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Lying about money
By Tammy May

Lying about moneyIt happens every day: Two people fall in love and make a happy couple. But couples don’t always stay happy and money can be a leading cause of marriage and relationship breakdowns. 

Couples come to MyBudget every day looking for help because they’re sick of fighting about money. In some cases, the stress of living pay-to-pay pushes couples to the edge. In other cases, there’s a clash of money values—one’s a spender and the other’s a saver, or one’s generous and the other’s tight-fisted. One person might be good at money management, while the other has little experience in it.

I’ve also observed how financial dishonesty can disease a relationship. I remember one case where a woman admitted to twice secretly refinancing her and her husband’s home to pay off her personal debts. That might sound extreme, but even mild cases of financial dishonesty can lead to serious distrust in a relationship. 

What causes financial dishonesty in a relationship? 

The vast majority of people don’t mean to be bad at money management and nobody gets into financial difficulty on purpose. When it does happen, they often feel embarrassed or ashamed about it, especially if their overspending is linked to activity their partner wouldn’t abide. In a small percentage of cases, one partner maliciously takes advantage of the other but, fortunately, such cases are rare.

Are you keeping your money troubles secret?

Money troubles have a habit of snowballing. The longer the problem goes untreated, the worse it gets. Secrecy also contributes to feelings of stress. For most people there’s a great sense of relief when they come clean about their problems.

If you don’t feel comfortable seeking help with money management from your partner or loved ones, contact a financial counselor or personal budgeting service. No matter how big your financial problems feel, they can be fixed and you don’t have to do it alone.

The best news is this… Client couples at MyBudget tell us all the time that once their money troubles are fixed, they have nothing to fight about!

How can you avoid money troubles in your relationship?

  • Talk about your finances together. Couples often avoid talking about money because they think it’s unromantic. Not true. If you want to live your dreams together, you’re going to need some cash.
  • Both take an active role in your family’s finances. It might be practical for one person to pay the bills and do the banking, but you should ideally share money management responsibilities and set your financial goals together.
  • Give each other some financial freedom. It's healthy for each partner to have an amount of money to spend at their own discretion.
  • Joint bills and debts should be in joint names. Your creditor doesn’t care that it was your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife who did the actual spending. If the account is in your name, you’re responsible for it.
  • Set a household budget, especially if overspending is a problem for one or both of you. Your personal budget should include a limited amount of discretionary spending for each person. Make it easier to stick to your personal budget by having your pay disbursed directly into different bank accounts for different purposes. Many banks allow customers to set up multiple sub-accounts for free.
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