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Financial infidelity: How secrets about money can ruin relationships

Suze Orman spoke to Scripps News about how keeping financial secrets from your significant other can deeply hurt your relationship.
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jan 23, 2024

When you hear the word infidelity, you automatically think of someone having an affair — a physical, or in some cases, emotional, relationship with a person other than their partner.

But there's another form of infidelity that's rocking relationships and ruining families.

It's called "financial infidelity," and it's more common than you might think.

In fact, a Bankrate survey shows more than 40% of Americans are keeping some sort of money matter hidden from their partner.

It could be anything, from hiding new things they buy to having a secret bank account or undisclosed debt.

"If you can't be financially open with your life partner, then chances are, it's not just financial infidelity; you are probably heading for divorce. I'm very serious about this because money is really so important. You know, 1 out of every 2 people who get married end up in divorce. The main reason for divorce is arguments over money," said personal finance expert and bestselling author Suze Orman. "If you are in a relationship and you can't be totally honest with yourself and your partner in that relationship, that is not a healthy relationship. Whatever the reason is, it's going to backfire on you big one day."

According to Bankrate, the trend of keeping financial information from significant others is more common among younger generations. 

The survey says that "Generation X (34%) and baby boomers (33%) are least likely to keep financial secrets from their partners," while 67% of Generation Z is more likely to commit financial infidelity, followed by millennials at 57%.

But how can younger generations confront this issue? Orman says, you just have to speak up. 

"You have to ask yourself the question: Why are you hiding it to begin with? Are you hiding it because you're ashamed that everybody out there thinks that you have more money than you do? But the car you drive is leased, the clothes that you're wearing are maxed out on your credit cards? You have to put down the reason to yourself. Are you hiding this debt because you're ashamed, or are you just angry because nothing's gone your way?" said Orman. "You need to tell somebody about it. It doesn't have to be the spouse that you're hiding it from; tell your best friend, tell your coworker that you trust, and you know what's gonna happen when you tell them, ‘You know what? I have $20,000 of credit card debt, and nobody knows about it.’ They're gonna say to you, ‘Oh my God, thank God. I have 30,000, and I've never told anybody about it.'"

Orman explains that by being open about your financial situation, it may help you find the solution to your problems, as most of the time you are probably not the only one facing these issues. 

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