Financial Infidelity: When Money and Love Collide

12 Dec

Lack of communication is one of the greatest destroyers of relationships, how do we bring up the highly sensitive subject of financial infidelity? And why is money such a loaded issue to begin with?

Young couple arguing about high domestic bills to pay with laptop and documents, unhappy family having conflict disagreement discussing unpaid debt or money problems sitting together on sofa at home

Money is a loaded subject, of that there is no doubt. But do couples strive to address it enough?

When we move topics of conversation to the back-burner, they become neglected. Only when we smell something burning do we finally return our attention to the source, by which time it can be too late. Rather than having a civil conversation well in advance, there’s now a fire to put out and you’re in emergency mode.

Lack of communication is one of the greatest destroyers of relationships. Avoiding subjects produces a vicious cycle of denial, frustration and avoidance. But how to break it? And why is money such a loaded issue to begin with?

The power of money

According to the fifth annual Love and Money survey by TD Bank, 31% of millennials would consider breaking up with their partner if they discovered hidden debt or a bad credit score. What’s more, 27% keep a financial secret from their partner, the most common being significant credit card debt. 59% of Americans make impulsive financial decisions, even when they know they’re making an ill-judged choice.

Living as we do in something of a materialistic culture, there is a cultural bias towards valuing not only things but also the processes that enable us to possess those things. Money doesn’t just allow us to live; it defines our status. Money lets us forge relationships more easily and influences how others perceive us — and how we perceive ourselves. With so much on the line, it’s little wonder that money is such a volatile subject within relationships.

The prospect of navigating the financial landscape of one’s love life can be daunting, but many couples do manage it. You too can learn to pool your respective resources and successfully create a shared life that far exceeds what the two of you might be able to hope for individually.

What can couples do to avoid financial infidelity?

It is paramount to a strong and healthy relationship that couples are open and honest about their financial situations and concerns. Hiding something out of guilt or embarrassment solves nothing; in fact, it only exacerbates the problem. When it comes out, it comes out in a big way.

So what can couples do to overcome — or even avoid altogether — financial infidelity?

  • Take responsibility. Quit the blame game. There’s no point telling your partner that they’ve done wrong. They’re feeling shame a lot more than you’re feeling anger. Instead, focus on how to be an effective agent in your financial conversations. How can you move together in the right direction?
  • Don’t be defensive. Stop trying to justify yourself; you’re only expending energy. Acknowledge the truth and think deeply about how you can contribute to the situation in order to improve it.
  • Find common ground. Clarify the goals that you and your partner share. Start with these. Save the more challenging financial issues until after you’ve experienced some relative successes in discussing lesser, more straightforward monetary situations.
  • Be creative. Use your imagination to come up with some ways of bringing more enjoyment into your life that don’t require a huge amount of financial input.
  • Practice restraint. Self-discipline is key when it comes to impulse buying. Remind yourself how good it will feel to live guilt-free and with vastly improved peace of mind.

The future of your finances

Since 2015, communication between millennials about finances with their partners has risen 21%. 94% of millennial couples discuss the subject on at least a weekly basis. However, the Love and Money survey also found that millennials are still more likely than other generations to argue with their significant others about money. Nearly 40% admit to fighting about finances at least once a week, compared to just 14% of Gen X’ers and 5% of baby boomers.

The most important aspect of your finances as a couple is — as with any other aspect — communication. Setting boundaries for spending is critical to staying on track and building your financial health as one. Consider your money decisions as a duo and establish a financial system and long-term plan that is genuinely reflective of your unified goals.

If you and your partner are struggling to talk about money, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Financial infidelity is a common problem in relationships, but The Vida Consultancy can help. Our in-house relationship coach and dating expert Madeleine Mason Roantree has over 15 years’ experience helping couples work through all manner of relationship issues, including the often highly sensitive subject of financial infidelity. Get in touch with Vida today and let’s get you talking openly, honestly and candidly about money with your partner.

by Rachel Vida MacLynn

Founder & CEO

Rachel Vida MacLynn is reputed as being a world-leading matchmaking and dating expert. Registered as a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, Rachel advocates a professional matchmaking approach based on psychological principles and professional consultation.More by this author

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