What Is Financial Infidelity and Why Does It Matter?
In a survey about how money matters in relationships, we asked both men and women if they’d ever broken up with someone over money. Around a quarter of respondents said they had, while around a fifth said someone had broken up with them over financial matters.
Clearly, financial factors can create friction in relationships—and that’s true whether or not someone breaks up over these issues. According to a poll conducted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, almost 70% of Americans who were married or living with a partner said they’d fought about money with their significant other within the past 12 months.
With money a stressor in relationships, it’s not surprising that financial infidelity sometimes occurs. Find out more about financial infidelity and the role finances play in relationships below.
In This Piece
How Are Finances Important to Relationships?
People often shy away from the importance of finances in a marriage or other relationship because they don’t want to seem materialistic or as if they’re putting money and things before their significant other. In reality, though, finances are critically important because they can provide stability—or take it away, as the case may be. Being honest with each other about finances and working together transparently for future financial goals builds trust and helps the entire marriage or relationship succeed.
Some things that might be important to financial fidelity in a relationship include:
- Being honest about income. Even if you don’t put all your money in a joint account together, being honest about your incomes can be important. Hiding that you make substantially more, so you can keep money to yourself is a form of financial infidelity in marriage. Instead, consider coming clean about the income and working together to come up with a fair way to treat the budget if you don’t want a complete “what’s mine is theirs” relationship.
- Working together on budgeting. Create a shared budget and stick to it. This is especially important if you put all your funds together and treat them as the same. If you don’t do that, decide what expenses you’ll cover together, and always honor your part of that agreement before you spend on or save for yourself.
- Maintaining transparency about spending. Be honest about what you spend and how, especially if you’re sharing accounts. Don’t hide packages or things you bought from each other or downplay what something costs because you know the other person might be upset about it. When making big purchases, talk to each other beforehand.
- Deciding together on frivolous expenditures. Make a budget for frivolous spending or a no-questions-asked cash budget. For example, maybe you each get $50 a week in cash to do whatever you want with. If you like expensive coffees or want to eat out and your spouse doesn’t see the value in that, you can use your fun money for it without feeling like you have to hide it.
- Agreeing to debt and other major decisions together. Don’t incur debt the other person doesn’t know about, and make large financial decisions together whenever possible.
What Is Financial Infidelity?
Financial infidelity occurs when you lie about money matters to each other in a relationship where there’s an expectation that you won’t. Usually this is possible when a couple shares finances, but it’s also possible even if you keep your finances separate and are dishonest about things.
A few examples of financial infidelity include:
- Incurring debt and hiding it from the other person
- Not paying a bill but telling the other person you did
- Buying something in secret you know the other person wouldn’t approve of, especially if it’s expensive
- Hiding money from the other person, such as opening a savings account in your name only to funnel money into
Signs of Financial Infidelity
If you’re worried that financial infidelity is at play in your relationship, consider the following common signs:
- The other person gets anxious or angry, seemingly for no reason, when the subject of money comes up
- There are larger-than-normal cash withdrawals on any of your accounts
- You haven’t seen a credit card or bank statement in a while and the other person makes excuses whenever that comes up
- The other person makes it difficult or impossible for you to log into online credit card or bank accounts
- The other person always tries to get to the mail before you and doesn’t show you all the mail
- You find potentially expensive items in your home, and you’re not sure where they came from or when they were purchased
- You or your spouse is denied credit based on high debt-to-income ratios or credit utilization, but you weren’t aware that you had a lot of debt
Does Financial Infidelity Signal the End of Your Relationship?
Whether you should break up with someone or ask for a divorce based on financial infidelity is a personal choice, and one that probably should take into account many other factors. According to our survey, men are slightly more likely to initiate a breakup over financial issues, with almost 30% saying they had, compared to close to 23% of females.
Age also seems to play a role. Almost 30% of those aged 25 to 34 say they’ve broken up with someone over finances, and just over 30% of those aged 35 to 49 said the same. For people aged 50 to 64 and 18 to 24, the number drops to less than 15%, and for those over age 65, only around 6% said they had broken up with someone for these reasons.
Avoid Financial Infidelity
Couples know they have to work on issues like communication and intimacy. But they often don’t realize they should put the same effort into working on finances together. Start today by being open and honest about money. Consider signing up for your free credit scores together at Credit.com, so you can see where you both stand.
This survey was conducted for Credit.com using Suzy. The sample consisted of a total of 1,019 responses per question and is not statistically representative of the general population. This survey was conducted in September 2022.