Financial Infidelity Could Doom Your Relationship

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Financial Infidelity

Marriage counselors say that trust is one of the most important elements of a successful relationship. When we talk about infidelity, we're usually referring to extramarital affairs, but cheating on your partner financially is another sign that your relationship could be in trouble. And a new report from found that more than 7-million Americans -- mostly men -- have a hidden bank account or credit card account.

"These secrets are a recipe for disaster," says Matt Schulz,'s senior industry analyst. "If you and your significant other aren't honest with each other about what you're spending, you never really know how much money you have -- and that can lead to big problems."

The survey of married couples and people living with partners found that nearly 6 percent of the people in these committed relationships lead financial double lives by concealing financial assets or debts. It can cause problems, for example, when you apply for a mortgage and find out that your significant other has a credit card account that they missed a payment on and it hurts your credit rating. He said hardships -- loss of a job, a financial emergency or divorce proceedings -- often expose this covert life.

"It's another example of how important it is to communicate in relationships," according to Schulz. "If you're hiding a secret like this, it can make things really difficult in holding a budget together." He says hiding money from your significant other might indicate larger problems in a relationship .

The $500 Surprise

The survey also found that about 20 percent of the respondents were comfortable spending $500 or more without telling their partner. "If you're someone on a budget or living paycheck to paycheck like so many of us are, $500 is a lot of money. It can make a big difference," according to Schulz. He says buying a big gift for an anniversary or other special occasion might be OK. Your partner will know soon enough that you made the purchase. "Where you get in trouble is when it happens too often or it never sees the light of day. If you're buying things and hiding them long term, it can be a sign of trouble." He notes that men might be more guilty of this partly because they are often the primary bread-winners and control the purse strings. It also busts the stereotype that women are the big impulse buyers. Men do it too -- and their purchases often cost more.

"I think the real takeaway is that people need to do a better job of communicating with their partner about finances in general," said Schulz. "Many people are fine with their spouse spending $500 or more, but there are a lot who aren't. It can lead to a spouse wondering if there are other secrets too and that can open a whole can of worms."

The survey also found that younger people are much more likely to engage in financial infidelity. "It might be a case of inexperience in a relationship," said Schulz. "It might be something that you have learn the hard way. Maybe you develop that trust over the years by communicating about financial and other big issues."

Financial infidelity is as serious as any other breach of trust, financial and relationship experts agree. They say that separate accounts may be fine for some couples, but they have to be honest and open with each other and regularly discuss household finances. Worried this might be happening to you? There are ways to spot financial infidelity.
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