The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
My cousin, Jon, worked hard when he was in his twenties. He worked overtime whenever he could, and he carefully accumulated his money so that he had a decent-sized savings account with over six months of emergency money, and he also funded his retirement to the maximum allowed.
He fell in love with “Laura” who was several years younger than him. Laura was pretty and vivacious, and she came from a difficult family background. Jon and Laura got engaged after a year of dating and married six months later.
While they were initially happy, unbeknownst to Jon, when Laura felt anxiety or had a bad day, she turned to retail therapy. Less than a year into their marriage, Jon discovered that Laura had been secretly taking money from his savings account. She had also accumulated more than ten thousand dollars in credit card debt.
Jon didn’t know for some time because he worked long hours, and Laura was very good at hiding her purchases. Of course, when Jon found out, he was furious, but he still loved Laura, and they decided to work together on the situation.
However, Laura vowed to try harder in word only. A few months later, Jon, who now kept better tabs on the finances, discovered that Laura had charged up another five thousand dollars. They were divorced less than two years after they married.
Between Laura’s out of control, secret spending and the divorce expenses, Jon had to spend several years getting his finances to the same place they were before the marriage.
Can You Actually Recover from Financial Infidelity?
Financial infidelity can be every bit as damaging as sexual infidelity, especially since destructive behaviors such as retail therapy, gambling, alcoholism, and drug use often accompany financial infidelity.
However, just like sexual infidelity, you and your spouse can recover from financial infidelity–if you choose to.
If you decide to work on the marriage, you’ll likely need both a good marriage counselor and to work together on the finances.
The most important thing to do is to determine what is causing the financial infidelity. Then, your spouse will need to work hard to change that behavior. While this is possible, it’s often very difficult.
You, as the spouse who was financially cheated on, so to speak, will also need to look at your own culpability. While you may not have been overspending, you cultivated an environment that let your spouse overspend and hide it from you. Did you have a role in the money management, or did you leave it to your spouse to handle?
Should You Try to Salvage Your Marriage?
Only you can answer this. If you do decide to salvage your marriage, you should decide what your breaking point will be. If your spouse continues to be financially unfaithful as Jon’s did, will you stay, or will you end the relationship?
What if your spouse can’t break the behaviors that cause overspending? As one ex-wife of an alcoholic said, “Alcoholism isn’t just an emotionally destructive disease. It’s also an expensive one” (Kahler Financial).
Have you dealt with financial infidelity before? If so, how did you handle the situation?