Financial Infidelity

by Heinz and Ambie Bulos

Have you ever hidden expenses from your spouse? Or at least, have you ever been tempted to do so?

If you’re reading this with your spouse, you’ll probably deny it to death! But it wouldn’t be surprising if you have done this, even in the distant past. Do you realize this is one way of cheating your spouse? Think of it this way: you’re a team, a single unit. Whatever each of you earns belong to both of you. So if you spend on something and intentionally hid it from your spouse, aren’t you cheating?

Actually, financial infidelity is a big issue. And usually, it’s more than about money. But first of all, let’s talk about the 5 things we hide from our spouse.

The 5 Things You Hide From Your Spouse

No. 1: Hidden Expenses

In most cases, we hide small expenses here and there, usually things that are not really bad but that our spouse frowns upon. For example, drinking expensive coffee, buying yet another pair of shoes, spending on a pricey lunch — these sorts of things. Maybe you’re on a budget. Maybe your spouse doesn’t get why you’re into it. So you spend without telling and keeping receipts. Or it could be something far worse, like illegal drugs, online porn, an illicit affair or anything you’d be ashamed to admit to your spouse.

No. 2: Hidden Debt

You can also hide debt from your spouse. You may have racked up massive credit card debt from your shopping spree or Internet games that you never told your spouse about. Or you may have borrowed from someone without telling your spouse about it. Or you may have brought home a brand new Ducati bike…payable in five years! Whatever it is, you hid your debt from your spouse because you know he or she will not like it.

No. 3: Hidden Income

Got a raise? A mid-year bonus? Another commission? Why report it to your spouse when you can spend it on yourself? No harm done, especially if you’re already providing well for your family, right? It’s only bad if you withheld income while your kids are starving and your spouse is at her wit’s end on where to get money for the rent, right? Right?

No. 4: Hidden Assets

Say your parents gave you a trust fund, donated a piece of land to you, or placed a significant cash gift to your bank account (which you opened without your spouse’s knowledge), before or after you got married. That’s hiding assets from your spouse.

No. 5: Hidden Investments

Your spouse is a spender. Or your spouse is so afraid of risk that she only wants to put your money in the bank. But you know better. So you invest your money responsibly in, say, mutual funds or stocks. But you don’t tell her. That’s not bad, right? After all, this is for her benefit too.

As you can see, sometimes hiding money from your spouse is very black and white. If hiding expenses, income, etc. means harming your family or breaking the trust of your good-willed spouse, then it’s easy to say financial infidelity is bad.

But sometimes it’s a gray area. If there’s no harm done, then a little frivolous purchase here or there should be okay. Or if your spouse is unreasonable or out-of-control that he or she is not capable of being financially responsible, you might as well take matters into your hands and tuck away income or make investments on your own.

However, there is a better way: financial honesty. Being honest, open, and transparent beats hiding, lying, and cheating any time.

That goes back to working as a team and merging your finances as one. If you work on your family budget together and give each other a reasonable, even generous allowance, you can avoid the urge to hide expenses or get into debt. If you plan on your financial goals and financial strategies together, you can avoid hiding income, assets, and investments from your spouse.

What to Do When Your Spouse Keeps Money Secrets From You

But what do you if you’re not in sync yet and you caught your spouse cheating on you financially?

Keeping money secrets from your spouse is more common than we think. In a widespread survey by and SELF magazine on Financial Infidelity, it turns out that 37 percent of men and 56 percent women have lied to their money about money. Why? More than a third said it’s because they disagree about where to spend it. Yet 70 percent believe financial honesty is just as important as being monogamous.

Some experts think there are situations when it’s actually prudent to hide money from your spouse. But except for these extreme situations, it’s better to work on this problem together as a couple.

Now what do you do when you catch your spouse cheating on you financially, whether it’s hiding expenses and debt or income and assets?

No. 1: Keep Calm and Ask for the Facts

Find out the details first before you start attacking your spouse. What happened? How much? For how long? Since when? What else? How was it done? And then most importantly: Why? Getting all the facts — and the motivation — will give you better context on the problem. It may be a minor infringement or it could be something far worse.

No. 2: Thresh Things Out

Go on, lay it all on the table — your resentment and hurts, the negative consequences to your family’s finances, the adverse impact on your relationship. Of course, the intensity of your discussion should be proportional to the degree of the crime. If it’s a small financial fib like lying about the actual price of a new bag that’s a small dent on the budget, you shouldn’t be screaming your lungs out. But if it’s a recurring financial secret that seriously threatens your finances and your relationship, it’s understandable if you go ballistic. However, it’s important to listen as much as to talk.

No. 3: Forgive

This is the hardest part. Just as it is extremely difficult to forgive a sexually cheating spouse, it would also be a huge challenge to learn to forgive and trust your financially cheating partner. This may take time, but eventually you have to. And if you’re a person of faith, this is where lots of prayers and support from your church group will help a lot. Now if you’re the one who caused the problem, you have to admit your fault and beg for forgiveness.

No. 4: Work Out a Plan

You have to lay down the parameters for your partner. If it means cutting off access to a credit card or ATM card, so be it. If it means demanding that he finds a second source of income or sell off some his personal assets to pay off a debt he incurred, let him do it. Now, if you had contributed to the problem, like withholding funds or not involving your spouse in financial decisions, make personal changes, like giving yourselves equal allowances or scheduling regular budget meetings.

No. 5: Work On Your Relationship

More often than not, the real problem is not money but your marriage. Your spouse may have hidden expenses from you because you’re a dictator who dispenses a pittance here and there. Or he may have made investment decisions on his own because you were not interested or supportive in the first place. Resolve to work on your relationship to rebuild your trust. Learn to become real partners in all things, including financial matters.

Heinz and Ambie Bulos writes about couple finance on their blog Money and Your Honey (

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