The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) has concluded through conducting an online poll that 31 percent of people who combine finances with their spouse or partner have been deceptive about money with the individuals who trust them. Some lies are more hurtful than other lies, so the study looks at the type of financial infidelity.
More than half of the respondents, 58%, hide money from their spouse. 54% hide minor purchases. Almost one third, 30%, hide bills or statements from their partner. 16% lie about a major purchase. 15% have a hidden bank account. 11% of those surveyed lie about their debt, and another 11% lie about how much they earn.
Although my finances are an open book, I understand why lying about money comes easily, particularly in new relationships. If you’re meeting a potential husband or wife for the first time, you want to put your best foot forward, and that often involves making yourself sounds like the ideal person, someone you want to be, other than sticking to the more boring truth. That embellishment could easily turn into a lie, and at the beginning of the relationship, some might be afraid of the other individual losing interest. At some point after that, you can’t go back and tell the truth because he or she doesn’t want to be branded a liar.
Unfortunately, long-term relationships can be founded on a misunderstanding of finances, and there may be no turning back.
If the temptation to exaggerate is so great, finances should probably be kept out of discussions until the couple is more intimate. When money doesn’t play a role in the initial attraction, there will be less of a need to embellish the situation in order to attract someone else.
The survey revealed that men and women were just as likely to lie about their finances, but women more often said they caught their partner in a lie. Men were significantly more likely to say that their partner was lying about a purchase, while women were significantly more likely to say their partner was lying about income or debt.
If a couple has decided not to combine their finances, there may be no reason to lie to your partner; what’s yours is yours. For those with combined finances, there is a trust that should not be broken. A therapist from Boston who has been working with couples who have experienced financial infidelity, offered his opinion to Forbes Magainze. Carlton Kendrick lists four primary reasons an individual might lie about money to his or her spouse, pragmatism, control, guilt, and fear:
The pragmatic lie may result from planning an eventual split and not wanting the other to know how much money is available. Financial infidelity for control may include revenge spending, as one partner overspends to prove their independence or to get back at the other for something lacking in the relationship. Knowingly irresponsible behavior may cause guilt and embarrassment, so the person attempts to cover it up. Deceit may also occur because they fear their partner’s reaction to the truth.
If it doesn’t affect your ability to pay for the expenses you need to cover, and if it doesn’t change your ability to meet other goals, you may have the opportunity to save money on the side for a surprise gift for your partner. This is a lie with good intentions. I’d prefer not to see savings on the side take the form of a lie, however; you can agree with your partner to have separate funds set aside for such occasions.
Are there any situations when it is justified to lie about money to your spouse?
Published or updated February 2, 2011.