Infidelity - the noun is described as the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or sexual partner. Whereas, the definition of financial infidelity, according to Investopedia is ‘Financial infidelity occurs when couples with combined finances lie to each other about money. For example, one partner may hide significant debts in a separate account while the other partner is unaware.’

 

The latest muted subject of infidelity doing the rounds in the US this summer has not so much to do with emotional, mental or sexual cheating so much as indiscreet ‘financial affairs’. La carte - hiding money from the spouse or partner, keeping a separate bank account, buying stocks and shares, business trips, credit cards and debts, even a separate house for future ‘unexpected developments in the marital life’ and the shop till you drop mode of self- pleasure.

 

More than 70 percent of all divorced American couples cite money as the root of their problems and the downward hill to separation.

Much like sexual infidelity, financial infidelity starts innocuously. It may begin with some flirtatious comments or private ‘business’ lunches and often snowballs into a larger problem.

 

Hiding a separate bank account, thinking of it as personal savings, away from the joint bank account, hiding credit cards and tucking away bills in secret, going for vacations citing ‘bonuses’ etcetera, all add up to the indiscretions. Which eventually hurt the partners, for it is not so much to do with money as keeping it a secret.

 

But, the difference between sexual and financial infidelity is that everyone does it knowingly or unknowingly, once in their lifetime and it all begins with individual personalities.

 

Take the case of Cody and his wife, both in their mid-forties. After ten years of marriage, they decided to divorce. But it was only when the court ordered financial disclosure that Cody found out that, his wife had a secret bank account, had ordered credit cards in his name (which she had been using) and had balances to pay off.

 

This came as a shock to Cody, who felt betrayed more than for her sexual indiscretions. He had used up every penny for their house and mortgage payments, whereas the spouse had a nice stash hidden away.

 

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This is only one example of financial infidelity, but, Cody’s was a classic case where he went through instability mentally, emotionally, physically and the financial infidelity adding more salt to the wound.

 

Authors of the book The Five Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language, Scott and Bethany Palmer, run the website themoneycouple.com to help couples come through their problems of eradicating day to day money issues.

 

They have segregated the personalities of individuals into five types – Security Seeker, Saver, Risk Taker, Flyer and Spender. It’s a book worth buying for couples who fit into those brackets and cannot seem to balance their lives. In their website, they have cited that financial infidelity occurs due to these top five reasons:

 

  1. Financial separation is when one or both don’t know what’s happening with the other person. They’re probably paying bills separately and they don’t want the other person to know.
  2. Overspending and debt causes one half of the couple to set up little pockets of money that the other spouse cannot know about, which is a form of financial infidelity.
  3. Lack of planning is when couples do not jointly agree on plan for retirement, insurance and other financial needs.
  4. Control of the couple’s money by only one spouse almost always forces one or the both the spouses’ financial infidelity.
  5. Money secrets can start with good intentions – such as the wife who saved $10,000 – but have terrible consequences, such as not paying child support. Money secrets are common in second marriages, with the financial pressures of caring for children, shame from debt from the first marriage or the need to pay alimony.

 

I could add the sixth clause – shopping. “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like,” says Will Smith.

 

“I will go shopping even if I don’t need anything because, it makes me happy,” says a woman, shopping at Walmart. She goes on to explain, “My husband is tight-fisted, he has been wearing the same clothes for the last 12 years. We have no holidays together, nothing. I cannot understand why he is such a miser. That’s why I spend his money.” That verily brings the Spender and the Saver in a category that is outlined in the book.

Money being the root of all insecurities, it is not abnormal to find relationships based on what the other person can offer – materially. And with it follows sugar daddies, extra-marital affairs, financial infidelity and divorce on the rise.

 

But, on the subject of divorce, many unhappy couples also live together for financial security, especially for medical insurances that one or the other spouse may provide.

 

Added to this is also the cost of sharing debts and mortgages that they still have to pay for their houses, cars, education for their children, etc. This brings Cody and his wife back to ground zero. They are living together again, with the same old problems. As far as financial infidelity is concerned, their life has come full circle.

 

Anjou DurgaGiri is Asianet Newsable's editor-at-large, currently living in Kansas City. The views expressed here are her own.