YOU’RE A WEEPING PLANT
It’s clear that money differences are a major issue in your relationship. You’re lacking the water, sunlight, and nutrients needed for healthy growth!
If we had to guess, you may have had serious money conflict in the past, or even tried to avoid it as much as possible. Either way, you’ve taken a tremendous step in the right direction to identify where your relationship is now, and how to make it better. That’s huge!
IN SHORT, HERE ARE YOUR GROWTH STEPS:
SELECT A NEW POT
LAY FRESH SOIL
OPEN PHONES, ACCOUNTS, &
WASH THE ROOTS
IDENTIFY UNHEALTHY HABITS
REPLANT YOUR LOVE
DEVELOP BOUNDARIES & SEEK FORGIVENSS
LET’S DIG DEEPER AND ESTABLISH NEW GROWTH!
SELECT A NEW POT: START WITH COUPLES THERAPY
While you can’t change the weather, you can change the environment to help repair your relationship. Infidelity of any kind can cause severe strain, and financial infidelity is no exception. Communication is key, but it can be hard to clearly portray exactly how you feel. That’s where a licensed therapist can help!
A good therapist will get to the root of the matter, offering corrective, healthy steps to solve and disarm conflict before it has a chance to start.
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!
LAY FRESH SOIL: OPEN PHONES, ACCOUNTS, & HEARTS
At the heart of most relationship issues lie a troublesome, nasty thing: secrets. Believe it or not, they actually do promote trust—but not in the way you’d think.
When your relationship has become plagued by secrets, you’re more likely to trust that your spouse is ALWAYS lying, rather than trusting that they’ll tell the truth at all!
If you find yourself in this position, it’s time to dig deep, expose any wounds, and lay a new foundation. Start fresh and raw from the very bottom to promote a healthy root system for your relationship.
When we say “dig deep,” do so by opening everything: accounts, phones, hearts, and minds. By no means will this be an easy process, but it will be worth it in the end to have a trust so pure, you won’t have to second guess anything.
(Remember: it’s important to have your heart open to both positive and negative conversation. They should both be for the benefit of your relationship.)
WASH THE ROOTS: IDENTIFY UNHEALTHY HABITS
Break free from the dry, compressed soil, and examine the roots of your relationship for areas of decay.
Pinpoint the source of financial infidelity that allowed other lies to sprout from it. Was it the fast food meals, buying collectibles without telling your spouse, gambling away money you don’t even have, or something even more deep?
Consciously keeping certain expenses from your spouse only creates more breeding grounds for weeds to pop up and feed the financial infidelity.
Open, straightforward, and honest communication is key to establishing happy, healthy roots!
REPLANT YOUR LOVE: DEVELOP BOUNDARIES & SEEK FORGIVENESS
Repotting a plant and abandoning it defeats the purpose of replanting. Once your relationship is in a better place, you’re responsible for taking care of it better than you did before!
Opening your heart, admitting your faults, and taking responsibility puts you on the track to healing and forgiveness—just make sure it’s the right kind of forgiveness. Make it genuine, not pacifying. True forgiveness won’t come out of “forgiving and forgetting,” but rather when you stop punishing your partner for the actions that upset you.
Accountability and communication go hand in hand. If you’re struggling with financial infidelity, be open and WELCOME any help from your spouse. Create new boundaries together to keep from falling into the pit again. Break the cycle!
Overwhelmed. Betrayed. Helpless. When you’re in the grips of Financial Infidelity, it’s easy to feel any of those things. Fortunately, if you’ve made it as far as figuring out your score and reading this post, you should have at least an inkling of another feeling: hope.
You probably saw the writing on the wall well before you finished the questionnaire. In fact, the moment you heard the term Financial Infidelity you might have thought, “yep, that’s us.” And yet, you haven’t thrown in the towel yet. A part of you believes in your relationship and your ability to fix what’s been done. It takes effort to forgive, and it takes strength to apologize. If you and your spouse can manage both, there’s no reason not to let that hope build.
Of course, hope alone won’t steer the ship. You need to take specific actions to help right wrongs and correct behavior. You can’t put a bandaid over financial infidelity and hope the wound will heal. You need to root out the causes and establish new systems to make sure you don’t end up right back where you started.
At this point, you’ve already somewhat embraced the idea of airing things out, though it might be that a secret was uncovered as opposed to one of you deciding to come clean. Now is your chance to be proactively truthful, laying everything on the table so that you don’t have to dig yourself out of another hole later.
Many people are surprised by how difficult this part is. After agreeing to divulge anything and everything relating to spending and deceit, you have to remember all the little secret expenses you’ve been hiding. With years of financial infidelity behind you, recollecting all the things that might be discovered later is no easy task. Because of this, you have to take specific steps to actually open up. When we say open up, we mean ALL the way.
We know a lot of couples who have separate bank accounts. On paper, using different bank accounts for different income streams and spending habits makes sense. However, even with good intentions, this almost always leads to questionable behavior. Instead of using two accounts for organization, people find their funds divided for one reason: “I don’t want my spouse to see where my money goes.”
Separate bank accounts work fine when dealing with business versus personal expenses, or if the second account is shared with a child or another third party. We all know the variables of money management are infinite and there are exceptions to every rule. Unfortunately, the primary reason people choose to keep their finances separate is freedom from judgment and speculation. If our money goes to separate places, I can spend however I want and I won’t have to feel bad about it.
Question: why would you feel bad about your spending in the first place?
It’s easy to be dismissive of problems when we view them as only affecting ourselves. If you spend too much on clothes or coffee or collectibles when you’re single, that’s your choice. Once you share a life—a home, a family, and a future—those decisions have a much broader influence. Separating your bank accounts doesn’t change where your spending priorities are and how that might make your spouse feel.
You know that separate bank accounts aren’t helping. The score on your Financial Infidelity Scale Assessment tells you as much. Merging accounts won’t provide a quick fix, but disclosing all the hidden spending and giving each other access will start the healing process.
It’s really hard to pull back this curtain, especially if you’ve been spending money on certain things you hoped would stay hidden forever. Since you’re already this far along and you know trust needs to be rebuilt, might as well open up fully and prepare for the next step.
You don’t have to read every text out loud, but you need to be able to hand your cell phone to your spouse without having an anxiety attack. Show all the apps you’ve got, especially something that’s linked to a credit or debit card and allows you to easily spend money. If you have subscription apps, make sure those are revealed.
Even in a very honest relationship, there’s bound to be the occasional secret. You can’t share every conversation when you’re planning a surprise party or entrusted with someone else’s personal matter that they don’t want shared. Let’s dispel the myth that keeping a secret automatically makes you a bad person.
However, that desire to keep certain things hidden, even when done in good faith, opens the door for bigger secrets that will have a more negative impact on your marriage. For example, if you got drinks with Bill because he and Darlene are having marital problems but he doesn’t want anyone else to know, are you hiding the Venmo payment you sent Bill after he picked up the tab? See how that slope starts to get a little slippery?
Those are the tricky situations we get into when lying with honest intentions. The only way around the problem is to avoid it altogether, by staying honest with your money and spending. Maybe you don’t get into the details of your conversation with Bill and let your wife read every text, but you sure don’t get to have an unexplained payment app on your phone with $17 going to BillyBusiness92 for “advice.”
If your phone feels like a safe full of personal information, it’s time to open the vault and share the contents. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Two reasons why your day planner plays an important role in your journey out of financial infidelity. First off, after trust has been broken like this, the response is to always assume the worst. Your wife is 15 minutes late coming home from work? She must be shopping again. Husband’s late coming home from the golf course? He’s probably getting lunch with the guys. Even when the assumptions are wrong, they still fester and further the divide in an already fractured marriage.
At the risk of feeling like a criminal, you essentially need to turn your calendar into a tracking device. If you’ve got a lunch date, put it in the books so it doesn’t seem like you’re lying about it. Don’t buy a smoothie after you leave the gym and pretend it’s just an extension of your workout, because we all know that’s not true.
In some ways, creating a joint calendar is the easiest way to repair some of the damage done by financial infidelity. You give your spouse a window into the parts of your life they aren’t physically there for, and that does a lot to reduce the mistrust that’s eating away at your relationship.
Find the Poisoned Patterns
An apology doesn’t fix financial infidelity. A promise not to do it again isn’t good enough. You’ve got to find the rot and clean it out for good. Kill the head so the body will die. Take out the queen. Whatever analogy you prefer, you need to single out the patterns in your infidelity and make them stop.
These usually tie pretty closely to other personal struggles. Various forms of addiction or habits you’re not proud of often lead to the type of spending you try to hide. Chances are you don’t have to think too hard about a pattern that’s obviously got to end, but ending it is never that easy. You can also connect these behaviors to your Money Personality. Risk Takers push things too far, Security Seekers get controlling, Spenders buy compulsively, etc.
As you start thinking harder about these poisoned patterns, you might finally see how it’s not really about the money. Your husband isn’t mad about the $5 coffee, he’s upset that you choose to leave the house early and spend money on a mocha when there’s a full pot of coffee he’s already brewed at home. The spending—and the lying about spending—are symptoms of a greater issue, and that’s the whole thing about financial infidelity. Money can be earned again; it’s a lot harder to re-earn trust.
The good news is that you can curb smaller expenses without going through too many withdrawals. If you love that morning coffee stop but know the daily $5 lie is a major source of your financial infidelity, you can probably stop cold turkey. The bad news is that if you have one small spending problem, there’s a good chance you have two or three similar issues lurking.
Once you get into the habit of telling yourself, “it’s just $5, what’s the big deal?” you likely do that all the time with everything. After a full day of “it’s just $5, what’s the big deal?” you’ve spent $40 and you still have to buy dinner. For some people, $5 isn’t a big deal. For a husband or wife trying to emerge from the smoldering wreckage of financial infidelity, a couple of $5 purchases can be a backbreaker.
You can do away with these patterns almost instantaneously. Deep down you know that it’s not the thing you’re buying that matters, but rather the ritual of the purchase. You might get back to those comfortable routines someday, but for now, it’s time to abandon bad habits and move forward.
Your tendency to blow it all up on vacation or around the holidays might not be as easy a fix. Spenders and Risk Takers have this deep-seated need to turn dollars into experiences; when the chance to do so arises, it’s almost like they’re hypnotized by the opportunity. While the pattern is obvious and easy to identify, the solution takes a lot more work.
If you’re the spouse of someone whose financial infidelity has come by way of failed investments and huge purchases without any forethought or discussion, you’re not going to fix this problem through shaming. You need to help your partner find a replacement for the rush they get from spending. Remember that it doesn’t come from a bad place–your husband wants every vacation to be the best vacation ever, and in his mind that means a surprise helicopter ride that explodes the budget.
This type of financial infidelity can almost be more insidious than the purposeful lying. When the intentions are good, both parties have an easier time turning a blind eye. You can’t let the behavior go, because eventually you’ll find yourself past the point of no return, with lots of debt and mistrust and nothing but good intentions to show for it.
Understand the problem. Find alternatives. This will be an ongoing problem for people addicted to spending, but it can be controlled.
Ask for Help
You don’t have to do this alone. Neither spouse can fix the infidelity by themselves, and a married couple can’t move on from these issues without someone to lean on. Reaching out will take enormous strength and humility, and it might just be the thing that saves your marriage.
Help Each Other
More often than not, financial infidelity goes hand in hand with a divided relationship. As the money decisions have become more separate, so too have the people making said decisions. You’ve already taken the test and acknowledged the rift—now it’s time to put your heads and hearts together and move toward solutions.
The first step is simply talking. Talk openly, ask caring questions, and say nice things. We always recommend a Money Huddle, even for couples who aren’t struggling. Sit down and dig into your fears and hopes and anxieties about finance. We also encourage people to make lists of the things you like and dislike about how your spouse handles money, then open up about the good and the bad. When you’re down in the financial doldrums, hearing your loved one say nice things can be a shot in the arm, even when you know the conversation will turn negative soon.
You can’t wait for your husband or wife to fix their infidelity. If you want to come out on the other side of this together, you both need to offer support.
Talk to Friends
It’s hard to show vulnerability, but it’s important to remember that most people experience some level of financial infidelity. The minute you start sharing what’s going on with a close confidant, your chances of getting helpful, personal advice go way up.
You don’t have to seek out someone who narrowly escaped divorce or has a degree in wealth management. Start with your closest friends, no matter who they are or what they do. In your own quest to be honest, connecting with those who will tell it to you straight can be an important catalyst.
Make a list of the people you’d feel comfortable talking to about these struggles. Think of friends and family members who might have the same Money Personality as your spouse. None of these people will have a simple solution for you, but any of them might offer a little clarity and perspective.
There’s no shame in seeking professional help. At this stage of financial infidelity, when it’s seeped into all corners or your relationship, a certified analyst might be exactly what your marriage needs.
When you and your spouse sit down with a licensed counselor, the playing field gets leveled in a way that no other setting can offer. For starters, you remove the feeling that the observing party might have some preexisting bias. A therapist can’t put an individual’s needs above those of the couple, so you know the advice and feedback you get is focused on the greater good.
Counseling looks for long-term solutions, which is exactly what you need to overcome this type of Financial Infidelity. All the studies show that people who stick with a therapist for an extended stretch show the greatest benefits, and also develop coping mechanisms to avoid falling back into bad habits. Couples counseling can help you work through the forgiveness while also strengthening your relationship as you move into the next phase of your marriage.
An outside perspective is always useful; even moreso when you know things haven’t been working. Admit that you can use support and find someone who’s qualified to give it.
If you’re worried there’s no hope, you’re ignoring how far you’ve already come. You took the Financial Infidelity Scale Assessment even though you knew the problem was there. You read through this article even after seeing how bad your score was. You clearly have the desire to make things better—you just have to keep doing the little things to make it happen.
A positive attitude will make all the difference in this type of recovery. If you don’t believe your efforts will lead to the results you want, chances are you’re walking into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You need to lean into the belief that you can change things for the better, that what you do will make a difference, and that you and your spouse can recover from past mistakes; that faith matters as much as anything else you do as you work toward a healthier financial relationship.
There will be peaks and valleys. Sometimes the valleys will feel like bottomless ocean caverns, but that’s okay. You won’t solve anything in one day. This will be much more like training for a marathon, running a little farther each day, building muscle and endurance, until suddenly the work has paid. It’s incredibly hard at the beginning, but each day gets a little easier if you keep at it.
The first steps can be small. Call a friend, set up a counseling session, look over a bank statement and highlight the problematic spending. You can knock out a handful of important steps in a single evening. It won’t be a smooth or easy process, but if you commit to moving forward and doing your best, you can find your way back to the happy, trusting union you set out to create.