Cash & Coupling: How To Handle Financial Infidelity

We all fear discovering an unfamiliar perfume lingering on our man’s collar or a smudge of lipstick that isn’t our shade, but sometimes his cheating isn’t with another woman … it’s with his wallet. Maybe you found a statement for a credit card you never knew existed, or suspect he’s been blowing the cash you thought he was saving for retirement. When your faith in your partner’s honesty and financial fidelity is shaken, how do you keep it from tearing your relationship apart? Manisha Thakor, The Frisky’s personal finance expert for women, offers the following advice for coping after he’s been fiscally unfaithful.

Ask whether it’s really cheating. Even if you’re in a committed relationship, you can’t hold your partner accountable for money rules he doesn’t know you’ve set. You may be diligently saving part of your paycheck for a house to live happily ever after in, but you can’t assume he’s put aside his plans to purchase a boat unless you’ve talked about it. “One person may feel there has been financial infidelity while the other one may not,” cautions Thakor. However, if you’re living with a guy who claims to be debt-free, you’re right to be suspicious of signs he may be lying. “A classic sign there’s a problem is avoiding phone calls – it could be his mom checking in again to see how his day’s going … but it could also be the bill collectors.”

Put it all on the table. If you haven’t already, you and your partner need to have a serious money talk – ASAP. “I believe couples should know what you each own, owe, earn, and spend,” says Thakor. “The point of sharing this information isn’t to judge each other, but to know exactly what the financial foundation on which you’re building a relationship looks like.” This talk should help you both identify goals you’d like to work towards together and reveal any dirty financial laundry. Either way, this is where you need to start so you can move on.

Don’t be afraid to call him out. This doesn’t mean you should chase his SUV down with a golf club, though. If you’ve already agreed on financial goals and have noticed sure signs he’s cheating, sit your man down for a rational heart-to-heart. Maybe you’ve discovered he’s hiding purchases from you or isn’t depositing the amount he agreed to into your shared account. Whatever way he’s cheating, you need to fix the problem before it gets worse. “You should calmly and kindly say something like, ‘Money is one of the top reasons couples split up. I don’t want that to happen to us,’” Thakor suggests. Then lay out your concerns so you can deal with them. “Financial secrets are like termites that eat away at the foundation of your relationship.”

Consider having a three-way. No, not like that. “Money talks may not be much fun, but they are truly one of the best investments you can make in your relationship,” says Thakor. These talks can be tense, and if you can’t seem to see eye-to-eye with your partner while setting shared goals or while addressing his financial cheating, you may need to seek help from a certified financial planner. Thakor recommends finding one through NAPFA.org or GarrettPlanningNetwork.com.

Hold each other accountable. “Full disclosure is always the best policy when it comes to relationships,” says Thakor. However, she cautions that honesty really needs to become your ongoing policy. “I recommend that couples discuss financial goals, credit scores, what’s owed, and what’s earned at least once a year. Twice is even better. This way there are no surprises.”

Photo: iStockphoto

The Money section and all articles within it are sponsored by Free Credit Score; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.

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