You, me and debt make three. When we think of infidelity, we often think of an affair. But torrid sexual infidelity is now in direct competition…going bone to buck…with the one thing that can screw us harder and longer than a lusty lover…financial infidelity. What precedes infidelity? Flirting. Most of us, at one time or another, have engaged in a little innocent flirting. We’ve flirted with our sexuality…exchanged heated glances with strangers or enjoyed an exciting sexual tension with someone a little too much. We’ve flirted financially…indulged in clothing, purses, or gadgets we’ve neglected to share with our spouse, or secretly kept the occasional $20 to treat ourselves. These seemingly frivolous flirts may cost us a short-lived argument, but the spat will soon pass and we’ll get to keep that trendy new outfit, cutting edge gadget, or flirty ego boost all to ourselves. Therein lies the motivation for the flirt. However, when we graduate from a flirt to a full blown fling, the resulting argument won’t be so short-lived, and the only thing we’ll get to keep in the end is debt…whether it’s regret we owe…or money. So what can we do to prevent a financial fling? And which fling is worse? Financial or sexual?
Financial infidelity is “the secretive act of spending money, possessing credit and credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt unknown to one’s spouse, partner, or significant other.” While both men and women are offenders, women seem to take the lead…probably because more often than not, women handle the household finances. Some offenses may be minor…sneaking $10 to buy a scarf and passing it off as a long time closet hermit. Some may be moderate…charging a “today hot, tomorrow not” $200 gadget and willing it to have an “invisible to wife” app. While neither of these are marriage breakers, all lies — or omissions of the truth — can be damaging to a relationship. But that’s just cosmetic damage. Damage be damned. To completely total a relationship, one may open up a secret charge account, incur debt in the tens of thousands, wipe out a savings account worth six digits, take out a second mortgage, stash money in a secret bank account, or gamble away his marital home, possessions, and future.
All of which can, and do, happen.
Money is the number one reason for marital disputes AND divorce. Studies show that 60% of participating respondents consider hiding credit cards or major purchases serious “moving” violations. A 2005 survey completed by lawyers.com and Redbook magazine interviewed nearly 2000 married/living together adults. While most respondents considered a romp in the hay more treasonous, just under half claimed they’d prefer their spouses bone around with another, rather than buck around with their finances. A separate study found that well over half of participating subjects considered a secret bank account reason enough for walking papers. Divorce lawyers and marriage counselors agree that more divorce cases stem from differences in finances than affairs. It seems money divides and conquers us more often than sex…whether it be an overabundance of financial flirts or one major financial fling. Just what does that say about our marital priorities?
Double dip in the nookie bowl, you stand to lose an arm…but double dip in the money bowl, you’ll lose an arm AND a leg.
How does one get swept away in the sultry seduction of a financial fling? Our over-spending can be attributed to many things: an attempt to keep up an image, an effort to prove self-worth, an inability to say “no” to kids, an attempt to maintain a lifestyle we can no longer afford, a grasp at a false sense of power, or a struggle to satisfy some form of gambling addiction. And then there’s America’s most popular reason for over-spending…plastic pleasure. Buying with credit not only provides us immediate gratification, but its phony money disguise is just too seductive a temptation for some. Plastic allows us to buy and enjoy now, and pay later…but, for those who abuse plastic pleasure, later is as relevant to their wallets as a training bra is to Dolly Parton.
Regardless of the reason, we seem to be as enticed by the sweet sins of financial fornication as a teenage boy is by whatever “secret” Victoria is hiding beneath her glossy pages and lacy unmentionables.
Financial counselors have some suggestions on how to avoid the financial fling:
* Don’t refer to money as “mine” or “yours.” Instead alter the mentality to “ours.” Our money, our problem. “Mine” and “yours” sets us up as divided, rather than united. United we stand, divided we fall.
* Keep be NO secrets or lies when it comes to money. One dirty little secret leads to another dirty little secret until you have a dirty dozen secrets…leading to a down and dirty divorce.
* Jointly write out a budget. A plan of action provides us a playbook for our financial future…a defined set of no-no’s and go-go’s.
* Allocate each partner “blow money.” As little as $20/month gives us a sense of autonomy and allows us a much needed guilt-free indulgence.
* Remain actively aware of all finances. A person who remains in the dark when it comes to his financial standing is making his bed for inevitable financial crashing.
Finding ourselves the victim of a financial infidelity can have devastatingly tangible consequences. If a marriage ends, not only are we forced to start over emotionally, but we must do so without a monetary leg to stand on. After being financially raped, we have no money to start over with.
So, which is worse? A sexual fling can ruin a relationship, end in divorce, and have lawyers fighting over assets…who gets the house, the cars, the savings account, the investments, etc. Once it’s all said and done, the heart will take a year, maybe two, to heal. On the other hand, a financial fling can bring the same brutally painful outcome…but with two differences…there may be NO assets to fight over, and financial ruin, or bankruptcy, can take 10 years to heal. Ouch!
Seems there’s only one thing that drives us more than sex….cold, hard CASH! So, when it comes to marital moolah, be straight…don’t fornicate, lest you contribute to the climbing divorce rate. 😉
- “My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.” ~ Errol Flynn