Saving a marriage after financial infidelity

Being unfaithful can be an affair of the wallet.

Being unfaithful can be an affair of the wallet.

It’s called financial infidelity; and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Cathy DeWitt Dunn says that’s not an overstatement. “It is cheating--because you are not being honest with your spouse”.

And it doesn’t just happen among the rich, says CPA and Wealth Fulfillment Strategist Holly Signorelli, “This is all income levels.”

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A 2016 survey published by the National Endowment for Financial Education found 42% of adults spend or siphon money without their partner knowing; that’s up from 33% two years earlier.

One man, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, admitted that Internet shopping spawned a web of deceit in his marriage, “Over time it just snowballs.”

He went on a four-year buying frenzy, even making big purchases. That’s a big no-no when it’s done without the knowledge of your partner, says DeWitt Dunn. “Major ticket items - both parties should agree on those.”

The man says the finally tally, “Wound up being about $22,000.” In addition to that, he acknowledges his financial infidelity almost cost him his marriage. “I was afraid she would leave me,” he told us.

On expert advice, he confessed. Signorelli says that is the best thing for the unwitting partner as well as the person who has been keeping financial secrets.

“When you are carrying that around it is like a black cloud that just follows you wherever you go,” she says.

The secret shopper and his wife also followed a recommendation to get marriage counseling. DeWitt Dunn says sometimes that’s the only way for a couple to go forward in cases of financial infidelity.

“I have seen it be very successful with lots of couples I have worked with.”

The man who shared his story says the counseling helped him and his wife to be more open and honest with each other. It also resulted in them being jointly involved in their joint finances. Before the financial infidelity, he says she wasn’t nearly as involved.

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Still, even several years after his confession he says, “Trust is hard to get back once it is broken.” He and his wife are still struggling to rebuild their finances - and their marriage.