Situation Room

“The handling of finances is one of the major emotional battlegrounds of any marriage. Lack of finances is seldom the issue. The root problem seems to be an unrealistic and immature view of money – David Augsburger

In my previous post Un-Stable, we looked at financial (in)stability and its impact on relationships. Of importance is coming to terms with the reality that there’s the possibility of going through seasons of lack. This is especially so if your focus was on attaining financial security from a relationship.

One of my female readers told me this; it’s difficult to follow the lead of a spouse who is not prudent with finances. One who is a rogue, a scoundrel. It’s also difficult to remain calm when you end up filling in for your spouse on money matters. How, you ask. When couples aren’t open about their financial situations. And financial infidelity is exactly what this is.

According to Wikipedia, financial infidelity is the act of spending money, possessing credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt without the knowledge of one’s spouse, partner, or significant other. Picture hiding personal assets from your spouse, including your income. Or changing beneficiaries on investment policies to exclude your spouse. Or even spending on others in cases of cheating on spouses.

Her husband has no clue how much she earns, his wife knows zilch about his income. She makes no disclosure about the investment she’s made with her chama (investment group), he’s taken a big loan for an investment without her knowledge. Her bonus is stashed in the account marked ‘hidden’, he can’t explain his purchases from the money he makes.

He has failed to pay rent for the last three months and his wife has no idea, she’s bought a house which is bringing in some rental income of which he doesn’t need to know. She sends her parents a good chunk of money for support without telling him, he’s easily accessing mobile loans from fintechs with the promise to pay up soon only to end up being caught in a debt cycle. And now he’s gambling.

There are many more examples, examples where disclosures between couples are just a mirage. You see, many spouses are in relationships with no idea whatsoever about their joint financial position. They didn’t even talk in detail about financial responsibilities before they got married because, and this is so sad, they assumed all will be well and things would take care of themselves.

Well, all is usually not well and things may not always take care of themselves. Here’s the reason; money affects all areas of our lives and couples should talk often and openly about their finances. If not, and as David Ausburger puts it, it becomes an emotional battleground.

So what makes married couples get to such levels of financial infidelity? What propels them?

I believe lack of trust is a key factor. Perhaps it could have arisen from a past experience, and when that trust is broken, the hurting spouse or partner chooses to ‘secure’ their future without the inclusion of the other party. It could also be that one spouse is financially risk averse while the other is a risk taker. In this situation, the risk taker would find opportunities to use funds without consultation, since the assumption is that the response would be ‘no’.

Trust is like a piece of paper. Once crumbled, it can’t be perfect again.

Perhaps it could be as a result of observing other couples in a similar predicament and taking note of the negative effects, or maybe instances where a spouse feels embarrassed because of the activities they’ve engaged in, for instance, gambling, debt, drug abuse, and so on. Or even stashing money away out of fear of being penniless in the future, making a mockery of the vows the couple exchanged, for richer or poorer.

And, therefore, the rat race continues.

Jennie Karina, in her book Healing beyond Betrayal, gives red flags to look out for to determine if financial infidelity is taking place. These include: unwillingness to discuss finances, lies about income and expenditure, dishonesty about purchases, money withdrawn from joint accounts without notification, secrecy about bank accounts, investment groups, credit cards, need to control finances without any of or his/her own contribution or overreacting to every conversation about money.

pexels-photo-509877869333873985100962.jpegHere’s what she suggests for couples to focus on when building financial harmony between them:

  • Discuss money at the onset of your relationship. Understand the other person’s orientation of money while growing up.
  • Come clean on any liabilities that you have. Do not be ashamed.
  • Have a joint financial plan, including a budget and an expense tracker. Make financial decisions together. Let all expenses, savings and investments be arrived at through mutual agreement. “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14.28
  • Be open about your spending habits. This is one way that can build trust. Don’t make assumptions that you’re all on the same page.

In the spirit of honesty, there are times I’ve thought of putting money aside for a rainy day, just in case my husband experienced mid-life crisis and made decisions that would affect us negatively. Other times, such thoughts have been driven by arguments around use of the money that we have, which points out to a sense of control on my part. Or even when I’ve discovered purchases that I wasn’t made aware of.

This is something that my husband and I have purposed to work on, in order to create that financial harmony with each other and avoid that infamous battleground.

You may be concerned that you have tried the above recommendations by Jennie Karina and it hasn’t worked out for you. Your spouse is not interested or doesn’t put in effort to ensure financial fidelity. Or maybe they’ve not been loyal to you or perhaps you are suspicious of their loyalty. What should you do? Should you keep part of your finances private, especially where kids are involved? Should you wait for disaster to happen?

In my humble opinion, in the event of serious financial infidelity, you may need to take serious steps in putting funds aside, to cover for the times there could be a serious financial crisis. But to avoid a catch 22 in your relationship, mention to your spouse what you are doing.

In addition, if your relationship has been affected by financial infidelity, find a way to forgive your spouse, as you seek ways of ensuring harmony. If you don’t, you may find yourself seeking ways for revenge through your spending.

And seek help where things have gotten out of hand.

Learn about finances. Improve your financial skills. “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” Proverbs 14.15

And remember that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” 1 Timothy 6.7.

From hidden debt to secret expenditures, lying about finances can cause a marriage to go into default. ~ Kimberly Foss