Financial Infidelity in Marriage

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been guilty of FINANCIAL INFIDELITY… do you see mine up? YEP. In some form or fashion, we’ve ALL done it.

Here’s the deal.. Financial Infidelity shows up in BIG ways.. and in some small, subtle ways. See if any of these resonate with you.

- A husband JUST finds out that his wife of 5 years has debts from BEFORE they were married, and he NEVER knew about it.
- A wife tells hers kids, “don’t tell daddy about ____”, as she buys them yet ANOTHER toy after her and her husband agreed that the kids have WAAAY too many.
- A husband eats out with his coworkers daily… but his wife thinks he eats out once a week.
- A wife brings home a free puppy or kitten without talking it over with her husband.. It’s cute, but you gotta FEED it!
- A husband tears up the bathroom on a whim with a sledgehammer and starts a big remodeling project, but it wasn’t a planned expense.
- A wife has a closet full of clothes and shoes she purchased without her husbands knowledge.
- A husband, knowing that money is tight, says yes to a trip across the state because he can’t say NO to his wife. He puts on a facade that “Everythings ok” when he knows that they are behind in the bills.

These were just a few examples.. but all are very REAL circumstances that I’ve either witnessed or been a part of. I’ve also used the terms Husbands and Wives a lot in these examples.. because married partners should be 100% accountable to each other. Each time one spouse tells a little white lie, makes a hidden purchase, or buys something without speaking to the other, it UNDERMINES the relationship. If you’re single.. the only person you’re really accountable to is yourself, however once you tie the knot, your finances and your credit will be co-mingled with your spouse. I don’t mean to scare the engaged couple.. after all, two heads are better than one and when you make decisions together, you do it to benefit the both of you.

If you’re currently committing Financial Infidelity.. you may be closing off the person who can help you the most… your SPOUSE!

The wife, who had debt before she got married, it all blew up when she couldn’t pay those “Hidden” bills. When her husband found out.. was he mad? Absolutely.. but then he asked…”Why didn’t you let me know you were in over your head?”. Now he is working to help her pay down the debt.

Who are you hurting the most? Why… it’s YOU!

If you’re married…sit down with your spouse regularly and go over all your finances. Adopt a policy of FULL DISCLOSURE will all your purchases. Then set some goals and work on them together. Accomplishing goals as a partnership will bond you closer together and it is a beautiful thing.

If you’re engaged…make plans to mingle your finances together after you get married and make sure you are BOTH involved in the decision making process. When one spouse controls all the money… it becomes way to tempting to make a hidden purchase here or there while the other has to ASK for money.. this is not wise. All accounts, passwords, bills, and expenses should be shared.

Should each of you have SOME money that you can spend without being accountable? A small amount is fine.. but be careful.. if it causes resentment in your spouse.. you may want to rethink that. I know someone who always spent HIS money on games… and she was spending HER money on HIM.. does that seem fair?

Best thing to do, right now.. it to start being HONEST with your partner. Don’t make big decisions by yourself. Don’t start new projects that cost money without your confidante’s support. Don’t keep your partner in the dark either… if you know something bad is coming (like a potential layoff), don’t let your partner get blindsided by the news or be told by someone else.

Finally, be honest with yourself.

Your comments are welcome!

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  1. we regularly have clients who go bankruptcy without telling their partners!!!! There was one a couple of months ago who had $137,000 in credit card debt and hadn’t told their partner. $137,000!!!! Wholly crap! I’d almost prefer ACTUAL infidelity at least if I forgive that it won’t haunt me for the rest of my life

  2. David Bibby says:

    I have no idea how one partner can expect the other not to find out about a BANKRUPTCY… I mean.. how do explain having to go to court? And even if you DID get away with the filing, the processing, and the aftermath. 7 to 10 years is a LONG time to keep a secret. The stress of it all is enough to shorten your life span by 20 years.

    If you’re in trouble.. TELL your spouse. The secrets will never stop if you keep making them.

    Thanks Ben!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I found out that my wife has a $300 envelope hidden away in her bottom drawer. So I took it and now I’m waiting to see if she notices. When she does I’ll ask her why she’s hiding money from me.

  4. David Bibby says:

    Anon… There is a lot I don’t know about your situation. Somehow I get the sense that you may be a bit controlling with money. I could be wrong, but if that sounds like you.. then ask yourself “Why does my wife need to hide money?”. Could it be that she’s a security seeker and just needs it there to feel safe? Have there been times when bills didn’t get paid and she just wants to keep things running?

    As for the envelope. I’d put it back. Rather than accuse your wife of wrongdoing, I’d open the door to some honest conversation. If you have some money to spare.. say $100… then get her a card and put the money in it. Then say something like:

    “Honey, If I’ve ever made you feel like you can’t have your own money.. I’m sorry. Here’s $100 to help get you started. Keep it, or spend it.. it’s yours. If you need something, please let me know, and if you want to take an interest in our finances together.. I’ll be happy to sit down with you”

    Of course.. I don’t know if this is your situation at all.. or if you’ll even read this reply.. but hopefully you do.

    Good Luck!

  5. As a financial planner i often find that couples have a hard time talking about money. Financial Infidelity can break up a marriage, especially if someone has some kind of addiction and uses the money to enjoy the addiction.

    I think is great to have a limit what you can spend without asking for approval. Couples have to trust each other and have the freedom to spend without always being controlled ( we aren’t kids anymore) at the same time couples have to be transparent and accountable to each other.

    P.S. I added your blog to me blogroll.

  6. David Bibby says:

    Thank you very much. I appreciate you adding Debt Free Marriage to your blogroll.

    I wholeheartedly agree that couple should be accountable to each other with their finances. One way to keep you both on the same page is to have a weekly or bi-weekly “talk” about the budget and make your decisions together. The rest of the time.. spend time with each other connecting and living a quality life. You DON”T have to think about money EVERYDAY.

    Glad to know you and I’ll be going to your blog.. often.

  7. Louie says:

    I am bad for making small purchases without telling my wife. I see a game that I want for $10 in the bargain bin at the grocery store and slip it in the cart. When I get home I sneak it out and put it on the shelf so that I will not have to go through the whole “Why are you wasting money on games” discussion.

    I guess the line I feed myself is that I earn good money so I should not have to answer for why I want to spend $10 on myself. However, if I feel that way, then I should also have the guts to openly disclose the purchase. Knowing that you did something in secret causes bottled up shame that can lead to resentment.

    Whenever my wife spends money, she ALWAYS tells me. She knows that I will not approve of all of her purchases, but she has decided that it is better to not have secrets. I should be following her lead.

  8. David Bibby says:

    I also used to do stuff like that. But for me it was fast food. But I’d be left with the same feeling of shame/guilt you described. People SHOULD be allowed to spend money on themselves.. but in some cases.. when their partner NEVER spends money on themselves.. the unspoken feeling in the air is that YOU are not allow to spend money on yourself either.

    So does your wife EVER spend money on herself? I believe that if she spent small amounts of money on herself from time to time.. you’d have no problem buying a game for 10 bucks and announcing it when you get home.

    So… in the interest of fairness.. it might be time to give your wife a $50 giftcard to the mall and tell her “Go.. and buy yourself something nice… I insist!”

    Hope this helps…

  9. Cecilia says:

    I found out recently my husband had almost $50K in credit card debt. He finally admitted it because he wasn’t able to pay his share of the household bills. I’ve been offering resources for him to get help with his “spending addiction”. We’ve already been to counseling and he won’t go back. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  10. David Bibby says:

    “Spending Addiction” is very serious indeed. This behavior is really no different than a person with a drug addiction, sex addiction, or alcohol addiction.

    By not admitting he has a problem.. he is effectively pushing away his only ally to get out of the mess he made: YOU.

    He will likely try to shift the blame to you and tell you it’s your fault that he’s so stressed that he has to buy things to feel better. Don’t buy that line for a minute.

    If you avoid the talks about money because he’s going to get angry with you, then you are no different than a wife of a physically abusive husband.

    Please know that I’m not picking on you. He DOES have a problem. But if he won’t admit to it, then you will be stuck.

    You can’t control him…you can’t change him…and you can’t drag him into counseling if he doesn’t want to go.

    What you CAN do… however.. is protect yourself.

    You need an account with your name only that he can’t touch. You need to know that your bills can get paid. He’s broken your trust and so he doesn’t get to have the benefit of a joint account. It’s not punishment.. it’s PROTECTION and your security.

    You must INSIST that he give you all passwords to all accounts so that you can look at everything and so the two of you can work together. He needs to be completely accountable to you.

    If he’s not willing to work with you, then he will pull you down with him.

    If you have children living with you then you cannot allow this to happen.

    You may have to escalate things and you may even need to issue an ultimatum. Sometimes that’s the only way to get through to addictive behavior.

    If his addiction completely rules him…then the prospect of losing you won’t be enough for him to change. If that is the case…pray for him and exit the situation.

    If you have any questions feel free to contact me at

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