We’ve read the stories in the media about financial infidelity where one partner has run off with the couple’s life savings, or has mortgaged the house without their partner’s knowledge to pay a tax bill. That is, until the bailiff comes knocking.
The other week, calls to morning radio on financial infidelity were almost hilarious – you had to laugh, otherwise you would have cried!
A young woman phoned the radio station to confess that she had a secret credit card that was maxed to the limit, and her fiancée knew nothing about.
Another caller said she often took money from their weekly cash grocery allowance to buy herself ‘stuff’ and then bragged that ‘he’ didn’t know.
I wasn’t surprised by the number of listeners who phoned in with similar stories.
In another radio discussion around financial infidelity, they debated which was worse, sexual infidelity or financial infidelity. Again, I wasn’t surprised at the results; roughly a 50/50 split.
Whether it is or isn’t, really comes down to your personal values (whether you are consciously aware of them or not) that pushes you one way or the other. Only those listeners who have experienced both, can truly answer the question. I only heard one caller in that category and after 15 years he still couldn’t forgive or trust women on either score and had remained single. A very sad price to pay.
This type of financial infidelity is very ‘out there’, it’s easy to define. But what we see and what really worries us is the much subtler side of financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity is, making and then hiding financial decisions when you are in a relationship. It isn’t just the making of the decision so much, or even the hiding of it. It is the two together that is the breach of trust and when the infidelity occurs.
Consider this scenario:
Your teenager Sam has spent all his allowance and despite knowing the bank of Mum and Dad is closed, really wants to head out with friends. Sam decides, as teenagers do, to ‘wheedle the money out of Mum’. On this day, however, Mum is feeling strong, and says no. Hmmm…
So, Sam goes to Dad, who is tired at the end of the day and for the sake of peace, hands Sam the cash and jokingly says, “just don’t tell Mum.”
Sam happily heads out with friends leaving Mum and Dad at home. A bit later in the evening Mum says to Dad, “did you give Sam some money?”
At this point he has two choices.
- Come clean and confess it was him and put up with a growling from his wife.
- Tell a little white lie and say no it wasn’t him and guess that Sam borrowed the money from a mate.
If Dad chooses option 2, that is financial infidelity. I can hear you all saying, ‘so what!’ we do this all the time. And you are right, in the scheme of things this is pretty low on the financial infidelity scale.
But what message is Sam getting? If this only happens once or twice it isn’t likely to have much impact on him.
But consider the situation where the children are constantly hearing from both sides, “Don’t tell Mum” or “Don’t tell Dad.” That can have serious ramifications for them as they enter their own relationships.
They may enter a relationship with the belief that is normal to hide money and things from your partner. Which could lead them to believe that it is typical behaviour to have secret credit cards or money tucked away in secret bank accounts.
This belief is putting their relationship in jeopardy before it even gets off the ground. To us that is the hidden side of financial infidelity.
What are we teaching our children?
It is little wonder that there is stress, arguments and resentment around money in relationships. 70-80% of relationships break ups are caused by money issues
What is even more concerning, is that parents aren’t even aware they are doing it.
So as a parent what can you do?
- Be aware of how much your children are watching and learning from your behaviour around money
- Talk to them about money and be honest when they ask you questions.
- Make sure you aren’t guilty of financial infidelity in your own relationship then you won’t pass it on to your children
As a parent, this may seem a huge task. Stick with it, it will be worth it in the end when you see your children set up for life because of what you have taught them.
For them, it may well be the difference between a life of struggle and a life of their dreams – not to mention beautiful relationships.