Financial infidelity can come in many forms. It doesn’t necessarily mean the other person is using the money for something as extreme as drugs, gambling, or an extra-marital affair.
It can come in less obvious forms and be as simple as one person surprising the other with a luxurious vacation, while hiding the fact he or she had to max out credit cards and drain the emergency fund to do so.
So what do you do if you discover your partner has committed financial infidelity?
Ask why your partner is doing this.
Getting to the root of the problem is important in your understanding of why it occurred and how to move forward from it. Is there an addiction at play (shopping or otherwise)? Does your partner not understand the consequences of his or her bad financial habits? Does he or she simply not respect your financial goals? Talk to your partner about what influenced this decision-making. You may find there were good intentions, but bad judgment. Arriving at a place of understanding will help you move forward together.
Ask whether there are larger issues at hand.
Financial infidelity can often be just the tip of the iceberg. This is an opportunity to take a deeper look at your relationship. You’ll need to discuss with your partner whether there are larger issues present, such as whether your partner’s long-term goals have changed (i.e. does he or she no longer want to save to start a family?) or whether this spending is tied to stress and anxiety.
Set up a recovery plan.
If you caught your partner before too much damage was done, consider yourself lucky. Sometimes there is a simple resolution, such as returning an expensive purchase or working out a payment plan. However, if your partner has been hiding financial secrets for much longer, then you may want to consider discussing a course of action together with a financial planner or debt attorney. Getting back on track will involve setting clear financial rules and goals that you must both agree to respect. Reassess your budget and re-establish your respective roles when it comes to finances in your relationship.
This can often be the hardest step in recovering from financial infidelity. The key is to keep the lines of communication open and free of judgment. Depending on the severity of your situation and whether there are larger issues at play, you may want to consider going to couples counseling. Be sure to have regular, casual conversations about money, check in on your budget and monthly spending habits, and understand that recovery—financially and emotionally—doesn’t happen overnight.
If your significant other has committed financial infidelity, there are ways to recover. The most important thing is to deal with the emotions involved—fear, anger, betrayal—and make a plan to move forward together. Reassess your financial goals, and ensure you aren’t making any other financial mistakes that can put undue stress on your relationship.