Healing from Financial Infidelity

In the last two columns, we’ve focused on financial infidelity and secret spending. This week, let’s look at the good news. Couples can recover from financial infidelity and learn to change the behaviors behind it. In the Healing Money Issues workshops I co-facilitate through Onsite Workshops, we’ve seen some incredible transformations.

Here are some of the ways couples can work toward a healthier financial partnership:

1. Each person needs to do his or her own financial recovery work. Before you can deal with money issues in a relationship, it’s essential to become aware of and accept responsibility for your own destructive money behavior. One way to begin that work is to identify your own money scripts, or unconscious beliefs about money. (For more information on money scripts and ways to begin changing them, go to or

2. Face the possibility that addictions or compulsive behaviors might be part of the secret spending. A gambling addiction is one common reason for taking joint money and lying about spending. Alcoholism and drug abuse can also eat away at family finances and be responsible for financial infidelity. To quote one of my clients, who used to be married to an alcoholic, “Alcoholism isn’t just an emotionally destructive disease. It’s also an expensive one.”

Spending itself can also be an addiction. I’ve worked with people who described getting the same “highs” from spending that addicts get from drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the secret spender simply isn’t able to stop without professional help and long-term support.

3. Commit to honesty and full disclosure in the relationship. Both partners must be willing to change in order to begin healing from the financial infidelity. A crucial first step is a commitment to stop keeping secrets from each other.

4. Both partners agree to take responsibility for the family finances. This means working together to create a realistic spending plan, to continue following that plan, and to solve any problems such as excessive debt. It doesn’t matter who actually writes the checks and pays the bills, but it’s important that both partners commit to learning the basics of money management. It’s also important for both to accept joint responsibility for managing their money.

5. Each partner needs to have some money that is his or her own to spend. Working as partners and committing to financial fidelity doesn’t mean turning into auditors who police every penny the other spends. Quite the opposite is true. It’s important for the joint spending plan to include separate allowances for the partners to spend however they wish. This amount can be large or small, depending on the available resources, but it’s important that it be equal.

6. Work to understand your own style and comfort zone as a couple. Many couples pool all their income and manage all their money jointly. Others are more comfortable keeping some of their finances separate. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong. It is important, though, to be honest and open about your finances even if you manage them somewhat separately.

7. Get the help you need. Learning money management skills may require taking a class or buying (and reading!) books on personal finance. It may be helpful to get advice from a financial planner or work with a therapist trained in money issues. This is especially true for couples who need to heal from and change a long-time pattern of distrust and dishonesty.

8. Accept the reality that change takes time and effort. Learning healthier money behavior as a couple won’t happen overnight, but it can and will happen if both partners are willing to change. The result—a stronger and more comfortable partnership—is well worth the effort.

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One Response to Healing from Financial Infidelity

  1. DR. ARTFREDO C. ABELLA August 27, 2006 at 7:52 pm #

    Healing from financial infidelity, what an interesting topic but I fully believe that it takes two to tango to commit it and I think what is more important is to identify what measures are needed to heal such shortcomings. For one financial infidelity stems from the reality that either one of the parties are either naive or ignorant on how to deal or handle with finances in the first place. To heal financial infidelity which I agree with the author means that our habit must be changed. Remember that even William James the father of modern psychology once said: ” Life is a matter of habit. All the outcomes of our lives are the products of our habits.” It is then imperative to say that most of our spending habits have already been institutionalized, it is in keeping with the Joneses which makes one so addictive with expenditures. I believe that as a consumer we must identify whether what we are buying is merely to satisfy our whims and caprices. One would buy fifty vacation tour packages a year when one or two would suffice. Even Warren Buffet suggest that when buying products look for brands with the same quality but of cheaper price so as to avail of discounts from purchasing goods. Remember take good care of the cents and the dollar will take care of itself. I believe that the commission of financial infidelity also stems from the fact that the times has turned into a material world. Fast cars, automated mansion houses, electronic computers, cell phones, credit cards etc. are all indications that the world has turned ultra modern. It has become so sophisticated and the attainment of the heirarchy of needs has become so expensive. Do you realize that millions or even billions of dollars are being transacted in the atmosphere right now using electronic means as a result of business transactions. However, when we we say financial infidelity it means being unfaithful in our business or money dealings with our love ones therefore they are expenditures which are incoherent with the wishes of the other party. Foremost, to heal such kind of relationship one must read books on how to handle money or how to use it for utility purposes. The modern financial experts would echo that: “If your outgo exceeds your income then your upkeep becomes your downfall.” In other words if your expenses exceeds you earnings then you will be landing in the rocks. Even the Richest Man in Babylon would prophesy: ” A part of what you earn is yours to keep.” I believe that our relationships for having financial fidelity is simply understanding the good principles of what money can do for us. Remember what Sir George Bernard Shaw once said: ” Money is the most important thing in the world. It represents health, strength, honour, generosity and beauty as conspicuously as the want of it represents weakness, disgrace, meaness and ugliness.” Let us rejoice in the financial systems that we have today and let us not put any missreadings or infidelity in our financial transactions. Let us awaken into the reality that having financial fidelity would produce greater good results than evil which the doomsayers are hoping.