Is Financial Infidelity Worse Than Physical Cheating? Nearly A Third Of Americans Think So, Survey Finds
Infidelity can take many forms, from full-blown physical affairs to emotional ones. Even small acts, like connecting with other attractive people on social media when you're in a relationship are being recognized as acts of infidelity. Although many would likely agree that physical cheating is bad for your relationship, is it the worst type of cheating that can happen? As a new national survey by CreditCards.com found, it might not be for everyone. Over 30 percent of people say financial infidelity, which involves hiding credits cards and bank accounts from your partner, is actually way worse than physical cheating.
"The same reasons why sexual infidelity can destroy a marriage holds true for financial infidelity — breakdowns in trust, betrayal, guilt, shame, humiliation, and disrespect," Emily Bouchard, Money Coach and Managing Partner of Wealth Legacy Group, tells Bustle. "Financial infidelity can have a far greater negative, lasting impact. When money is involved, there is so much more at stake, as money represents security, freedom, success and stability."
CreditCards.com's survey of 1,372 adults living in the U.S., all of whom were in relationships, asked participants where they stood on financial infidelity. It's no secret that if you want your relationship to last, being on the same page financially is important. Even if you keep your finances separate or just don't think it's a big deal, keeping secrets regarding money from your partner can really hurt your relationship.
As the survey found, 31 percent of people say keeping a credit card, checking or savings account secret from your partner is worse than physical cheating. Despite that, 15 million who live with their partners say they do it, and another nine million say they've done it in the past. So it does happen quite a bit, and the fact that there's secrecy involved can be alarming. But is hiding your finances really that bad?
"I don't necessarily agree with those who say that hiding financial information is worse than [physical] cheating," marriage and family therapist, Shira Galston, AMFT, tells Bustle. "But purposefully hiding your financial information from your partner is probably symptomatic of deeper problems between you such as issues related to trust, control, power, shame, communication, and/or commitment. You'll need to address those underlying issues in your relationship if you want to recover from secrets — financial or otherwise."
The biggest issue here is trust, Galston says. "In a serious relationship, a breach of trust is painful and difficult to overcome, whether it's in the form of cheating, hiding information, or just plain lying to your partner," she says.
Although there may not necessarily be anything really wrong with having separate bank accounts or making separate spending decisions, she says, it only works if you've both communicated it and are comfortable with the arrangement. "If one partner keeps a large financial secret, particularly if that secret impacts the other partner in any significant way, then that's generally a recipe for disaster," Galston says. "At some point the secret will be uncovered, and will most likely feel like a betrayal. Even if it's never uncovered, the problems underlying the secretiveness — trust issues, shame, control, etc. — will probably affect the relationship elsewhere."
Here are some ways financial infidelity can affect your relationship, according to the survey:
1. Financial Infidelity Happens Less When You Live With A Partner
When you live with your partner, keeping your finances to yourself isn't that easy. So it's no surprise that only 23 percent of people say they've kept accounts secret from their live-in partner. The number of people who hid their accounts and don't live with their significant others was significantly higher.
2. Financial Infidelity Hurts More When You're Earning Less
Like Galston, a majority of people don't believe financial infidelity is worse than physical cheating. But people who make less than $40,000 a year are more likely to say that finding out their partner has been hiding accounts from them is more hurtful than catching them with someone else.
3. Some People Don't Believe Their Partner Is Honest About Money
The good news is, 85 percent of people say they're honest with their partners when it comes to money. The bad news is, about a third believe their partners aren't being honest with them.
4. Over One In 10 People Say They Never Discuss Finances With Their Significant Other
Although it's not always comfortable, discussing finances with your partner is important. But according to the survey, 11 percent don't do it at all and women were significantly more likely to avoid the subject than men.
Another 2017 survey conducted by U.K. based couples counseling centers, Relate, Relationships Scotland, and Marriage Care, found money is the biggest source of relationship stress. So having those clear lines of communication open is essential. If you want to maintain a private account, talk to your partner about it, and really discuss it.
"If you believe you should each be able to make large financial decisions without checking in, then establish that early on in your relationship so you won't run into complications down the line," Galston says. "In general, just make sure you are both on the same page regarding privacy and boundaries when it comes to your finances."
Overall, nobody wants to feel like they're being lied to. So when it comes to money, talk it out. If you can manage to get on the same page with your significant other, then communication around money will likely be less of a problem in your relationship.