How to Deal with a Lying Spouse – Financial Infidelity in Marriage

woman lying moneyIn a recent survey, 31% of women and 27% of men admitted to lying to their spouse about money. It seems that lying about money in marriage is epidemic these days.

Many people find themselves telling little white lies until those start to snowball into larger ones, and soon all trust is lost. Considering the numbers, it’s no wonder that money is the number one cause of divorce.

But there are things you can do to prevent this problem from spreading to your marriage. The first step is to understand why people lie about money.

Why a Spouse May Lie About Money

People lie about money to their spouse for a number of reasons, including:

1. To Avoid Confrontation
If you buy a brand new 55-inch LED TV when you and your spouse are trying to save for the kids’ college, you might figure your spouse won’t be pleased. To avoid an argument, you may tell him or her you got an amazing deal at an unheard of price. Whereas in reality, you spent $1,000 more than what you admitted.

This is a very common scenario. A spouse knows they shouldn’t be spending money or making unplanned purchases, so they lie about it to avoid confrontation. They may lie about the price or cover up the purchase completely. Regardless, if the lie is successful, a bad habit may be born.

2. To Cover an Addiction
Gamblers, shopaholics, alcoholics, drug abusers, and other addicts commonly lie to their spouse to hide their problem. For instance, many gamble from the comfort of their own home in online casinos. Housewives and white-collar workers get addicted to prescription drugs. These are average suburbanites: your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends. It is another all too common scenario that will most likely require professional help.

3. Because of Fear
Sometimes lying occurs simply out of fear. Perhaps you are afraid that your husband will find out about the new pair of shoes you bought and think you’re irresponsible. Or maybe you don’t want your wife to know about your new set of golf clubs for the same reason. Ultimately, you fear that whatever you are doing with your money, especially if you are mishandling it, will cause your spouse to see inadequacies in you. You may fear the repercussions, or prefer not to deal with the inadequacies you’re already aware of in yourself.

Problems with Lying About Money in Marriage

A relationship without trust is like a car without gas. You can stay in it as long as you want, but it won’t go anywhere.

The immediate problem with lying is that trust is lost. Even if your spouse isn’t fully aware of it yet, you know you’re not trustworthy, and you may begin to suspect that your spouse isn’t either. When trust is lost, the relationship becomes stagnant. Most couples will either separate or divorce out of a marriage that has remained stagnant for too long. It’s just too hard to live with and rely on someone who doesn’t have your back.

Additionally, if serious financial damage was done, the future may look grim. Perhaps one spouse cashed out the 401k in order to cover credit card bills. The retirement fund they worked so hard for is now gone. Had the spouse admitted to his or her spending spree, perhaps an alternative method of payment could have been discussed.

marriage argue money

Potential Solutions

It can be hard to forgive a lying spouse for the damages they cause. But if saving the marriage is possible, here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Love Your Spouse. When you got married, you vowed to love your spouse for rich or for poor. Well here you are, possibly poor, so this is your chance to live up to your vows. If you find out your spouse is lying about money, approach him or her lovingly. Seek to understand, help, and not blame. Simply invite your spouse to start communicating honestly with you.
  2. Seek Counsel. Get help because you cannot do this alone. Marriage counseling can work wonders. Be open and honest during counseling sessions. This is a safe place for you to discuss your feelings.
  3. Find a Support Group. If an addiction is at the root of the lying, then a support group needs to be found. This will give the addicted spouse a way to seek recovery.
  4. Educate Yourselves. If money mismanagement was a contributing factor, educate yourselves on personal finance and money management.
  5. Set a Budget. Sometimes spending can get out of control if no budget has been agreed upon. Examine income and expenses, establish spending limits, and make a budget using a tool like Mint.com.
  6. Open A Joint Bank Account. By combining your accounts and opening a joint bank account, it is much easier to see your spouse’s financial activity. You don’t need to monitor it excessively. Your spouse knows you can see what they’re doing and may feel more accountable for their purchases.
  7. Allow Fun Money. Spending money is not a bad thing, as long as it is within reason. Allow some money for each spouse to splurge and use as fun money. That way, no one feels like they need to lie about wanting to spend.
  8. Take Baby Steps. Healing from the loss of trust in a marriage might take a long time. Take baby steps and congratulate yourself and your spouse on your progress. Maintaining a positive attitude will help you move forward.

Final Word

If you suspect your spouse is lying about money, do not delay and take action right away. The longer the situation continues, the worse off you will be financially and the worse off your marriage will be. Gently confront your spouse with your suspicions and lovingly seek the truth. Consider support groups or professional help as soon as possible to save your marriage.

Have you ever experienced lies about money in a marriage? What are some of the things you did to deal with it?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Published or updated: November 11, 2011

Categories: Budgeting, Family & Home, Marriage, Money Management