Friday, December 5, 2008

What if your partner cheated on your finances?

This can happen to anybody: You're happily married. You've got your finances under control. Debt is manageable. You're building a home and family with people you love. And then out of the blue you get a mysterious call asking for your sweetie. They can't pronounce your partner's name so you figure they can't possibly know her/him. So you question the caller in order to deflect an unwanted call, but the caller is unrelenting, so you hand over the phone. As you watch and listen to half the conversation you learn that the caller is from a collection agency. Which can only mean that your honey has been hiding something--something that affects both of you.

That's about how Alex found out about the financial infidelity in her marriage. Though it doesn't always reach the collections stage financial infidelity is the #1 marriage killer. How can you be sure your honey is being true? Well, you can't always tell. It's easy enough for spouses to open secret credit cards and hidden bank accounts. They could sail smoothly along if they pay their secret bills on time and refrain from debt. But people who commit financial infidelity rarely maintain control. There is a reason that they keep these secrets and those reasons often spell trouble for both of you.

According to Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, relationship therapist and author of Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker happens for various reasons, but relationships can survive and overcome damage.

What leads to Financial Infidelity:
  • Financial worth inequities--when one spouse earns less they may feel undervalued. Financial infidelities may make them feel more worthy.

  • Financial abuse--when one partner uses money to control the other. This is similar to inequity, but the controlling partner degrades the other often by keeping too tight of control of spending money. This is not always intentional.

  • Addiction--comes in many forms: shopping, gambling, or any kind of spending.
Dr. Bonnie reassures us the Financial Infidelity can be overcome. For Alex and others in her situation the first step is to clean up the mess. To avoid repeats the partners will have to address the core of the problem.
  • Understand how buying, rewarding, or controlling behavior with money can open the door to lies, betrayals, and affairs

  • Understand how childhood relationships to money and love can create damaging emotional links

  • Separate the value of their relationship from the value of their bank account

  • Disconnect from harmful emotional and financial behaviors in order to reconnect with their partner
Financial infidelity doesn't have to be the end of your relationship. It does however take patience to work through. And just because you've solved one incident doesn't guarantee there won't be others. But then marriage isn't all flowers and chocolate and neither is life. Remember, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Hey December is Engagement Month. More couple's become engaged in December than in February. And since this is a credit union blog--I'm going to take a look at the financials of love all week.

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