Do you have financial fidelity in your relationship?

Love and Money

Do you have financial fidelity in your relationship?

Building—and maintaining—financial trust in your relationship is possible when you know how to go about it. Read on for ideas.

By Sylvie Tremblay

 

In a trusting, monogamous relationship, you’d want to be faithful to your partner. But how much thought have you given to financial fidelity: Being completely open and honest about your financial past and present? 

“Money is a big part of our lives, and in my experience, is one of the primary subject areas where couples have conflict,” says Mark Sharp, Ph. D, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist founder of the Aiki Relationship Institute in Illinois. And with one in five people who live with a partner admitting to having a secret bank account or credit card, according to one survey, this issue is probably worth addressing.  

What does it mean to have financial fidelity? 

Beyond disclosing your bank account information, financial fidelity means being transparent about your income, including payments your partner may not be aware of, like tax returns (if you file separately). It also includes telling your partner about any outstanding debt, your credit history, or any significant purchases on your shared accounts. Developing financial fidelity doesn’t mean you need to share every detail of your financial life. But you and your partner should make a plan for what you will share to ensure you're on the same page. 

Here’s what you can do to foster financial fidelity in your relationship, and how to build (or rebuild) trust in your shared financial future.  

4 tips to help develop financial fidelity 

Whether you’re working with your partner to overcome financial infidelity or you’re starting from a clean slate, taking steps to tackle money issues as a team can make your partnership stronger. Make financial fidelity a key part of your relationship with these tips. 

1. Have a truthful conversation 

If you've been keeping a financial secret, or you suspect your partner has, have a conversation to clear the air. Pick a time when you're not rushed and you have the energy to chat for a productive talk, recommends Dr. Sharp. 

Telling the truth may feel awkward, but a direct approach is best, he says. “The best thing to do is simply say ‘there is something I haven’t told you that I need to tell you’ and then plunge in.”  

Explain why you kept the secret so your partner can understand where you're coming from, and give them a chance to share their concerns. 

Similarly, if you suspect your partner might be hiding something, be direct about your concerns, without making accusations. Give them a chance to tell their side of the story, too, so you can move forward together. 

2. Make financial planning fun (so you actually do it) 

Part of financial fidelity means making significant financial decisions as a team, but the process can feel, err, boring. Spice it up by pairing your financial check-ins with activities you already do and enjoy, advises Dr. Sharp.  

Check your finances every Tuesday night over a special bottle of wine, for example, or on Saturday morning at your favorite cafe over lattes and a bagel. Or try checking in after your weekly tennis date or nature hike, he recommends.

Linking your check-ins to existing (and fun) habits means you're more likely to do them, he says. "It might take some practice, but once you get to a point where money talks feel unifying, it might feel like date night." 

“The best thing to do is simply say ‘there is something I haven’t told you that I need to tell you’ and then plunge in.”

Do you have financial fidelity in your relationship?

3. Give each other financial independence 

Financial fidelity is about trust, not controlling or monitoring each other’s spending. 

Create a game plan—for example, a dollar figure limit—on when one partner can approve a purchase without checking in and when you need to consult each other. In addition, 

“It’s good for each partner to have some money they can do whatever they want with,” says Dr. Sharp. “They can think about it as their own personal allowance from their joint responsibilities.” 

4. Get professional help when you need it 

Sometimes financial infidelity stems from underlying issues in the relationship. Seeking support from a relationship counsellor can help you address these issues in a safe, constructive way. Plus, you'll learn tools to use at home.  

Speaking of at-home tools, Upwise challenges can help you work toward your shared financial goals, whether you’re trying to reduce your debt, build your emergency fund, or create a budget you can stick to.  

Each challenge you complete helps you form positive financial habits, boosting your money management and strengthening your bond at the same time.

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