Financial Infidelity

May 9, 2022

Let’s begin with how infidelity is defined: Merriam-Webster:

  • the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one's husband, wife, or partner
  • unfaithfulness to a moral obligation : DISLOYALTY
  • lack of belief in a religion

Psychology Today defines infidelity as:

Breaking of a promise to remain faithful to a romantic partner, whether that promise was a part of marriage vows, a privately uttered agreement between lovers, or an unspoken assumption. As unthinkable as the notion of breaking such promises may be at the time they are made, infidelity is common, and when it happens, it raises thorny questions: Should you stay? Can trust be rebuilt? Or is there no choice but to pack up and move on?

The PwC Financial Wellness Survey brought staggering numbers regarding financial well-being in the USA. PwC conducted an online survey of 3,236 full-time employed US adults across a variety of industries in January and February 2022. This is the survey’s 11th year tracking the financial well-being of US employees.

“Against a backdrop of rising inflation and global instability, many US employees are feeling the pressure of meeting their day-to-day financial needs. That sentiment was evident in the latest PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey of more than 3,000 workers across several industries.
Consider that two out of five full-time employees said their top financial pressure is that everything costs more these days. And according to the survey, they’re not especially optimistic that help is on the way. Only 42% said their compensation is keeping up with the rising cost of living expenses. That’s down from 52% in last year’s survey. In addition, one in four full-time employees are working more jobs than in previous years to make ends meet, and 56% are stressed about their finances."

Personal financial issues impact employees physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. Employees say that financial stress/money worries in the past year have had a severe or major impact on their:

  • Mental health - 34%
  • Sleep - 33%
  • Self-esteem - 30%
  • Physical health - 23%
  • Relationships at home - 21%
  • Productivity at work - 18%
  • Attendance at work - 15%

Financially-stressed employees are three times as likely to feel a big, negative impact from money worries.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, among financially-stressed employees, 49% said that money worries had a severe or major impact on their mental health in the past year.  Money problems can be a big driver of mental health issues that have the potential impact a person in mind body and spirit. As with mental health, a stigma around getting help lingers — 41% of financially-stressed employees are embarrassed to seek guidance on their finances.

Many reasons why financially-stressed employees are reluctant to ask for help with their finances:

  • My finances are a private matter - 27%
  • I don’t want anyone to see that I’m in debt - 25%Money isn’t something we tend to talk about in my family - 24%
  • Physical health - 23%
  • I wouldn’t know what to ask a financial professional - 8%
  • I don’t have enough money to talk about - 7%
  • I don’t want to give up control - 6%
  • Another reason - 3%

So where does Financial Infidelity fit into all of the numbers. I chose numbers because numbers don’t lie. They reveal facts that can lead to positive or challenging situations in our lives and Financial Infidelity is one of them. 

What is Financial Infidelity?

Plainly put, financial infidelity occurs whenever you intentionally choose to keep secrets and or lie about money to your partner. As we look at the numbers and how financial stress is running rampant in the United States, we can begin to understand how financial infidelity has also increased.

  • According to, 32% of people in committed relationships are keeping some financial secret
  • 9% say they are holding secret debt
  • 43% of couples admit to committing financial infidelity against their partner and 39% avoid talking about money with their partner

Money and intimacy problems are often linked and issues with finances can cause damage and trauma to a marriage or partnership. Financial infidelity can take on many forms. The U.S. News & World Report found that the biggest money-related lies that came up in relationships were:

  • 31.4%-secret purchases
  • 28.7%-hiding debts and 
  • 22.6% dishonesty about income

These numbers help paint a bigger picture of how strong an impact money has in our partnerships”. Why? Although there is a strong connection, as we can see from the numbers between major debt and financial infidelity, I see that there are some deeper psychological issues related to infidelity as well. 

  • One of the major challenges I have seen with couples is communication. The lack of healthy communication skills can cause difficulty, in general, and this includes money. Money is one of the major reasons for divorce in the USA and as you can see from the numbers, individuals do not feel comfortable talking about money, even with their partners. 
  • For the most part, the majority of individuals were not taught skills on how to manage money, and this can cause shame and guilt, thus leading to lying and hiding. Even today, the National Financial Educators Council says “statistics show a lack of responsibility in today’s youth”. 
  • Money can become a power struggle when one partner significantly out-earns the other. If one spouse is earning the majority of the income, it can lead to resentment, arguments, and an erosion of respect in the relationship.
  • If we grow up feeling deprived, this can show up in our relationship with money. We are not able to delay gratification, thus we will be out of control. This can lead to depression, lying, arguments and ultimately, a fractured relationship or marriage.  
  • And last but not least, our family can teach us, through either conscious or unconscious ways, of mismanaging our money. Children see adults lie to others to get what they want, so they learn to do the same. 

There is so much more linked to money than mental health and relationships, however, I would like to conclude with steps to take to begin the healing process.

1. Come clean. Yes, being honest now may be difficult, but the stress, anxiety, and worry that comes along with hiding and lying is taking a toll on you and your relationship(s).

2. Ask for help. Seek a financial counselor that is also a financial therapist and can help with the emotional issues, as well as the financial. It is important to understand the connection between money, love, and sex so that one can understand how buying, rewarding, or controlling behavior with money can lead to lies, betrayals, and affairs. Yes, we can also have an affair with money. 

3. Communicate openly. If you are planning to get married or live together, I would strongly suggest discussing your finances and work with a financial counselor.

4. Work Together. Financial Infidelity can damage the trust in a relationship. Some feel that time heals all wounds. Some wounds go deep as a result of violating trust and others may be able to healed, however, healing wounds take action, so it’s important that you work on the infidelity together. 

5. Educate yourself about finances. Knowledge is power and there is so much information available for you as an individual or for families.

6. Finally, forgive. If that words does not resonate for you, then we can use "let go" or "release." Either way, you cannot move forward holding on to the past. This can be a beginning for both individuals involved, and a deeper learning of both self and other. Be kind to yourself so that this experience can turn into a win. This may be difficult to hear now, however, letting go of the past is the key to a successful future both financially and emotionally. 

Click HERE to learn more about the Wellview services available to you. We can’t wait to work with you!

– Lorraine Edey, PhD., LCW, AFC

Mental Health Specialist | E-Mail Lorraine

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