The word “infidelity” is pretty common these days, with examples daily in the news. Celebrities, neighbors and friends all have a story to tell about how they have been betrayed by their partner’s sexual indiscretions. Usually we think about infidelity as sexual or emotional betrayal, being lied to and deceived by a partner in the worst way that we can imagine. But there’s another type of infidelity that is becoming more common, and that is of financial infidelity. This type of cheating pushes at the hot button for many relationships and marriages- that of money and finances.
Financial infidelity is defined as being dishonest with your partner, either blatantly or by omission, about what you have done with the family finances. Examples are running up credit cards into the thousands, forging a partner’s signature to open a new loan or credit line, hiding large debts or financial obligations, all without your partner’s knowledge or consent. Being dishonest about money is a form of cheating, just like sexual or emotional cheating, because you have lied and broken your partner’s trust in the relationship. Just like sexual cheating, financial infidelity can be devastating to the relationship. A loss of intimacy, loss of trust, or loss of hope for the future is all common feelings and reactions when this type of behavior happens.
Now, some of you may think that a few little lies about money can’t hurt anyone, right? Fudging a little about how much you spent for that last pair of shoes or that great new fishing rod can’t be harmful. Well, there are lies and then there are LIES. While it may be true that a lie of $20 dollars may not be harmful, racking up $5000 dollars without discussing it with your partner ahead of time could be very harmful. In a recent Redbook survey, 96% of couples thought that it was their partner’s responsibility to be open and honest about finances. So, is it okay to lie about a small purchase that you made? Telling a lie, ANY lie, is a trust eroding behavior. As with any behavior, starting with a little bit of a lie can turn quickly into a big lie. And the person telling the lie doesn’t feel very good either.
So, what can a couple that has experienced financial infidelity do to begin rebuilding the relationship? The steps involved are similar to any other betrayal and how to trust again.
Be transparent. The first step in rebuilding trust involves both partners being fully accountable for their actions when it comes to finances. This means giving one another information about, as well as access to, all financial records, such as credit card statements, bank accounts, loans, etc. Information like this may be extremely uncomfortable to disclose, but it is crucial to begin repairing the financial damage that has been done, it also demonstrates an openness that is necessary if trust is to be rebuilt.
Work together to create a financial recovery plan. This is extremely important- especially when the financial cheating has affected the both of you, and your credit. Working together to create a recovery plan helps to build trust, and to begin accountability with each other. Your plan might include steps for repaying the debt, creating a budget, and working with a credit counseling agency.
Compromise. It is not possible for both people in a relationship to always get their way when it comes to money. You and your partner both have valid points of view about spending, saving and investing that you both need to acknowledge. Try to understand your partner’s particular financial style and be willing to meet in the middle. This will allow both of you to get at least some of what you want which, in turn, will lead to greater trust in one another.
Remember, it takes time to rebuilding trust between you and your partner. Rebuilding trust is a process that will occur gradually over time as you both follow these positive steps. Consistency is everything, so make time to sit down with your partner on a regular basis to talk about how things are going and re-evaluate your financial goals. You will be amazed at the progress that is being made.
What Fear Factor? Take It On, Stare It Down, Overcome Objections
Whether it’s New Year’s resolutions, a milestone birthday bucket list or a lifetime manifest of places to visit and food to eat, more than half of us create a catalog of events, goals and objectives. Achieving these goals is a road often blocked by one major factor: fear. Fear of imperfect results, unattainable goals, possible failure despite numerous attempts, distractions, expectations of others, big steps taken too soon and focusing on only the goal while ignoring the journey add up to an ambitious agenda too often shelved in favor of a safe existence, wondering about what could have, should have and would have been possible.
Money’s a factor in life’s bucket list; here’s how to face fiscal fears and move forward:
Take on the fear, don’t let it take over you
People afraid of their money will leave bank statements unopened, creditor calls unanswered and fail to track important money markers such as overdrafts, credit score, credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit in use each month versus the total amount available) and credit history. They don’t want to know where they stand; they’re afraid of how bad things might be if they peek at the numbers. Keeping tabs on your financial health is as important as the annual visits to the doctor and dentist; monitoring your fiscal baseline now means fewer problems in the future, and the ability to act fast if fraud appears on a financial statement.
Create a concrete plan for life
Money does not create order in your life. You create order in your life, with money as the constructive framework. Start saving early and put money away for what’s needed and wanted. Set up checking and savings accounts, an emergency fund, retirement savings at work (and take it with you via transfer to any new job), and specialized accounts for living expenses, entertainment and large purchases, including a home, car and vacations. A budget is a necessity, whether on paper, spreadsheet or budget software. Track what comes in and how it’s spent, and you’ll never wonder why you’re broke halfway through the month, or find yourself saying “I can’t go, I’ve got no money” when friends suggest dinner out.
Write down any objections and answer them
Think about previous money issues that stopped you from fulfilling your goals. Write out a list of why things didn’t go as planned. Then respond in writing to each scenario; how you intend to fix the situation before you say the words “I’m afraid” or “I can’t.” Now there’s a ready response next time the fear of possible financial failure looms and emotions derail your dreams. Your finances, now on firm ground, support your life, your bucket list or that once-in-a-lifetime travel adventure.
Attempting to broach any serious conversation with a loved one can lead to major anxiety depending on the topic at hand. Over the years, it has become more accepted to have frank discussions regarding a litany of subjects that were, at one time, considered too sensitive to approach.
The money discussion seems to have remained the steadfast untouchable topic among some. However, open and honest discussion about money issues with friends and family doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable chore. Here are some easy-to-follow tips on opening up the lines of communication about money with those nearest and dearest to you.
- Start Slow – You may want to ease into the money conversation, especially with regards to older family members who may not be as open to frank money discussions. Maybe bring up a recent news item that is topical and could lead to a deeper discussion about money matters.
- Remember You Are Not Alone – Money stress and worries are very common. It may surprise you to find that issues you are grappling with are issues for those you love as well. Finding common ground can help the discussion stay friendly and useful for all involved.
- Stay on Point – When discussing something as personal as finances, it can be easy to veer off topic or begin to accuse or object. You may find that breaking the talk up into smaller talks held over a longer period of time is more effective.
- Comparison is the Thief of Joy – Try to avoid comparing your financial situation with that of your loved one. We all have our own stories and we may be only receiving one side. Focus on your own situation in the midst of money discussions. If your discussion is one of concern or an attempt to help your loved one, try to remain focused on their current financial fitness and your role as listener.
The goal in any potentially awkward discussion is to remain focused, calm, and reasonable. This is important even in the face of a discussion partner who may not always approach things the same way. If a discussion begins to go “south” it is probably best to take a step back and attempt to address the issue at a later date. Money discussions do not have to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. If you concentrate on the purpose behind the discussion and the connections you have (and want to maintain) with those involved in the conversation, the result can be win-win for everyone.