One morning I was listening to a popular radio program. The hosts were asking callers if they had any financial secrets that they withhold from their spouses. Caller after caller went on the air sharing their secrets for the world to hear. Of course, most of these individuals used pseudonyms to conceal their identity. Some even went to the extreme measure and requested the hosts use professional voice altering equipment to further guarantee their anonymity. People expressed having secret accounts, stashed money, kept bonuses, and opened charge accounts. Some had even made significant purchases without their spouse’s knowledge.
As I was listening to story after story, I could not help but take a personal inventory of my own actions as it relates to family finances. Although I'm not guilty of any of the major infractions mentioned above, I have not always asked for my wife's advice before making certain purchases.
At times, this has caused friction in my marriage. My wife felt left out and frustrated, and I felt like I was being treated like a child. Our conversations often escalated, along with our voices and emotions. Too often these issues were left unresolved, causing strain and leaving bitter feelings of resentment and anger.
According to an article posted on the website CNNMoney, “Financial infidelity: Catching a Cheating Spouse,” staff writer Jessica Dickler explains “Having an affair isn't the only kind of cheating that can ruin a marriage. Whether it's hiding the extra money you earn, keeping a secret bank account or hiding purchases from your spouse, so-called "financial infidelity" can take just as harsh a toll on a marriage.”
As stated by a USA TODAY article entitled, "Many Marriages Today are ‘Til Debt Do Us Part," correspondent Kathy Cho suggests, “If love is the tie that binds couples together, money is often the wrench that pries them apart. Money conspires to antagonize couples. It sometimes invites divorce”. Here are some quick tips to help guarantee a stronger, financially-healthy marriage.
Do not hide purchases from your spouse. If you feel the need to hide something, then chances are you should not be buying it in the first place. Remember, your ultimate responsibility is your family’s welfare. Consistently making unnecessary purchases can easily place you on the road to marital difficulty.
Do not hide debt obligations from your spouse. Secretly owning and accruing credit card debt can cause financial hardship and stress and could potentially ruin your marriage.
Do not keep secret bank or investment accounts from your spouse. One of the components of a successful relationship is trust. Keeping secret accounts is a violation of this trust and can cause resentment.
Do not hide money, bonus pay, tax refunds, or any other form of compensation from your spouse. Don't justify keeping secret money for emergencies. Remember, we should be as honest with our spouses as we expect them to be with us.
Speak with your spouse and set weekly spending limits. It is important to discuss your definition of personal money to avoid possible misunderstandings. Some examples of items that could be purchased with personal money include hobby supplies, fast-food, and inexpensive entertainment such as books or CDs.
Develop a family budget and set financial goals as a couple. Make a commitment to never make a purchase outside of the family budget without discussing it with your spouse.
Hold monthly “Money Talks” with your spouse. Review the family budget and discuss areas that might require more discipline and management. This is also the ideal time to pay bills and audit your accounts.