Nearly one in five adults surveyed (who were in live-in relationships) admitted to hiding a checking, savings or credit card account from their partners. If you’re a millennial then the news is even worse: 28% admitted to having a secret account, compared to 15% of older respondents.
I truly don’t get how this is possible. Maybe it’s because I was in complete control of our finances. All of the money that came in went directly into our joint account. I checked our bank balance routinely, so I’d have noticed money being withdrawn and I always noticed money being spent if I hadn’t okayed it.
I suppose some couples have a small amount of discretionary income, which they could use to make minimum payments on a secret credit card. But unless you have separate finances, I truly don’t understand how you could have a secret bank account. Wouldn’t the partner notice if the full paycheck wasn’t coming into the joint account? And if you have separate finances, what’s the point of a “secret” account?
I guess my other question is how you hide the results on the spending.
Sure, you can spend on experiences, including something as mundane as eating out. But wouldn’t the partner notice that you didn’t brownbag it that day (or that you brought home your lunch uneaten)? Or would you actually throw away perfectly good food to hide the fact?
Or are we talking drinks out with friends, then lying about how much you indulged?
Also, I suppose there’s fashion. A lot of guys don’t know what women’s fashion costs, so you could argue that women can get away with downplaying the cost of new attire, makeup, etc. Still, wouldn’t the partner get suspicious when the charge didn’t show up at all on the joint card?
Maybe these are the people who have let their partners take the financial reins and therefore don’t check the card charges as carefully as they apparently should. Which is a terrifying idea in its own right.
Of course, beyond the “how” is the “why.”
According to the article, one of the main reasons people hide accounts is to avoid conflict. They know that their partners wouldn’t approve of the money spent, and they don’t want the argument.
Theoretically, I get that. But that tells you one of two things: You know you’re not spending your money wisely, or you and your partner have different money priorities . Neither one is great for a relationship’s future.
Tim and I had different money philosophies, and it was a near-constant source of friction because money permeates so much of life. It ultimately led to a lot of resentment — and some of that resentment is what led to the divorce.
So if you and your significant other have different money values, it’s time to have a long, hard talk to get more aligned. Or potentially to realize that the differences are going to cause too much trouble long-term. Sad but true.
Worse than cheating?
Back to the study.
Perhaps the most interesting parts of the results were the reactions by the would-be cheatees. When asked, 55% of the respondents said that having an account hidden from them would be as bad or worse than physically cheating: 35% thought it was as bad, 20% thought it was worse.
Would that really be the case? I initially thought that was a bit hyperbolic. But then I pictured how I’d have felt if I’d found out Tim had taken out a credit card behind my back. If suddenly we had once again been in credit card debt because he couldn’t be bothered to spend wisely.
Of course, that couldn’t have happened. As previously stated, I dealt with all of the finances (a setup Tim was infinitely grateful for, I should add). I saw all the charges on the credit card and routinely checked the bank accounts to monitor our spending activity. There would have been no way for him to even meet the minimum payments without taking money out of our joint account, which I would have noticed.
Still, what if he had managed it somehow? I’d have been devastated and infuriated. And yes, I’d have felt betrayed.
I’d have thought over and over about how we were supposed to have the same goals, be working toward a safety net of a hefty savings account and being mortgage free. But there he’d have been, spending behind my back, undermining my hard efforts. (And his spender/fast food habits already undermined my efforts enough as it was.)
Still, would I have thought it was as bad as/worse than cheating? Probably not… I think.
Because another part of me thinks perhaps it would have been worse. Hormones can lead you astray, making quick, stupid, one-time decisions — albeit ones with a long-lasting impact. Meanwhile, a secret account is a choice you make over and over again. It’s a continuing action to hide something important and potentially life-altering from your partner.
So yeah, maybe it is as bad as traditional cheating.
I know of one man who found out his wife had taken out a credit card in her own name and had multiple thousands of dollars of debt. He’d thought they were financially stable, but it was an illusion.
I try to picture that kind of revelation and how devastating it would be. But I just can’t imagine. I wonder if he felt cheated on.
Do you think financial infidelity is worse than regular cheating? Have you ever experienced financial infidelity?