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Bad Romance: How Financial Infidelity Can Wreck Your Marriage

By HERWriter Guide
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Bad Romance: Financial Infidelity Can Wreck Your Marriage PS Productions/PhotoSpin

There are many reasons for a marriage to end. One common cause is financial problems between couples. Being poor or rich isn’t always the issue — it’s financial compatibility that causes the trouble.

Maybe one partner spends too much, and the other is too cheap and won’t spend anything at all. Maybe both are spenders when they don’t have the resources to enjoy that luxury.

As much as sexual infidelity can tear a couple apart, financial infidelity can too. Both employ lies, hidden activities and disloyal acts, and cheating with money is a surefire way to test the trust a marriage depends on.

With the holiday season ending, the month of January is often the start of large bills rolling in, and the beginning of a financial hangover.

The thrill of the purchase is over and the reality sets in that again, this year, too much has been spent in the heat of the moment and there simply isn’t enough money to pay off what was bought on credit.

Sure, it can be cute to buy a new dress and pretend you got it in the sales last year when your husband asks you if it’s new. Or when he purchases another man “toy” that he swears he needs and will do great things for the house/car/garden.

But when these kinds of purchases start veering towards big ticket items and compulsive shopping, spouses can end up lying about costs, hiding purchases and receipts, and even taking out new credit cards without their partner’s knowledge or forging their signatures.

In most cases, the clock is ticking on how long a spouse can get away with this kind of financial cheating. They get caught when credit reports are checked, when bills are found stashed away somewhere, or when creditors start calling for past due payments the other spouse knows nothing about.

Financial infidelity can hurt like romantic infidelity, and it can feel similar. Affected spouses know that they've been seriously let down.

They know that words have been spoken and actions have been done behind their backs, and that they have deliberately been lied to. This marks a huge display of cheating and disloyalty that can’t always be forgiven.

A Kansas State University study found that arguing about money was a dangerous sign in marriage.

Researcher Sonya Britt looked at information gathered from 4,500 couples in a national survey and noted that the earlier the fighting began in the relationship, the more likely it was that the marriage would end over financial disagreements.

Britt found that money, more than sex or any other factor, was the main cause of marriage stressors and ultimately, separation of couples.

But why is it money more than other issues like sex or children or work? Because, Britt found, the effects of money's use or abuse went far deeper than just spending. Financial abuse shows a lack of faith and trust in each other, which causes a further, and deeper, rift.

There was also the factor of who held the power and control in a relationship — and money often dictated this.

To show how rampant financial infidelity is, a new survey of 2,035 U.S. adults by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that one in every three people in the United States have lied or deceived their partners financially.

While three-quarters of those surveyed said that it caused a negative impact on their relationship, one-third said it caused less trust in the relationship, and one-tenth said it ultimately caused their divorce.

Financial infidelity can cause the loss of jobs or a home, ruined credit and can split a family apart. If you have been hiding your financial cheating, let your partner know that things have gotten out of hand and that you need help.

There are financial advisers and credit bureaus that offer free advice on getting yourself out of financial trouble without ruining your credit or filing bankruptcy.

Not only could you destroy your own credit but that of a loved one. Better to be honest now, than have an avalanche of bills and creditors fall down upon you when it’s time to pay the piper.

Your spouse may be angry now but will ultimately appreciate your admission. Your financial health, and your marriage, could depend on it.


The Huffington Post. Divorce. “Divorce Study: Financial Arguments Early In Relationship May Predict Divorce”. Web. Retrieved January 8th, 2015.

The Huffington Post. Divorce. “1 In 3 People Admit To Lying About Money To Their Partner, Survey Shows”. Web. Retrieved January 8th, 2015.

Reviewed January 12, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments


Great Article, Susan - Thank You!

January 26, 2015 - 8:11am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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