“It’s okay. We just kissed a little. No big deal.” I can’t imagine Mr. T would take that well if it ever came up in a conversation. We know honesty in marriage is important. And we know that cheating is wrong. But somehow, finances get left out of those discussions. Did you know there is a term called “financial infidelity”? Do you know what it means? Secrets. Money and sex are tricky. We like them, but we don’t like talking about them. When we get married, we just expect both to happen without discussing either of them. But there’s one difference: with sex, we know there shouldn’t be any secrets. In money, there isn’t a consensus about secrets. In fact, 33% of people admitted lying to their spouses about finances. And that’s just the people that admitted it!
An estimated 7 million Americans are hiding a secret bank account. Consider that. One day, you get the mail and see a letter addressed to your spouse from a bank you don’t use. You open it up and see a bank statement with, say, $11,000 in an account in your husband’s name. You bring it up with your husband, who says “I’ve had that account since before we got married. I’ve just kept it.” This is a very tame example. There isn’t a lot in the account and he didn’t open it while you were married. He just decided not to tell you about it this whole time. And he hasn’t spent anything from it, so he’s not keeping it for some mistress somewhere. Yay for the extra money! But then again, why did he keep it from you? Does he not trust you? Is it his marriage escape fund? That one decision to keep the bank account a secret has introduced the possibility of other secrets.
That extra, secret bank account increases your collective net worth but diminishes the trust and worth of your relationship. Consider something potentially worse: hidden debt. You get that same letter in the mail, but when you open it up, you find a maxed out credit card statement. Maybe this is only the tip of the iceberg. Instantly, your spouse leads a secret second life that you don’t know and you’ve given up the intimacy of your relationship. A full 70% of people interviewed said they would break up with someone over a hidden debt averaging only $5,000. Are you willing to risk your marriage for one maxed out credit card?
Intimacy means closeness, trust, and knowing each other deeply and completely. “Intimacy” is associated with sex because it takes that level of a relationship for you both to feel comfortable literally stripping down to nothing in front of each other. But intimacy in other aspects of the relationship impacts intimacy in the bedroom. If a financial secret is discovered, the clothes go back on in the relationship. Take off your financial clothes. Being naked means being undisguised, vulnerable, and having nothing to hide. When you got married, you became a team. But if you don’t put everything on the table, your team won’t know what it has and what it’s lacking. If you have debt, you’re probably embarrassed about it. Especially if your spouse has savings. But never think you can take care of it on your own. Keeping secrets leads to trouble, but you’re also denying your relationship the strength that can come from working hard toward something together. Start knowing all the factors and you can work together from there.
Maybe you don’t have hidden bank accounts or hidden debt. But what about your spending? How open are you in your marriage about what you spend money on? 20% of Americans said they have spent $500 or more without telling their spouse. This is not okay. $500 (or more?!) is a lot of money to spend without talking to each other. I recommend having some freedom money for each of you built into the budget to spend as you like. But your finances aren’t going to go anywhere good if you need $500 each for your freedom money. When Mr. T and I first got married, we made every purchase together. We were both in school and had a tight budget without freedom money. I remember walking through the bookstore on campus and seeing a skirt I had my eye on for awhile on major clearance. It was just over $10. I called Mr. T, but he didn’t answer and I had to get to class, so I just bought it. It was the first thing we had ever purchased without talking about first. Mr. T loved the skirt when I got home and was excited for the deal I found. But more importantly, we had a talk about being open about purchases and how we were in this together.
Money and sex are taboo topics, but both should be discussed in marriage. If you’re not willing to take off your clothes with money, it may keep you from any other undressing in the marriage! Don’t take that risk!
Accountability Friday: Last Friday through yesterday:
F(es)-No – still sick, M(ex)-yes!, T(Cam)-No – forgot, W(Ex)-No – forgot, Th(Cam)-Yes – Man, miss a week and you forget everything!