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Dealing with financial infidelity

By Dr. Don Taylor ·
Monday, February 24, 2014
Posted: 11 am ET

Consumers have their own credit history. Couples will see joint accounts and authorized users on individual accounts show up on both credit reports, but they don't have joint credit reports. The potential to hide finances from your partner creates the possibility of "financial infidelity."

The National Endowment for Financial Education released survey results on Valentine's Day about couples suggesting that financial infidelity is just as significant among couples as emotional and sexual infidelity. "According to the new survey, 1 in 3 couples who combine their finances admit to lying to their partner about money. The survey also finds that 76 percent of financial deceptions have an effect on the relationship."

"People commit financial infidelity because although they are sharing everything with their partner or spouse, they believe that certain parts of their financial situation still should remain private,” says Patricia Seaman, senior director with NEFE. "Additionally, people are afraid of what their partner is going to say, how they will be judged or they may be embarrassed.”

So what does NEFE say about identifying the problem and working toward a solution?

Warning signs. Red flags that financial infidelity may be an issue in a relationship may be as simple as coming across a receipt or a piece of paper indicating a purchase that you don't recognize, or not seeing copies of every bill each month. "Another significant indicator may be that your partner or spouse is defensive or withdrawn when the topic of money is brought up," Seaman says.

Approaching your partner. Confronting your partner is a tough thing to face. According to Seaman, you must accept that it will be stressful. She says the best way to approach the situation is to first know what you want out of the conversation before you have it, and not to approach your partner by saying "we have to talk." You also must be careful not to sabotage your partner by inviting them to a dinner or movie night and then hitting them with the topic by surprise.

Getting on the same page. Seaman says in order to rebuild trust, you must explain to your partner the following: "I've done some spending you don't know about, and I want to make sure we get on the same page and create goals today that we can stick to."

Rebuilding trust after financial infidelity occurs. After you or your partner has come clean about committing financial infidelity, you must accept that it will take time to rebuild the trust you once had. "It will take sustained transparency in all communication, and it takes a commitment from both to stick to the goals that you've set together," says Seaman.

Have you experienced financial infidelity? Did you work through it? If so, what got you through it?

Follow me on Twitter: @drdonsays.

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