• Financial infidelity involves engaging in dishonest spending habits while in a relationship by lying about or otherwise concealing purchases and bills from your partner.
  • Spending habits can be tricky to discuss, and admitting that you aren’t always the best with your money isn’t easy to do, either. But the potential for awkwardness shouldn’t mean that you avoid talking about your financial goals as a couple.
  • Though research shows we may consciously or subconsciously seek out partners who seem similar to us in terms of wealth, basing your relationship on educated guesses about your SO’s spending habits and financial goals isn’t likely to equate to long-term success or happiness for either of you.
  • Instead, if you’re in a long-term relationship, marriage, or are transitioning into a more serious relationship, make time to discuss both your short and long-term financial goals.
  • Consider seeing a financial advisor to either start or optimize your investments or retirement funds. And to keep track of your savings, download the Mint mobile app by Intuit to help.  

What if our partner’s financial status had been remarkably different, right from the beginning of our relationship. Would that have changed our decision about dating them? What if they’d been even poorer—or what if they’d been richer? As shallow as it sounds, money does make the world go round; and to a degree, it also helps keep our romantic relationships stable, too.

Yet for people in committed relationships or marriages, finding a partner whose financial habits and goals align with ours is often tricky. When partners start lying or being deceptive about their spending habits and purchases, it’s a major red flag known as financial infidelity. Unhealthy money habits heavily increase the chances of a relationship ending in a breakup or divorce. For over a decade, differences in spending habits have been identified as the number one issue that married couples fight about. But what exactly can we do to avoid committing financial infidelity? 

Finances and Relationships

When it comes to financial woes, we actually might make both conscious and unconscious preventative measures to avoid being financially mismatched while dating. Money is a determining factor that ties into a potential partner’s dating appeal; as it turns out, we tend to select partners who we believe closely fit (or slightly exceed) us in terms of attractiveness and wealth. While dating outside of your financial status has become less stigmatized, we still mostly select people that resemble our own social standing. 

But appearing to be financially similar and actually having the same money goals are two separate things. That’s why committed relationships, especially when cohabitating, require real, candid discussions about your money goals and spending habits. Otherwise, you may risk agreeing to a budget or financial commitment that one of you doesn’t really believe in—and that will inevitably lead to someone being let down.  

Avoid Committing Financial Infidelity

Marriages and long-term relationships are built on trust; if we can’t talk to our partner about something that we’re doing, then there’s probably a (bad) reason, and we should stop and reevaluate. But financial infidelity might be easy to rationalize—we can pretend there’s nothing wrong with splurging that few hundred dollars last month for something our partner wouldn’t agree to, or secretly paying off bills that we conveniently forgot to mention.  

Instead, avoid committing financial infidelity by: 

  • Making time for financial real-talk: In new relationships where you’re planning to date seriously, know that communication will be key to creating a successful financial future together. But it will also help you from pulling your hair out. It can be embarrassing to discuss finances, especially if you have bad credit, no savings, and (probably) student loans. If your new relationship isn’t ready for the money talk, that’s okay—just know you’re probably not ready for something long-term. 
  • Putting out feelers when in a new relationship: If you like who you’re with and are thinking about staying with them long term, ask about their financial views before moving in, getting pets, or making large purchases together. It can save you both time and money—and you could end up dodging a bullet if they hold differing views. 
  • Prioritizing finances in long-term relationships: When you’re already living together or making plans for the future, financial planning will inevitably come into play. Don’t avoid discussing the costs of things like weddings, having kids, car purchases, or home buying—these are important but inevitably stressful, life milestones that should be talked about. Avoid future arguments over money; don’t avoid relationship-saving financial talk. While exploring new territory with your SO can be frightening, and may test the boundaries of your relationship, it can also strengthen your bond.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Don’t let yourself get caught up in financial infidelity. Like most personal subjects, talking about money isn’t always comfortable, but it’s definitely necessary. The initial awkwardness will pass; but a relationship-ending fight over hidden purchases, spending habits, or mysterious bills is worth avoiding. Here are our two last (and incredibly easy) ways to avoid committing financial infidelity: 

  • Download the Mint app (seriously): Mint mobile offers an intuitive way to set spending limits, check your credit score, create savings goals, and other budgets of all kinds. Best of all? It’s free. Link your Mint account to your bank, car insurance company, and retirement or investment accounts. 
  • Talk to a financial advisor together, once a year: A financial advisor is like an interior designer, but for your bank account. Couples can see an advisor together who helps you adjust your spending habits, determine how much you can save individually, and optimize (or help start) your retirement or investment accounts.

Invest in yourselves and talk about each of your finances and your plans for what to do with the money you earn. Financial infidelity can be easily avoided; don’t settle into secretive behavior in order to hide your spending from your partner.