YOU’RE A PARCHED PLANT
At some point, you may have developed some unhealthy financial infidelity habits, whether it’s in the form of faulty money communication patterns or a few “minor” money secrets. What you’re keeping from your spouse is, in turn, keeping you from having those necessary, honest, day-to-day conversations.
Don’t worry—there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! You’re just lacking a bit of extra water to keep your relationship thriving. It shouldn’t take a ton of effort to get out of this rut and into a better position for those financial talks; either way, it’s worth identifying and discussing the differences in your individual Money Personalities to prevent any other bad habits from forming.
Time to get to watering!
HERE ARE YOUR GROWTH STEPS:
WASH THE ROOTS
LAY FRESH SOIL
STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THERAPY OR CONFERENCES
REPLANT YOUR LOVE
BE HOPEFUL & WORK TOWARD
WINNING WITH YOUR MONEY
LET’S DIG DEEPER AND ESTABLISH NEW GROWTH!
WASH THE ROOTS: IDENTIFY POOR MONEY/RELATIONAL MANAGEMENT
You may not be too far off from a healthy money relationship, but secrets could still be lurking!
In order to shake off any bad seeds or put an end to existing unhealthy patterns, you need to be able to identify them. Look into patterns not only in your relationship, but in your money choices as well.
We’ve learned from experience that if you don’t have an issue talking about challenging or intimate issues in your relationship, you most likely won’t have an issue talking openly and honestly about money.
LAY FRESH SOIL: STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THERAPY OR CONFERENCES
Relational tune-ups are a MUST! It’s important to give your relationship the TLC it needs to keep things running smoothly.
It’s just like having a car: to make sure everything is working properly, tune-ups are due after a certain mileage. These “maintenance checks” can come in the form of marriage conferences, marriage counseling, or Bible studies focused on marriage.
Studies indicate that couples who complete a full therapy journey benefit in more ways than one and show significant improvement in their relationship. Don’t let weird therapy myths stop you from recovering your marriage!
REPLANT YOU LOVE: BE HOPEFUL & WORK TOWARD WINNING YOUR MONEY CHOICES, DAILY
Numerous studies indicate the power of hope in a relationship. Some researchers even suggest that hope is one of the top two to three things that predict the outcome of therapy.
So then—why not have hope and start working together?
There is purpose in hope; it says that believing in something will allow it to come to pass. If you hope for the best, your behaviors start to lend themselves to that reality.
With hope, changed actions, and some basic money skills, the two of you can absolutely win with money in your relationship.
Whether you’re worried about things getting worse or surprised by the existence of financial infidelity in your relationship, you’re making the right move by not taking the matter lightly.
Don’t get us wrong—you and your spouse are in good shape. Most of us experience a taste of financial infidelity at some point in our marriage. It’s not time to panic and hire a lawyer, but it is time for some introspection. Whatever money habits caused one of you to stray into infidelity territory can and should be acknowledged and addressed, and there’s no time like the present to do so.
Without making any drastic changes, you can course-correct and repair whatever breaches of trust may have happened. Taking preventative measures now will keep money from becoming a bigger sticking point and causing more significant problems down the road.
Diagnose Potential Problems
Anticipating a problem is always easier than treating it after the fact. Nevertheless, it’s still hard to have the foresight to deal with something before it becomes a setback. That’s where you’re at with your financial infidelity—acknowledging the potential for things to escalate and making sure they don’t.
Finding a problem at its root requires a lot of honest introspection. It means you have to open up about things that might seem like a trivial nuisance, but could become exaggerated if you just ignore them.
Discover Your Money Personalities
If you haven’t already done so, this part is a must. Your relationship to money and each other becomes so much easier to define when you understand why you spend or save the way you do.
Until you accept that everyone has their own personality as it relates to finance, you default to thinking there’s a right way and a wrong way to manage your funds. People end up taking a “my way or the highway” approach, which only leads to resentment and sets the stage for future financial infidelity.
If you’re a Saver, it can be hard to live with a Spender. If you’re a Risk Taker, the apprehensiveness of a Security Seeker might drive you bonkers. If you live in a household with conflicting Money Personalities and have no idea why you’re always at odds, it’s a lot more difficult to sit down and talk about a solution.
Learn about your tendencies and those of your spouse. Figure out the spending/saving habits that you each embody that might trigger one another. You might not know it, but your daily trip to Starbucks for a $3 coffee could be the very thing causing your husband or wife to lose their mind when looking over the budget every week.
With a relatively low financial infidelity score, you might solve everything just by gaining a better understanding of the personality contrasts that exist in your home. He spends freely while you need more security? No problem, just figure out a budget that meets both of your needs. Suddenly those errant coffee purchases that used to feel like lies are just part of your husband’s personal routine and they don’t take away from the funds you want to sock away for retirement. Everyone’s a winner and hardly anything had to change.
Consider Past Missteps
After people discover their Money Personalities, identifying problematic behavior from the past becomes an enlightening experience. It’s not just that you had a burrito addiction in college—it’s that you got a little thrill from eating out and there happened to be a great burrito joint down the street.
In addition to being fueled by our specific Money Personalities, these behaviors become habitual when we let them run unchecked. It goes for both saving and spending—some people get so used to running a tight ship and putting every extra penny in a savings account that they forget to invest or ever have fun. Overspending is probably the most common type of infidelity, but over-saving can hit a couple just as hard.
Even if you feel like you’ve corrected bad habits, it’s worth discussing them with your spouse so your partner understands some of your instincts and inclinations, even if you don’t think you’ll act on them. If you were obsessed with online poker a couple decades ago but haven’t played since, that’s no guarantee you won’t ever succumb to the same thrill in the future.
Talking about bigger issues from your past can also provide a window into small spending habits with the potential to strain a relationship down the line. If you ever blindly followed financial advice that cost you thousands, or made a shotgun decision on an expensive remodel, or kept all your money in a sock drawer instead of allowing it to earn interest—any of these can foreshadow future problems.
A short memory can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to money. Sometimes you need to brush off a bad investment and get back on the horse, otherwise you’ll become a nervous money hoarder who never lets their wealth grow. At the same time, we need to be reminded of past mistakes so we don’t make them again. When it comes to Money Personalities, your past is very telling of what your future could be if you act too impulsively. Know yourself, know your tendencies, and share this knowledge with your partner so you can help each other make good decisions.
If this wasn’t already clear, we’re going to hammer the point home. You need to be honest when you talk about money with your husband or wife.
It’s easy to keep a secret that feels a little bit shameful but otherwise seems like no big deal. Unfortunately, that’s textbook financial infidelity and it’s how small purchases turn into a secret credit card and an irreconcilable chasm in your marriage.
You’re still in a good place. There are some disagreements and discrepancies in your marriage, but that’s nothing abnormal. If you take this opportunity to lay yourself bare and connect over the little idiosyncratic spending tendencies you both have, you’ll shore up those differences and become closer than you ever were before.
The alternative—ignoring the tiny slip-ups and missteps—can turn non-issues into big issues faster than you think. Talk through your finances as well as your feelings so you’re both prepared for the changes and challenges life always brings.
The good news is that there are countless resources for couples needing a little help getting things back on track. The hard part is convincing yourself it’s okay to reach out. Too many people see therapy and counseling as some kind of admission of defeat, when it’s really just the opposite. Everyone has little struggles within their marriage; everyone has their own little battles with money. A little professional help shows an awareness of hardship and a willingness to put in the work that will make things better.
Like an engine in need of an oil change, your marriage can get revitalized by a little tune-up. There are dozens of ways to go about this, from couples therapy to joining a new dinner club to experience something different together. Can a cooking class replace certified counseling? It all depends on where you are in your journey as a married couple. In some cases, it absolutely can.
Whatever you decide, make sure to do it with intention. If you have concerns about financial infidelity, your relational tune-up probably shouldn’t involve buying into a timeshare. Most of us have been conditioned to see a direct line between money and happiness, which often leads to the incorrect assumption that spending can fix marital problems that are rooted in spending. More money spent does not equal a better or longer-lasting tune-up.
Your relational recalibration can be as simple as a weekly walk through the park. Putting a reasonable amount of money towards counseling or a couple’s activity is fine, as long as you aren’t hiding an issue underneath a mountain of credit card debt. Think about connecting and communicating, and how those things can be achieved. Don’t be shy about going to a therapist, and don’t be afraid to try something a little out there, like samba classes. Just take each other by the hand and step into your tune-up together.
Talk to a Financial Advisor
If you can’t move past the “financial” part of the financial infidelity, someone who works behind the scenes in money management might be able to soothe your fears. These deeds of mistrust tend to hurt more emotionally than they do where your bank account is concerned, but sometimes the best way to deal with the emotional trauma is to make sure everyone is on the same page about handling the family funds.
If some of the trust issues center around spending now versus saving for later—an incredibly common inciter for financial infidelity—talking with someone about budgeting and estate planning might make everyone feel better. At the very least, it can help to establish common ground. In addition to different Money Personalities, married couples also arrive with varying degrees of financial literacy. Taking cues from a financial advisor can bridge that gap without either party feeling talked down to or overlooked.
Again, infidelity is less about the money and more about how you think and talk about money. When communication breaks down and leads to a lack of faith in each other, someone needs to patch those cables back in. A therapist is a great option, and a wealth manager could be just as effective.
Move the Goalposts
You know what’s going to cure your financial infidelity ailments faster than anything else? Hope. Hope that better days are ahead and lessons can be learned from mistakes of the past. If you can cultivate that positive outlook for the future, your relationship will get back on track in a hurry.
To find that hopefulness when it’s gone missing, you need to set and accomplish some goals. When you and your spouse can agree that something needs to get done and then make it happen, that sense of accomplishment will make you excited for the next project. The more tasks you set, follow through on and check off the list, the more you’ll be able to rely on each other and do away with any sense of distrust.
It’s hard to put money away when times are tough, but hitting a savings goal is also one of the easiest ways to unite in your financial journey. You don’t even have to know what you want to buy, just figure out a target amount that you want to see in your savings account and see if you can get there.
One of the best options for this is to establish or boost your emergency fund. It’s a good rule of thumb to have three to six months of savings in case something should happen, and that’s the kind of cash reservoir you won’t ever have to argue about. No deliberating over what type of vacation to take or what kind of car to buy—that money is untouchable unless a lost job or a medical emergency demands its use.
If the emergency fund is flush, try to max out retirement accounts. Save up to buy some quality stocks or cryptocurrency. Make it a smart, targeted goal that you can both get behind. By default, when you both put effort into saving for a common goal, you’re both less likely to engage in the frivolous spending that likely caused the original acts of infidelity.
While overspending is bad, responsible spending is what money was made to do. If it’s been a long time since you and your spouse thought through an exciting purchase together, that could provide a great combination of goal setting and hope.
Whether it’s a vacation, a piece of art, or a new roof, you can get a lot of mileage out of an expense you can enjoy together. If you’re in the throws of financial disagreements, the hardest part might be finding the thing you each want equally. That’s why this can be anything from a weekend on a houseboat to a new dining room carpet. The point is to agree on whatever the thing/experience is, look at your bank account, and both sign off on spending the money. Don’t push your husband or wife to agree to something you clearly want more than they do; this needs to be a team effort.
If the collaboration works the way it should, you’ll accomplish a goal and get a little relational tune-up at the same time.
Keep Your Faith and the Focus
As you look to make things better, don’t forget that your relationship is healthy. A little miscommunication around money is practically unavoidable, and the fact that you’re trying to identify and fix the problems means you’re already doing the work.
Bad money habits die hard, but they’re no match for a concerted effort from you and your spouse. Keep those lines of communication open and those trust issues will slowly fade away, replaced by a resolve to take control of your financial future and never look back. As you start mounting little victories, your steady commitment to a common good will become second nature.
Hope and goals. Positive thinking. Learning to rely on your partner and accept being relied upon. A lot of the practices that help us overcome financial infidelity are the same themes woven into our original marriage vows. When we stop seeing money as a hurdle standing between you and happiness, and instead as a tool that you need to learn to use together, you can rediscover the connection that brought you together in the first place.