64% of Couples Have Committed "Financial Infidelity"—How to Stop It in Your Relationship
This habit may be common—but that doesn't mean it's OK, according to experts.
Ever stashed a package in your closet, cleared your browser shopping history, or deleted email receipts to keep your partner in the dark about your purchases? Apparently, there's a term for this—"financial infidelity"—and it's a lot more common than you might think.
A recent study by Circuit found that 64 percent of people who live with their partners have resorted to these habits within the last year, spending an average of $475 behind their partners' backs. It may seem harmless, but Circuit's study showed the opposite to be true: 1 in 4 participants say these behaviors constitute cheating, and 1 in 10 say hidden purchases hurt more than an emotional affair. Another 1 in 10 admit that this habit negatively impacted their sex life.
"Financial infidelity breaches the trust that's foundational to a healthy partnership," says Taylor Kovar, a certified financial planner and CEO at The Money Couple and Kovar Wealth Management. "This form of dishonesty can lead to significant stress, conflict, and a sense of betrayal."
Don't let financial infidelity erode the trust and intimacy in your relationship. Ahead, experts share the four best ways to avoid this destructive habit.
Work on creating a "safe space" in the relationship.
According to Jason Powell, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Attached Therapy, hiding purchases usually indicates a deeper fear of vulnerability.
"If someone feels compelled to hide their spending, they likely feel a similar degree of discomfort around sharing their sexual wants, needs, and level of satisfaction in the relationship," he explains.
For this reason, Kovar strongly recommends fostering an environment of open and non-judgmental communication within the relationship.
"Couples should strive to create a safe space where they can discuss their financial views, habits, and concerns without fear of negative repercussions," he explains. "This involves actively listening, showing empathy, and working together to understand each other's money personalities and financial goals."
These efforts will help cultivate a sense of emotional safety, which will ensure that neither of you feels the need to hide purchases in the first place.
Set clear boundaries around spending.
Danielle K. Roberts, a co-founder of the finance council at Boomer Benefits, advises making sure you're on the same page about what kinds of financial decisions you need to consult each other about.
"The occasional personal indulgence is understandable if agreed upon cooperatively," she explains. However, it's best to discuss expensive purchases before making them—and this is especially crucial if you're using a joint debit or credit card.
Maybe you can decide on a reasonable monthly allowance for each of you to use for whatever personal wants and needs—whether that includes new clothing, dinners out with friends, or other personal items and experiences. Or, you might agree that you need to consult each other about purchases above a certain amount.
Whatever you decide, make sure it aligns with your financial goals. The idea here is to ensure there are no misunderstandings, not to make it feel like you need "permission" to treat yourself once in a while.
Schedule regular check-ins.
"Money often represents more than just currency—it's tied to deeper issues of power, control, and self-esteem," explains Kovar. "When individuals feel insecure or unfulfilled in these areas, they might resort to secretive financial behaviors. Additionally, societal pressures and the stigma around discussing money openly contribute to this phenomenon."
This is why Kovar and Sarah Keys, a certified divorce financial analyst and senior vice president at Wealth Enhancement Group, suggest scheduling regular discussions with your partner about money. This is a topic many couples like to avoid, and by taking a proactive approach and putting a monthly or yearly date on the calendar for these talks, you can ensure you don't sweep potential issues under the rug.
"Doing this has the added benefit of allowing you to regularly monitor your progress toward your financial goals—and reflect on how your spending might be impacting the longer term," Keys tells Best Life.
Consider working with a financial planner.
"Money is like the third wheel in many relationships, and it's a topic that can stir up a lot of emotions," says Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner and founder of Good Financial Cents. "Couples often fail to have candid conversations about their financial values, goals, and habits."
If money conversations with your partner tend to always escalate, you may want to consider working with a certified financial planner. According to Rose, they can serve as a mediator—creating a safe environment in which to discuss these potentially triggering topics, while also helping you and your partner to find common ground and strike compromises on spending as needed.
Another option? Working with a couples therapist, who can help you and your partner to understand and empathize with each other's money mindsets and address the deeper reasons why you might be having these financial disagreements.
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