Avoiding Financial Infidelity
Last week, I wrote a post about how couples can best deal with money in the relationship. It began by citing the fact that money difficulties are a more-common source of friction in couples than something like adultery–because every last person has to deal with money, but not everyone will have an affair. Well, how about if you combine the two? Frugal Dad recently had a great post about how “financial infidelity” can be as damaging to a relationship as a full-blown affair. So what is financial infidelity? Basically the same as regular infidelity: doing something behind your significant other’s back that you know is wrong but you do it anyway. As relationships are built on trust, this can lead to major complications. So, say, one person goes out and has a spending spree right when you’re both trying to save money for the future, it’s not unsurprising if one person feels like the other is being unfaithful to the relationship.
This is especially true if the financial transactions are eventually discovered in private. And, of course, they will be. While it’s not that easy to get proof of adultery – short of catching them in the act – dollars and cents are another matter, as there are financial records of everything you’ve done. If one person comes upon a bank statement or credit card statement and has to confront the other, it’s not going to make for a very happy Valentine’s Day.
How to Deal with Financial Infidelity
As mentioned in the previous post, communication is key to any relationship, so these issues need to be out in the open. Even if a person comes and confesses, “Honey, I did something bad at the mall,” this is better than it being discovered. So:
1. Set ground rules. What exactly constitutes that breach of trust? How much overspending? Are you trying to save a set amount every month?
2. Don’t be too strict. If someone goes a little bit over the limit, this shouldn’t necessarily represent a major breach of trust. This is how financial infidelity is different than regular infidelity, in that you can be “slightly” unfaithful and not have it be a terrible problem.
3. Set equal terms. That is, giving one person an allowance every month is a little too much like a parent-child relationship. That can also cause resentment. If you’re both agreeing to the same spending terms, there will be more of a balance.
4. Communicate. Again, talking it out is key. There’s no way to solve this problem if you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to achieve together. If something in the plan goes awry, a lack of communication could boil over into a full-blown fight.
This issue is no small thing. If money is one of the main causes of separation, it should be one of the first things you talk about together. Sure, it’s not so romantic, but neither is breaking up.
Any financial infidelity stories out there? Let us know in the comments.