Dina and her husband eventually bought a house and new car. Everything seemed to be fine until, "The phone rang one day when I was home alone. It was our electric company. They told me our electric bill was quite delinquent and wanted to know when we would be making a payment."
Dina continues "I was shocked. Up till this time my husband was handling all the bills. I trusted that everything was being taken care of properly. When I told my husband about the call, he dismissed it saying that he had simply overlooked the bill and would call them and take care of it." That incident, according to Dina, wasn't eyebrow-raising. She brushed it off as a simple oversight. It would be several months later before Dina found out that her husband had been keeping a secret.
The creditor calls starting calling one after the other. When Dina confronted her husband, she could hardly believe what she heard. Several of their joint credit cards had been maxed out, their bank account was all but empty, and their mortgage, car, and nearly everything else was delinquent.
Dina said, "At first I couldn't even cry. I was breathless. I asked my husband if he had a substance abuse problem, which he vehemently denied. I wanted to know what happened to everything we worked so hard to build. I found out that my husband had a cut in pay several months earlier due to company-wide budget cuts. He said that he didn't tell me because he didn't want me to worry. Yet, he continued to spend as if nothing had changed." Eventually Dina and her husband were forced to declare bankruptcy, but it was too late to save their house and car.
Another woman *Angie, had been the one keeping a secret from her husband. She loved to shop and soon found herself keeping several credit cards that her husband knew nothing about. At first it wasn't a big deal, because she had a very well-paying job and could pay her secret credit cards without endangering the family budget. However, Angie would soon receive devastating news--she was a young woman with inoperable cancer. After she could no longer work, her husband soon learned that Angie had racked up nearly $100,000 in solitary credit card debt. Sadly, Angie lost her battle with cancer, leaving her husband to care for their young children--and the hidden debt she had left behind.
While studies have shown that women are more likely to carry financial secrets, as the latter case shows, both men and women are equally capable of destructive financial infidelity. According to a survey at Forbes.com, greater than 60% of men and women believe that financial and sexual fidelity are equally important. So what can you do to have transparency in this critical area?
Discuss financial matters openly. Do not ever feel that any financial area is "off limits." As a married couple, any financial discrepancies on the part of one, affects the other or the entire family.
Handle the family budget together. If one partner is not as adept with handling money, this provides an opportunity to find a good system that works for the family, and to gain valuable experience in how to manage money. Make sure that both of you know what bills and credit cards you have, and the balances of all bank accounts.
Before opening lines of credit or a secret bank account: Ask yourself 'How would I feel if my spouse did this behind my back?' Then take a long, hard look at the underlying reasons as to why you want to do this without your partner's knowledge.
Decide and agree together on how much individual spending money each of you have each month--and stick to that amount. If anything needs to change, discuss it with your spouse beforehand.
Financial infidelity can indeed be devastating to a marriage. By keeping all of your money matters lucid, you lessen the possibility of indiscretions with money and increase the trust you have in each other.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.