The Aftermath of Financial Infidelity

Dave his wife just came clean about hiding money from him. How does he handle it? He’s at a loss. Dave advises handling the lying as well as the financial part of the equation.

QUESTION: Dave on Facebook says his wife just came clean about hiding money from him. How does he handle it? He’s at a loss. Dave advises handling the lying as well as the financial part of the equation.

ANSWER: Both of you have got to talk about this for what it really is: she lied. When you lie to your spouse about anything, especially something as big as the family’s future by hiding debt or money, that’s a major breach of trust. As a matter of fact, most counselors will tell you it’s somewhat akin to infidelity—so much so that some of us have taken to calling it financial infidelity. The way you handle it is you treat it that way. She needs to understand that this is a major breach of trust and this is not something we can continue to do ever again in any shape or form and our marriage survive. And she needs to understand it’s going to be a while before your trust in her is earned back, and it will be earned by behavior. If you sense there’s real sorrow there and she’s really going to turn away from this stupidity and she grasps what I’m saying, then yes, you need to forgive this and you need to move on.

Going forward, we have a whole new program, and the program is that both of you handle the money together. No money is spent in this household ever again without both of you knowing where it’s going. Before the month begins—every single month—there’s a budget done. Spend all of your income on paper, on purpose, and both of you agree, and both of you have a vote, and both of you stick to that every month from now on. The more months that go by like that, the more your trust in her and your respect is going to be rebuilt. But it’s going to start out at a pretty low level.

Depending on how angry and hurt you are, you may want to sit down with a counselor and unpack some of this. It’s not a bad thing to have a marriage counselor get involved in you working through this with her. This stuff ticks people off and will end a marriage. Lots of couples survive this, and I suggest you give surviving it a shot so long as she gets the fact that this is not just cute. Some people think it’s cute to hide the Target bags under the bed. I don’t think it’s cute; I think it’s lying. Lying is not cute. It’s not how a relationship is built. It’s deception, and we have to call it what it is. She’s got to grasp what’s going on here and that it has to change. And then you can turn this around and begin to survive.

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