People worry about their partner cheating but it’s financial infidelity that’s often the downfall of otherwise promising relationships.
Harder to spot but equally – or even more – devastating, money lies destroy trust. Yet study after study show couples tell financial fibs all the time, the world over.
Here’s the latest to make you paranoid.
Research for the Oranje Casino (of 600 European and American people in relationships) found ten per cent of men married more than 20 years, have a secret bank account their partner doesn’t know about.
Another UK study of 1,000 people by Prudential, published in May this year, found nearly a third of couples have built up secret savings and one in five hide debts from their partner.
And we’re not talking just a few pounds – seven per cent admitted hiding savings of over £50,000. Others hide property or investments.
Sex and relationship expert advises on what to do if you discover your partner has a secret bank account – as ten per cent of men do
‘I found out my husband had two rental flats, six years into our relationship,’ one 42-year-old woman told me.
‘He couldn’t understand why I was so upset about the fact he hadn’t told me. But it was like finding out he had a mistress.
‘We’d been living like monks trying to save for a deposit on a house and all this time, he owned two other properties that he was getting income on. How could I ever trust him again after finding this out?’
Why would a partner feel the need to hide money or assets from you? The reasons are many.
Why do we have secret bank accounts?
Sometimes, that secret bank account is for runaway money.
Women often stash cash if they want to leave the relationship and need money to be able to do it; men also hide cash or assets if they see a split looming.
Other times, people hide money because they know their spending is out of control – and don’t want to be called on it. Others don’t want to admit to savings for fear their partner will either spend it or use it for something they don’t feel responsible for. Like clearing credit card debt.
If you’re supporting a struggling family member – and know your partner doesn’t think they deserve it – you’ll hide that too.
Tracey says that there are many reasons they may be hiding their spending from helping out a family member to moving on
We also do it to avoid hurting our partner’s feelings. You don’t rush home to tell your partner about that pay rise for fear they’ll be jealous or threatened by it, because your career is going well and their’s isn’t.
Interestingly, more than half of us know we’re being financially fibbed to.
Yet another UK study done last year found 52 per cent of us don’t believe our partners are totally honest when it comes to money – perhaps because financial infidelity is much easier to get away with now than it was.
The days of secretly going through your partner’s pockets for receipts or looking through a bank statement are over: most of us access all that online privately.
It’s entirely possible for a partner to have significant debt – or to be playing poor with huge amounts of money invested or in the bank – without you ever knowing.
The lies can be big (the flashy car you say you can well afford actually bought on a high interest credit card) or small (knocking £50 quid off the price you paid for that jacket) but all damage your relationship.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND OUT YOU’RE A VICTIM OF FINANCIAL INFIDELITY
You find out they have a hidden bank account or find cash hidden somewhere.
First up, confront them and ask if there’s a reason why. You never know, it might be for a surprise birthday present or your kid’s university fund!
If, instead, they confess they don’t trust you, feel you have problems managing money or aren’t sure you’ll stay together – that’s another scenario.
If they have no justifiable reason for not trusting you and you feel hugely betrayed, it might mean you decide to leave the relationship.
Or they might have a point and you might decide to see a relationship therapist to work through the issues you’ve unearthed, and find out how you can be more honest with each other.
Before you walk away, remember that money presses a lot of buttons for a lot of people.
This might be much more about their issues, than them having a problem with you.
Their spending is way out of control
Lying about how much things cost, hiding expensive items or saying they were a present… if you see a pattern, show them the proof and ask why they aren’t telling you the truth.
If they admit they have a problem managing spending, look at how you manage your accounts.
If you discover that your partner has a significant debt offer to help them work out a way to reduce it, which doesn’t mean helping to pay it off yourself
Set up a joint account with a direct debit so you know your expenses will be covered. Also consider a savings account for future dreams, treats and holidays.
If the problem’s not severe, you might consider leaving them to it with the rest. If you know it’s not stopping you both getting ahead financially – or keeping your heads above water – it’s unlikely to start a row if they splash out now and then.
Your partner’s been lying about significant debt
What if you find out, six months after your marriage, that your partner owes Inland Revenue thousands? Or has a five-figure credit card debt problem?
Often, it’s bills they’ve racked up before the two of you were an item. They didn’t mention it at the start because who wants to say, ‘Hey, before you really fall for me, you probably should know I owe about 40 grand to the bank’.
You might not like it and feel duped, but we can all understand why they didn’t confess earlier. Debt is embarrassing and unattractive.
Once they have – or you’ve called them on it – the way forward is to find out exactly what they owe to who, and work out a realistic plan for paying off the bill together.
WHAT’S YOUR SPENDING STYLE?
Just as mismatched libido’s mean you’re in for some sex battles, mismatched spending styles can mean tough times ahead.
Sometimes couples with contrasting styles work together with excellent results: the yin balancing out the yan.
Other times the relationship turns into a squabbly, angry bun fight with both of you seething with not-so-silent resentment. One feeling restricted and deprived, the other angry over constant ‘unnecessary’ purchases.
Here’s the five main spending styles. Are you and your partner a good fit?
The tight wad
They’ll drive two hours out of their way to get 20p off a packet of biscuits.
They don’t just watch their finances, they’re obsessed with them, tallying up every penny which they hand over (begrudgingly).
Usually from homes where money was tight or Mum and Dad were also penny-pinchers, often they’ll have the last laugh.
While their friends are still living in a run-down rental, they’ve bought their second investment property.
The others, however, had a lot more fun along the way. It costs money to travel, look good, socialize with friends and generally have a lovely time.
The overgenerous spender
You bought him a card and a phone cover for his birthday; he buys you a brand new iphone. And he earns the same as you do.
How does he do it?
It’s called credit cards.
Usually, his parents splashed money around but sometimes, it’s the opposite: his parents were scrooges and he’s totally sick of not having nice things.
Overgenerous spenders also tend to equate money with love.
The bigger and more expensive the present, the more liked they’ll be by the recipient.
The skin-of-their-teeth spender
She’s always just a few pounds short of meeting her budget so borrows from you/friends/family/the bank to make ends meet.
She’ll use one credit card to pay off another, has three different personal loans going and, understandably, feels anxious whenever money is mentioned.
Living anywhere from slightly to way above what her income allows, she’s not prepared to make the lifestyle sacrifices to live within her means because somehow she always scrapes through.
Mr or Ms Average
Most bills are paid on time, you’ve got a little saved up for emergencies and a vague, if optimistic, financial plan for the future.
Occasionally you’ll splash out on something expensive but pull back on spending for a little while afterward to compensate.
This spending style don’t tend to have money worries but aren’t rich either.
Needless to say, they make ideal partners. They’re sensible with money and likely to be proactive with their finances when they’re in a settled relationship and want to buy property.
The money lover
Other kids were kicking a football around; he was on the sidelines selling soft drinks and sweets and creaming off the profits.
Fascinated by money, his hobby is watching it grow. He makes smart decisions because he researches investments but is prepared to take risks, so gets higher returns.
Entrepreneurial, he’s to be admired if he’s not obsessive about it.
If he is, life can feel very much like he’s worshipping the money God rather than you!
You might not want to contribute financially to them getting themselves out of the mess, but you can support them emotionally and teach them how to manage money better in the future and set realistic limits.
They secretly give money to family
If they have a genuinely good reason to do this – they’re sick and can’t afford medical treatment, for instance – first look at yourself and why they didn’t feel they could tell you about something reasonable.
Even if they don’t, it’s their family and we all know how family can pull emotional strings in a fiendishly manipulative fashion.
Instead of going ballistic, ask how long they think it will continue and explain why you think it’s unfair if it’s coming out of the couple budget rather than their pocket.
Look for a compromise: maybe you continue to support them but with a smaller amount, or help out in another way by helping them find extra work.
HERE’S HOW TO KEEP YOUR COUPLE FINANCES HEALTHY
See what’s there, not what you want to see
Financial habits are tough to break.
Most of us get a sense of the other person’s spending style within a month or so of dating.
Be honest with yourself. Can you live with what appears to be your partner’s spending style? What will happen if they can’t change?
If the answer to that is the relationship will be doomed, is there any point in starting it?
Be open, right from the start
‘When I first met my partner, he’d split the costs for expensive dinners out and holidays, so I just assumed he earned similar to what I did,’ said one 32-year-old woman.
‘It was only later on that I found out he earned a quarter of what I did and was dipping into his savings trying to keep up with me. After the savings ran out, he ran up huge credit card bills.’
Eventually, he confessed and they sorted it out as a couple but ‘if he’d come clean earlier, we wouldn’t now have a massive debt to clear while we’re saving for a flat deposit’.
Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit you’re not great with money or living off credit cards.
But if you stay together, chances are they’ll find out at some stage anyway. At least hint that you might not be the best money manager.
If you have serious money issues, you’re always better off confessing
If it’s significant, you will be found out. Come clean and ask for their help to work out a solution.
If you’re the person with the spending problem, accept that there may need to be rules and complete transparency to make the problem go away.
The time to talk about money is when you decide you’re serious about each other
This often isn’t easy: most of us make financial decisions independently and it feels like an invasion of privacy to share.
If you really don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information, ask yourself why. If it’s because you don’t fully trust your partner, take it as a relationship red flag.
Pooling your money doesn’t mean all of it
Most financial advisors advise couples to have one joint bank account – each paying in a set amount to cover groceries, the mortgage, food and other shared expenses like bills – and separate bank accounts for the rest.
So, pool some money for expenses, pool another amount for savings if you like, and then leave each other to do what you want with what’s left. Because…
There is such a thing as too much control
Set goals but allow for personal freedom.
No-one wants to answer to their partner for every pound they part with but you might like to ‘check’ on major personal purchases. Decide what’s none of each other’s business (presents for best friends) and what is (a £10,000 sofa).
Don’t let your partner take over all the finances
Even if one of you is better at managing money, decisions should still be made together and both of you should have access to the accounts.
It’s dangerous to let your partner control all your money exclusively. Not just because you don’t know what they’re doing with it; if you split or something happens to them, you won’t have a clue of where it all is or how to manage your finances.
If something seems fishy, ask what’s going on
Look for financial red flags – the money equivalent of lipstick on the collar – the way you keep an eye on everything else in your relationship.
If they’re suddenly evasive about money, seem to be have much more or less than usual, ask them why.
Get help if you need it
That might mean seeing a debt specialist who can sort out a way out of a financial mess. Or it might mean seeing a relationship counsellor to sort out clashing spending styles.
Visit traceycox.com for more information about love and sex and to see Tracey’s product ranges.