep financial alignment with a partner can be a major boon to your relationship’s longevity, helping you avoid financial disagreements often cited as a leading cause of divorce.

And from an even broader perspective, being open about money can lead to more intimacy and connection in your relationship overall. Not only does talking about your finances free you from the stressful burden of keeping a secret from your partner, it also reassures your partner that you are comfortable being vulnerable around them. (While a partner being lied to about money is bound to wonder what else you might be lying to them about, Brown says.)

In this way, financial compatibility and openness are important for reasons that go far beyond practicality, says Kennedy: “It plays such a huge role in the success of a relationship because it shows the ability to a couple to communicate effectively on sensitive topics.”

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