YOU’RE A WILTING PLANT
You’ve probably heard of the saying, “It’s not over till it’s over.” Lucky for you, this is one of those special cases: You have the power to assess yourself, pull out all of the weeds, dig deep, and turn this relationship around!
There’s no sugar-coating this: it will take some serious work from both of you, and you’ll need to start thinking about why you might be sinking into the grips of financial infidelity.
Whether it’s hiding your spending/savings or setting up secret accounts, to heal your relationship in even the smallest way you’ll need to prepare yourself for the difficult conversations.
A great place to start is to identify and discuss the differences in your individual Money Personalities.
IN SHORT, HERE ARE YOUR GROWTH STEPS:
SELECT A NEW POT
LAY FRESH SOIL
OPEN PHONES, ACCOUNTS, &
REPLANT YOUR LOVE
CREATE A MONTHLY BUDGET
LET’S DIG DEEPER AND ESTABLISH NEW GROWTH!
SELECT A NEW POT: START WITH COUPLES THERAPY
Careful—your financial relationship is getting a little close to the edge!
While you can’t change the weather, you can change your 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 step in and 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 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 the 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.)
REPLANT YOUR LOVE: CREATE A MONTHLY BUDGET, TOGETHER
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 in the past!
Take some time to sit down, gather all of your finances, and work together to regain control by implementing budgets and boundaries. You can either learn to control your money, or it’ll control you.
The glue that keeps this all together is accountability and open, honest communication. The more money conversations you have, the more transparent your relationship will be when it comes to finances.
This isn’t a “one and done,” “end all cure all” anecdote, either; this is just the starting place for your marriage growth!
Some days there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If you can just make a few more dollars, or tighten up spending and get out of debt, you’ll be able to have a fresh start and put all these money troubles and distrust behind you.
Other days, it’s hard for you or your spouse to find that hope. Even if the financial woes can be fixed, the years of deceit seem insurmountable. You knew there were issues, but now you’ve laid them bare and it’s hard to imagine a full recovery from this amount of financial infidelity.
If you’re going to turn things around, you need to focus on the good days. There are countless reasons you should feel hopeful—even excited—about the future. Recovery won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but it absolutely can be. Once you commit to a proactive approach and a belief in your ability to right past wrongs, a life free of financial infidelity will be within reach.
Get an Outside Perspective
One of the reasons infidelity—financial or otherwise—leaves such lasting damage is that recovery requires an admission of guilt. No matter what the motivation for hiding that extra credit card or making a bad investment without an honest discussion, you and your spouse need to own the wrongdoing. Accepting blame is hard, especially when emotions are running high. As sensitive as these matters are, bringing in some kind of mediator can make everything go much more smoothly.
The mind is a crazy thing. Just think about how easy it was to commit these acts of financial infidelity in the first place, and then how obviously wrong your choices were in retrospect. We don’t make the right decision all, or even most, of the time. Getting perspective from a trained professional can offer tremendous insight into why things happened and the best options for keeping them from happening again.
For some people, this could be individual therapy sessions. Maybe you’re a Spender with a complicated family history and you need to sort through a lot of personal stuff along with your money issues. Other people will find that couple’s counseling is the best way to go; communicating delicate matters to your spouse through a neutral intermediary fosters more honest answers and calmer responses.
If you find yourself avoiding the conversation because you worry how it will go, that’s a sure sign you could use help from a therapist or counselor. These problems are too big to let slide—that’s part of how the financial infidelity got so bad in the first place. The goal is to course-correct, and that’s a hard thing to do when you’re at the center of the storm. The fresh eyes of an expert can guide you toward calmer waters and jumpstart the healing process.
A close confidant might not offer the same measured advice as a professional, but if opening up proves especially difficult for either partner, this can be a good place to start.
That friend or sibling that always tells it to you straight, that co-worker who you’ve leaned on for advice in the past, a member of your church who you trust; think of the people you’d feel comfortable opening up to and then make a call, send an email, or schedule a coffee date. You might not get a shred of useful advice, but talking through your problems and explaining the infidelity to someone on the outside can be immensely helpful all on its own.
Whoever you decide to speak to, run it by your spouse first. You want to make sure discussing these personal matters doesn’t seem like another breach of trust. Whether or not you both go meet with this friend, it’s good to get on the same page beforehand.
Have an Intense Money Huddle
You might want to start with couples counseling if the hurt of infidelity is still fresh. Whenever you’re ready, it’s time to sit down with your husband or wife and dig deep into how you’ve been handling your money and what issues need to be remedied.
We talk about money huddles with a lot of different couples, whether or not they’re struggling with financial infidelity. Sneaking in a couple minutes of financial planning in the morning before work or at night before bed isn’t enough time to create the change you need. Important matters like rectifying your financial relationship deserve more serious discussions.
Block off some time at least once a month, more frequently if you have a lot of things to figure out. During your money huddle, you get to pour all your focus into you, your partner, and your money.
Where to Cut Back
Spending is always an issue, because that’s the entire purpose of money and yet it so often feels like the wrong choice. In a world where there are too many things to buy, it’s easy to feel a little buyer’s remorse after any and every purchase.
The money huddle gives couples a chance to look at where money is going and decide together which expenses can get nixed. It might be something you both use, like cable or the home phone. Some couples do well with tit for tat cutting—“if you stop paying for season tickets, I’ll skip my summer spa trip.” As painful as it can be to miss out on things you enjoy, the mutual sacrifice can go a long way in repairing the damage caused by financial infidelity. It’s a show of good faith that helps both parties know they’re doing the right thing.
As for the most common areas of overspending, the number one culprit is almost always food-related. If you dine out a lot, you dine out too much. If you throw a lot of groceries away or are always surprised by the price at checkout, you buy too much or get fancier foods than you need. Go read some blog posts about making cheap meals and watch how much money you can save in a month. You’ll miss the steaks and salmon at first, but the extra savings will make it all worth it.
The money huddle is a great place to talk about professional wins and losses—as they relate to money. Don’t get into the weeds of which coworkers annoy you the most; stick to the concrete matter of whether your job is fulfilling. Do you make enough money and are you relatively happy?
When people are really unhappy at work, financial infidelity is often just over the horizon. Even people who make six or seven figures end up spending on outrageous things just to distract them from the toils of their job. Financial infidelity usually stems more from trust than it does from the loss of capital, so if your high-paying attorney gig is so stressful that you have to spend a few hundred dollars golfing every weekend instead of spending time with your family, that’s not a healthy situation.
The need to provide can make us feel trapped in jobs we otherwise want to escape. By starting a conversation about the possibility of change with your spouse, you can at least relieve a little of that pressure. Maybe you’ll eventually start a new career or find a way to feel more satisfied where you are. In any event, you should talk about work and whether or not the daily grind is a struggle. If you ignore those problems, you might not truly deal with the root causes of your financial infidelity.
Hopes and Dreams
If you didn’t have debt, what would you do? If you earned a little more, where would you go? If you sold your house and were untethered, where would you live?
Talking about the big picture, even when the ideas seem too lofty and out of reach, can help give you and your partner a common goal. Nothing is more unifying than a mutual objective, and your financial infidelity recovery effort hinges almost entirely on a united front. There will still be hurt feelings and tense conversations, but if you can go through it all as teammates, you’ll have much better odds of success.
It’s probably not the right time to discuss buying a houseboat, but don’t shy away from discussing a vacation or some home improvements you’ve been putting off. If you can both get excited about a savings goal, it’s that much easier for you to avoid the pitfalls of infidelity that were so easy to stumble into in the past.
A lot of money fights start because couples don’t want to talk about money. In order to undo what’s been done, you need to take the opposite approach and actively discuss your finances—both the good aspects and the bad. Make money huddles part of your routine and do everything you can to keep the conversations open, honest, and respectful.
Take Control of Your Budget
Control is a keyword when it comes to financial infidelity. A Spender commits the unfaithful act because his or her spending is out of control; a Saver can go astray by taking too much control and calling all the shots without discourse. Until you see and treat your money as something you both share equally, infidelity is just a credit card swipe away.
The fastest, most effective solution is to create a detailed, mutual budget. If one person is spending thoughtfully and the other person isn’t, or one of you knows your monthly expenses and the other doesn’t, you can never really get on the same page. Budgeting together will allow you to see where financial infidelity sprouted in the past and establish safeguards so it doesn’t arise in the future.
Hit the ground running with your monthly income and spending. If you’re actively living outside your means, this will be a difficult but important jumping-off point. Calculating how much you bring in and then listing all your necessities (rent, gas, groceries, utilities, insurance, etc.) will show you exactly how much wiggle room you’ve got. If one person has made bill-keeping their sole responsibility and you’ve fallen into debt, it’s time to take equal part in finding a solution.
Short-term spending is the most likely culprit of financial infidelity—those extra trips to the coffee shop or the store, the services that one of you uses that the other resents. Small purchases that can be easily justified in the moment but quickly add up to a problematic discrepancy in priorities. The tighter you make your monthly budget, and the deeper your joint commitment to holding up your end of the bargain, the easier it will be to ditch that type of spending.
Just like your money huddles should include a little discussion about future dreams, your budget should have categories or accounts for retirement and big purchases down the road. When money is tight, it’s easy to ignore those distant necessities as you just try to make it through each day. However, those frugal times are actually the best opportunities to train yourself to save for the future. If you can put away $100 each month for retirement when you’re just scraping by, think of how much you’ll be able to save as your income increases.
Long-term budgeting includes savings goals like a house, college tuition, and an emergency fund. These budget items aren’t always exciting, but each provides a good place for you and your partner to connect over a mutual need and then get to work making that goal come to fruition. As the savings categories get more flush, you’ll feel more motivated to keep making good financial decisions, and the impulse to commit those small acts of infidelity will fade away.
When you have no budget to refer to, the only things you’ll talk about are the only expenses. That means casual discretionary spending becomes almost taboo, something that can’t be talked about even when it’s just a shopping excursion or a lunch with friends. If you contain all spending within the parameters of your budget, these issues become much less fraught.
For example, you can set up “for him” and “for her” categories if you want to be as fair as possible. Every month, you’ve each got some money that you can do whatever you want with. If you need something big, save for a couple months to buy it. If all you want to do is bet on the ponies, you’ve got an established amount that you’re free to gamble away.
At the end of the day, you can’t do away with enjoyment altogether. Overcoming financial hardship takes a lot of hard work and diligence, but you can’t sacrifice everything that brings you happiness. Find the space in your budget that lets you both have a little fun while still creating the structure to reel in spending and ensure the financial infidelity doesn’t creep back in.
A More Perfect Union
There’s nothing easy about repairing trust. Those wounds can go deep and last for a long, long time. Fortunately, when you do put in the work and come out holding hands on the other side of financial infidelity, it can strengthen the bonds of your marriage and make you better than you were before.
It all starts with that reconnection. You found each other and got wed for a reason, the same reason that has you putting in the work right now to fix the things that went wrong. Your financial infidelity doesn’t define you or your relationship. It’s a bump in the road—maybe a big bump that cost you a tire or two—but it’s nothing you can’t recover from.
Start with a little help, professional or otherwise. A neutral perspective can help you see past the anger and grief that’s been weighing on you. You might even get some instruction on strategies that will help you communicate better when emotions reach a fever pitch.
With a clearer head, you can begin working together and rebuilding that trust. Talk about money and your different Money Personalities. Be open to how a Spender differs from a Saver differs from a Risk Taker and so on. There are pros and cons that come with each personality type; you need to remember that as you have your money huddles and deal with your disagreements.
The budget might be hard to agree on at first, but a constructive approach will get you where you need to be. You’ll both need to compromise on some things, but that’s how it works when you’ve got two different approaches to spending and saving. Remember that it’s not about the money as much as it is the communication. Make yourself heard and hear your partner when he or she explains what their biggest financial concerns are.
Nothing on this list is out of reach. You’ve already gone so far as to take an assessment and clearly want to find a path forward. As hard as these times may be, you’re closer to overcoming than you think.