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Are You Keeping Money Secrets From Your Spouse?
In the past, being married meant that your finances were joined together, too, and having separate checking accounts raised just as many eyebrows as sleeping in separate beds. Today, having individual accounts is the healthy norm. But that also makes it easier for spouses to be unaware of what goes on in the other person’s financial life. In a recent poll for Money Magazine, 71 percent of the respondents admitted to keeping money secrets.
A money secret is financial activity you don’t tell your spouse. Whether it is lying about the true price of a purchase or concealing extra cash, money secrets threaten marital relationships because they breach the trust between spouses. Some people believe that financial secrets can be as harmful as infidelity because of the secrecy and lies that may be involved.
Why do spouses keep financial secrets?
People keep money secrets when they know that their spouses will not agree with their financial decisions. Some people want some form of control over their finances without input from their spouses. Sometimes, it is a form of rebellion or passive-aggressiveness. Having a “secret stash” all their own is a way for them to retain a sense of individuality. Financial freedom and wanting to avoid conflict are powerful motivators for hiding financial activity.
In more serious scenarios, people use financial deception to hide shopping compulsions, gambling addictions or business failures. From maxed out credit cards to second mortgages on homes, distressed partners test their marital relationships when they are forced to tell their shocked spouses about their debts.
In a recent Dr. Phil show, he polled the audience comprised mostly of married women about how they would react if they learned their husbands had secret debts. He randomly selected a small group of six women to see just how much debt it would take for them to resort to divorce. All six women agreed that it would take a mere $50,000 before they’d file papers. When Dr. Phil got to the $100,000 level, every woman nodded vigorously and one made a slitting motion across her neck and said, “He’d be gone!”
It was clear that while money problems stress marriages, keeping financial secrets—especially ruinous ones—can lead to divorce.
On the other hand, mad money is a type of money secret with usually a benign intent. It’s the change left in your pocket and the wet dollar in the bottom of the washer that gets collected in a cookie jar. Maybe some birthday cash or a rebate from a product manufacturer. When it adds up, a fun decision must be made: A new pair of shoes? Movie tickets for the family? A surprise gift for your spouse?
Mad money, unlike the recent feature film, is not a huge sum of money; therefore, one’s spouse usually doesn’t balk at a mad money fund. Yet, dollar by dollar, mad money funds can add up! One elderly woman I know tucked away the dollars that her husband gave her. Over the years, it grew until she counted it and was shocked to find it was over $10,000 in her pickle jar. (If you’re even thinking about stealing it, forget it! We taught her about banks and interest and now her money is where it should be.)
Some money secrets can have good results. What husband or wife wouldn’t be thrilled to discover a hefty mad money account during desperate times? When one spouse has trouble managing money, it might be safe to tuck some away. And partners in abusive situations are counseled to squirrel away an “escape” account for the right time.
If you are keeping a money secret from your spouse, ask yourself why you feel it is necessary. Is this habit helpful or hurtful to your relationship? Are you covering up an addiction or emotional problem that needs to be addressed? If your goal is to establish a marriage of trust and confidence, you should think about coming clean. Secrets from your spouse are deceptions. Deception erodes marital trust.
If you should discover a money secret your spouse is keeping from you, react with caution. Try not to jump to conclusions, and avoid emotional confrontations that will put him or her on the defense. Allow for a mad money fund or some individual spending/investing. If there are hidden debts, get to the root cause. Seek both financial and marriage counseling to help you get back on track.
And remember that no matter how tough joint financial matters can get, working them out is part of your commitment to your marriage and the love of your life. It will earn rich dividends beyond those on a bank statement.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Lori Phillips. All rights reserved.
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