The biggest problem in relationships is money, or financial infidelity. These five steps will help you fix the biggest relationship problem faced by all couples, and help you reconnect as partners on the same team.
“Nearly every relationship harbors some level of financial infidelity,” say The Money Couple, Scott and Bethany Palmer, authors of read Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker. “It might be as minor as not telling your partner what you really spent on her birthday gift or as major as keeping a secret bank account to pay for your gambling addiction. Either way, the path to healthy financial communication will never be smooth unless you are honest about your behavior and committed to changing your ways.”
Here are the Money Couple’s five steps to overcoming financial infidelity. Even if you’re still in a new relationship – or you even just started dating a coworker – it’s important to be aware of and fix this relationship problem before it starts.
How to Fix the Biggest Problem in Your Relationship
If you have a history of lying about spending or hiding money from your partner, it’s time to come clean.
1. Admit your financial infidelity to yourself
Take a good look at what you’ve been doing and why you’ve been doing it. What’s behind your behavior: Fear? Anger? Control? Resentment? Shame? Before you tell your partner about your infidelity, you need to understand what led you to these behaviors. This isn’t about making excuses or blaming your partner, it’s about being honest with yourself so you can take ownership of what you’ve done. No one made you do these things, and the sooner you and your spouse get back on track, the sooner you can achieve your financial goals!
2. Be prepared for feelings of betrayal, hurt, and anger
Your partner is going to be angry that you’ve been lying about money. He’s going to be hurt. He’s going to resent you, especially if your financial infidelity has led to debt or other money problems. As much as we’d like to tell you this won’t happen or that everything’s going to be just fine, the truth is that financial infidelity is a real problem that brings with it real pain. That’s why some people call it the number one relationship wrecker!
3. Get your confession over with
There isn’t a perfect time to confess your financial infidelity. Naturally, you don’t want to bring it up in the midst of some other argument or use your confession as a weapon against your partner. Instead, pick a quiet evening, sit down together, and tell your partner the truth. Preface your confession by saying something like, “Honey, I know we’ve had some disagreements about money in the past. And I want you to know that I’ve done some things with our finances that I’m not proud of. I want to tell you about those things so that we can work together to build a better relationship and a better financial future.”
4. Listen to your partner
Once you’ve confessed your financial infidelity, it’s time to listen. As hard as it might be to hear, your partner will want to respond to what you’ve said-and it might not be very pleasant. But if you don’t let your partner react and respond, the questions, the anger, the resentment that she is bound to feel will only fester and blow up later. So take it in, listen without getting defensive, and apologize and seek forgiveness.
5. Focus on your future as a couple
Depending on the level of financial infidelity you’re dealing with, your partner might have a lot of questions or concerns. There might be some serious financial damage and a lot of financial stress you’ll need to repair. There might be issues of trust and resentment that will be hard for you to deal with. If there has been a severe breach of trust, we strongly recommend seeking professional marriage counseling. But don’t let your past define your relationship! Come to this conversation with ideas for repairing the financial and relational damage and make a plan for moving forward. Show your partner that you are committed to building something new, together.
Recovering from financial infidelity is never easy. But with time, patience, trust, and a true commitment to change, you and your partner can rebuild your financial relationship.
If you have any thoughts on how to fix the biggest relationship problem, please comment below. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but sharing your experience might help you work through it.
Scott and Bethany Palmer are “the Money Couple” – financial communication experts and authors of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: A Couple’s Guide to Financial Communication.