5 Tips for Rebuilding Trust After Financial Infidelity

Posted by on Mar 12, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 5 Tips for Rebuilding Trust After Financial Infidelity

Has your relationship been hit with financial infidelity?

Erica stared at her husband Jim in shocked silence. “Was he serious?” She struggled to process what he had just told her.  Had he really secretly amassed a debt of nearly $10,000 that she did not know about? “No,” she thought “there’s no way.” They were barely making ends meet as it was and there was certainly no way they could afford that much extra debt. But Jim was crying now, something he never did, and telling her over and over again how sorry he was and she knew it must be true.

Erica’s hands were shaking so badly now, and coffee was sloshing over the rim of the mug she held clenched tightly between them. She could hear the blood pounding in her ears, her breathing was ragged, and she felt like vomiting. Then she exploded with anger. “How could you?!” she screamed at Jim. “How could you do this to me, to us? We’re going to lose everything we’ve got and it’s all your fault!”

“You have every right to be mad but please listen to me…” Jim began but Erica cut him off. “I have to get out of here, I can’t take any more!” she grabbed her purse and was out the door before he could stop her.

Financial infidelity is cheating

Jim committed financial infidelity by overspending family money without Erica’s knowledge. Like sexual infidelity, financial infidelity is a form of cheating. It’s cheating because it involves lying to and deceiving one’s partner. Lies and deception about money, no matter how seemingly small, can cause serious problems.

Lies destroy trust

In addition to the obvious financial problems they can cause, lies about money undermine the couples’ relationship. Lies erode trust, compromise the teller’s integrity, and make the person who was lied to feel really, really bad.

Why trust is so important

Trust serves as the foundation upon which healthy relationships are built. Knowing and believing that your partner will not cause you harm, emotionally as well as physically, leads to the development of true closeness, connection, respect, and intimacy. Without trust, these other important elements that make up a healthy relationship are not possible.

What you can do:

The good news is that relationships can and do recover from the damage caused by financial infidelity. Rebuilding trust is an essential part of healing your relationship when financial infidelity has occurred. If you and your partner are committed to working through financial infidelity, here are 5 things you can do to begin rebuilding trust.

  1. Be transparent. The first step in rebuilding trust involves both partners being fully accountable for their actions when it comes to finances. This means giving one another information about, as well as access to, all financial records, such as credit card statements, bank accounts, loans, etc.  While disclosing this information may be extremely painful for both of you, it is important for several reasons. Not only is this kind of transparency necessary to begin repairing the financial damage that has been done, it also demonstrates an openness that is necessary if trust is to be rebuilt.
  2. Work together to create a financial recovery plan. Working together to develop and implement a recovery plan helps build trust in two ways: it allows both you and your partner to share the responsibility for the family’s financial wellbeing as well as makes each of you accountable to the other. A good financial recovery plan might include the specific steps for repaying the debt, creating and implementing a budget, and working with a debt consolidation agency.
  3. Meet in the middle. It is not possible for both people in a relationship to always get their way when it comes to money. You and your partner both have valid points of view about spending versus saving that need to be acknowledged and incorporated into your financial planning. Try to understand your partner’s particular financial style and be willing to make some compromises. This will allow both of you to get at least some of what you want which, in turn, will lead to greater trust in one another
  4. Actions speak louder than words. We’ve all heard this old expression but its absolutely true: people will give more weight to your actions than your words if there is a discrepancy between the two. Your ability to consistently follow through with what you say you are going to do when it comes to money can make all the difference in your partner’s willingness to trust you.
  5. Give it time. The city of Rome was not built in a single day, and the same can be said for rebuilding trust between you and your partner. Rebuilding trust is a process that will occur gradually over time as you both follow the steps outlined in this article. Consider sitting down with your partner once a month to talk about how things are going between you so you can see the pattern of progress that is being made.

Objections:

Why do we need to work together to rebuild trust?

It is tempting for many couples to either give all of the responsibility for fixing the problems to the unfaithful partner since they were the one who made the mess, or for the deceived partner to take it all on themselves because they feel their partner is too irresponsible to fix it. Although both of these approaches may be understandable, the problem is that they further perpetuate the relationship dynamics that likely contributed to the financial infidelity in the first place (read “ Are You or Your Partner Guilty of Financial Infidelity?” for more information). The reality is that it will take both of you working together to repair the damage that has been done by the financial infidelity if your relationship is going to survive.

I’m not sure if I can ever trust my partner again.

Many people struggle with this issue, and it will be important for you to carefully consider whether your partner is deserving of your trust. While this is a very personal decision, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide. Is the financial infidelity an isolated incident or is there a history of your partner keeping secrets (about money or anything else) from you? Has your partner accepted responsibility for his/her actions? Is he/she willing to make changes? Seek the help of a qualified professional if you want or need help sorting out this issue.

What if financial infidelity isn’t our only problem?

Sometimes people engage in financial infidelity to help hide other problems they do not want to share with their partner, such as sexual affairs or compulsive/addictive behaviors (i.e., drinking, drug use, gambling, shopping, etc.). These are very serious problems that will also need to be addressed in order for the relationship to recover.  Many people choose to seek help from a qualified professional since it can be difficult to resolve these kinds of issues on their own.

Erica and Jim, continued…

It took several days for Erica to calm down enough so she and Jim could talk about what had happened.  It was a painful conversation for both of them, but neither of them wanted to end what was otherwise a good marriage.  Jim and Erica knew that he would ultimately have to prove that she could trust him again but also recognized that she too had a part to play in rebuilding the trust between them. They came across this article and decided to follow the tips for rebuilding trust.

Jim and Erica started by  agreeing to make themselves accountable to one another and together went over all of their financial records. They decided to work with a credit counseling service so they could get help managing the large debt that Jim had amassed. Once they had a plan in place for repaying their creditors, they turned their attention to developing a monthly budget that would allow them to live within their financial means. They had anticipated that this would be difficult since they had different ideas about what to do with their money but, since both of them were willing to make some compromises, they were able to come up with a budget that met both of their needs. Erica and Jim both followed through with what they agreed to do and regularly talked with one another about their finances. As the months passed, Erica gradually began to trust Jim again and they both realized that they could handle their finances together without it being a battle between them. It has now been a year since Jim and Erica began the process of rebuilding trust and they feel their relationship is stronger than it has ever been.

Summary

Trust is an essential part of a healthy relationship. Financial infidelity severely damages trust, but it can be rebuilt if both you and your partner are willing to work on it. 5 things you can do to begin rebuilding trust are:

  1. Be transparent when it comes to money
  2. Work together to create a financial recovery plan
  3. Be willing to make some compromises
  4. Back up your words with your actions
  5. Give it some time

Next steps

Take what you have learned in this article and use it to rebuild the trust in your relationship that has been damaged by financial infidelity. Consider working with a qualified professional or marriage counselor if you want or need help following these steps.

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