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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Financial infidelity, cheating your spouse

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Financial infidelity, cheating your spouse

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“Haunted by one-night stand” were the words placed atop a letter to  Dear Christine in a recent edition of the MIDWEEK NATION newspaper.
The author, a happily married woman and mother of two children, had written confessing to having unprotected sex with a co-worker after she got drunk at an office party.
“To cut a long story short, I am now pregnant and I am wondering if the child is my husband’s,” she wrote.
What she really wanted to know from Christine was: “Should I tell my husband about that night or for the sake of all involved, leave things as they are?”
Christine’s advice: keep your mouth shut and avoid ruining your marriage over something “you did nine months ago and have prayed about countless times”.
But sexual infidelity isn’t the only kind of wrongdoing in a relationship between partners . . . Another is financial infidelity which corrodes trust and creates unhappiness. The major difference between them though is that while one deals with sexual intimacy, the other has money as its linchpin, either withholding or spending it without telling your significant other.
?Broadly defined, financial infidelity is the secretive act of spending money, possessing credit cards, holding bank accounts unknown to the spouse and incurring debts without the partner knowing about them.
Although there aren’t any specific figures for Barbados, don’t be caught off-guard if anecdotal information indicates it is on the rise in the Caribbean country as it is in the United States.
Recently, a Barbadian great grandmother acknowledged that her husband died more than a decade ago without knowing that she had several bank accounts with large sums of money salted away in different Bridgetown banks. And in New York a Bajan who celebrated her 100th birthday told the NATION some time ago she too had never informed her spouse of more than 60 years about her tidy nest-egg she had set aside for the proverbial rainy day.
“It was none of his business,” said the centenarian. “It was my money and there was no need to tell him about it. May he rest in peace.”
Almost a decade ago, 2005 to be precise, 30 per cent of the respondents in a national survey in the United States admitted they had outright lied to their spouses about their finances while 25 per cent of the Americans said they had simply withheld information. Three years later, half of the people who participated in a follow-up study acknowledged some form of financial infidelity.
Now a new national survey, whose findings were released on Valentine’s Day, showed that financial infidelity had gone through the roof and was hurting people’s relationships across the country. Some 76 per cent of those questioned told researchers of the National Endowment For Financial Education/Harris Interactive survey that financial infidelity had adversely affected their relationships.
According to the pollsters: One in three who combined their finances confessed to financially cheating on their partners, meaning lying to them. Thirty per cent said they had secret bank accounts, had hidden a bill or failed to disclose purchases.
About 13 per cent acknowledged engaging in serious deception about the state of their finances, such as lying about debts or about how much they had earned.
An estimated 70 per cent of divorced couples placed money at the top of the list for their decisions to go their separate ways. Thirty five per cent believed some part of their finances was their personal business. Thirty per cent of couples who cheat on their finances concealed a bank account, purchase or a statement. But why do they do it?
?“People commit financial infidelity because although they are sharing everything with their partner or spouse, they believe that certain parts of their situation still should remain private,” said Patricia Seaman, senior director of the National Endowment for Financial Education.
“Additionally, people are afraid of what their partner is going to say, how they will be judged or they may be embarrassed.”
What then are the red flags that may indicate cheating on finances is occurring? One is the monthly bill that simply disappears, say the experts. Another is the receipt for a purchase that you don’t recognise.
“Another significant indicator may be that your partner or spouse is defensive or withdrawn when the topic of money is brought up,” said Seaman.
A Barbadian business owner said he found out that his wife had accumulated a lot of money he didn’t know anything about when CLICO collapsed.
“When the story broke about CLICO she called me on the phone and said she didn’t know what to do and asked me to help her get back the money,” he recalled. “It was a crisis and she was afraid.”