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  • Writer's pictureThe Gadfly

The word 'infidelity' generally suggests an unfaithful partner, but a form of marital betrayal that often goes unnoticed and is rarely discussed, even though its impact is far more insidious and damaging than the traditional concept of cheating – I am speaking of financial infidelity.

This term refers to the act of one spouse hiding or lying about financial matters in a relationship. Whether secret purchases or hidden bank accounts or undisclosed major debt, financial infidelity can cover a broad spectrum of marital sins.

Although it may not have the same raw emotional wounds associated with marital infidelity, financial infidelity strikes at the very foundation of a partnership: trust. Worse, it can leave lasting real-world effects, such as ruined credit scores, accrued debt, and even legal issues – All of which can be more challenging to recover from than an extramarital affair.


Trust, a foundational pillar in any relationship, is severely compromised by financial infidelity. While an affair can undoubtedly shatter trust, the deceit involved in financial infidelity often runs deeper and lasts longer. It's not uncommon for financial indiscretions to span years or decades, with the offending party perpetuating their acts with elaborate lies maintaining the façade.

The discovery of such deceit can be a devastating blow, leading to the same feelings of betrayal and confusion that match, if not exceed, those experienced in the aftermath of an affair. Discovering that a spouse has been systematically lying about financial matters can trigger deep-seated insecurities and doubts about all aspects of the relationship.

43% of U.S. adults who've combined finances in a relationship confessed to committing financial deception at some point.

Men were more likely than women (47% vs. 39%) to admit to financial deceit.

Interestingly, neither wealth nor homeownership appear statistically to influence the likelihood of financial deception occurring.

Reasons people gave for their financial deception:

1. 38% felt some aspects of finances should remain private.

2. 34% feared their partner's disapproval.

3. 3% were embarrassed or fearful about their financial situation.

4. Over 80% of those involved in financial deception reported serious repercussions in their relationship, including:

- Causing arguments (42%)

- Eroding trust (32%)

- Reducing privacy (20%)

- Leading to separation or divorce (16%)

Per the National Endowment for Financial Education


Unlike marital infidelity, the repercussions of financial infidelity are not confined to the emotional realm of betrayal and jealousy. Financial dishonesty can result in severe economic consequences that extend far beyond the relationship itself. Credit scores can be ruined, savings depleted, and debt incurred, all without the knowledge or consent of one partner. In extreme cases, individuals may find themselves legally liable for their partner's hidden financial misdeeds.

The financial fallout from such deception can be ruinous, leaving individuals in precarious economic situations long after the relationship has ended. In contrast, the aftermath of a marital affair, while emotionally taxing, typically doesn't result in such profound financial instability.


Another significant factor that makes financial infidelity potentially worse than marital infidelity is the recovery time involved. Healing from an affair is an emotionally taxing process, but with time, therapy, and commitment, many couples can rebuild their relationship.

However, recovering from financial infidelity is a multifaceted endeavor that encroaches on and involves all aspects of one’s life. Not only must the couple address the breach of trust and mend their emotional bonds (if they can), but they also must face the daunting task of repairing their financial health. The process of paying down debt, rebuilding credit, and replenishing savings is a long and stressful journey that can take years, if not decades, to complete.


Financial infidelity, often an overlooked form of betrayal, can deliver a debilitating blow to both the emotional and financial health of a relationship. The erosion of trust, the economic repercussions, and the prolonged recovery period make it a potentially more damaging transgression than marital infidelity.

As such, it's crucial for healthy couples to promote financial transparency, fostering open discussions about money matters, and ensuring that both parties are involved in financial decision-making. In doing so, they stand a far better chance of safeguarding their relationship against the ugly threat of financial infidelity. The strength of any relationship lies in fortifying the partnership's emotional and financial integrity.


In the face of the substantial emotional and financial damage that financial infidelity can cause, couples cannot afford to treat financial matters as taboo subjects in their relationships. Here are some tips and strategies to foster healthy financial relationships.

1. Initiate Dialogue: Begin open and honest conversations about financial habits, goals, and fears.

2. Set Shared Goals: Understand each other's financial perspectives and establish shared financial goals.

3. Draft a Joint Budget: Agree on a joint budget to prevent overspending and maintain financial transparency.

4. Regular Check-Ins: Schedule routine financial discussions to keep both parties informed and engaged.

5. Professional Guidance: Seek help from financial advisors or couple's counselors when needed to manage finances and address emotional challenges.

6. Commit to Transparency: Make financial transparency a priority in your relationship to prevent financial infidelity.



When Megan married Jonathan 12 years ago, she was delighted that he appeared to have his financial life in order. He promised to manage the couple's finances, a responsibility Megan was happy to delegate to him. However, a few years later, Megan discovered

a shocking secret that her husband had been concealing.

During a meeting with their accountant for tax preparation, Megan learned that Jonathan's income was nearly double the amount he had claimed. When confronted about this discrepancy and questioned about the whereabouts of the extra money, Jonathan confessed to a gambling addiction. Contrary to what Megan believed, they had minimal savings

and a significant debt accrued from his gambling activities.

Megan was taken aback by this revelation, unsure whether the disturbing reality of their financial situation or the web of deceit Jonathan had woven was more alarming. The financial fallout from this betrayal was extremely challenging to recover from, demonstrating that financial infidelity can be as damaging, if not more so, than other forms of infidelity. In retrospect, Megan recognized that her decision to let Jonathan exclusively handle their finances opened the door to many marital problems. When one partner has complete financial control, it can potentially create an environment conducive to financial infidelity. She wished they had discussed important issues from the beginning rather than waiting until a problem arose.

This case highlights the importance of open financial communication in relationships and the need for both partners to participate in managing their shared finances. It also underscores the devastating impact of financial infidelity, particularly when fueled by addiction, and the importance of addressing potential red flags promptly to prevent such situations.


[1] From Forbes article dated Sept. 9, 2021, ‘Financial Infidelity – How to spot it, how to stop it, and how to make sure it never happens to you again’

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