Everyone gets so riled up whenever they hear someone cheated on someone. It gets worse if they know the aggrieved party. The profanity that comes out would leave you thinking that they killed someone! Infidelity is wrong, they will say, no matter what the other person did. It is also almost unforgivable.
There is another kind of infidelity that happens a lot in marriages but often goes unnoticed or is just ignored; financial infidelity. This is where the couple is not faithful to their financial plans. It could entail having secret bank accounts, secret debt, spending on things not agreed on and keeping it a secret and even hiding extra sources of income.
What many people don’t realize is that this kind of infidelity is as bad any other and undermines their relationship. They have the potential to cause serious harm to a marriage because it all revolves around trust, no matter how much you try to justify it. A recent survey conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that 40 percent of Americans confessed to financial infidelity and 75 percent of them said it affected their relationships, and mostly negatively.
How then can you keep from falling into this trap?
Lay it all bare
Start by telling each other about your individual financial situations. It may be very tempting to keep the gory details out or to omit that ‘small’ misdeed but don’t. Talk about your salaries, debts, any other source of income and even cash you have been hiding somewhere. You need total honesty and transparency for this to work.
Come up with a plan
Now that you know what your financial situation is like you need to find a way to make it work. If it means setting aside a specific amount every month or having a joint account for large household purchases while maintaining your individual accounts. You could also agree to consult each other on purchases that are above a certain amount. Use whatever you decide as your financial ground rules and stick to them. Remaining accountable to each other will keep you in check.
After you have tried out the above for a few months, sit down and look at how far you have come. Have you remained faithful? Has it brought any positive change in your financial situation? What about in your marriage? Is there anything you feel you need to adjust? Do away with anything that is not useful and add anything you feel will work better for you. This doesn’t mean that you loosen the belt though.
Review every month and generally talk about finances more often. Make plans and set targets that are achievable to avoid disappointment and too much strain. Remember not to compete or compare yourselves to anyone else because your situation is different from theirs.
By now you should of course have had the ‘my money, our money’ discussion. And hopefully you came to the conclusion that there is no more ‘my money’ no matter how much each of you makes. It all becomes yours (plural) meaning that both of you have a right to ask questions and seek explanations. You could however set aside a small amount for individual use so that none of you feels imprisoned by the new rules.
Financial integrity goes a long way in building marital trust and therefore a stronger union. You will be better placed to build your investments together once you trust each other with money. Your financial future remains intact as well as your marriage. Don’t let something as fleeting as money take control of your home and rob you of a happy life with your spouse.