What to do when you suspect or discover your partner or spouse is lying about money

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 17-09-2018 | Modified: 11-03-2019

For you to have landed here means that you no longer trust your partner with money. I imagine that things haven’t been adding up lately (pardon the pun) and you're becoming suspicious about their behaviour.

It can be really scary if you're already short of money and barely have enough to get by until your next pay cheque. So additional worries about your partner’s spending habits are likely to make an already stressful situation even worse.

Money itself not a problem? In that case, you're likely to be more concerned that your partner might be lying to you.

Either way, I’d imagine your suspicions have arisen because of something like:

  • A chance comment from someone
  • A hidden receipt you’ve found
  • An unrecognisable entry on a bank statement
  • A suspicious email or letter that doesn't seem to make sense
  • Far greater expenses than you'd accounted for and thought reasonable
  • Increasing debts
  • An accumulation of different things that just don’t add up

I suspect that since your discovery you've been on the hunt for more evidence to confirm your suspicions, which is a good idea at this stage.

You need to know if your fears are unfounded, or if indeed there are some problems that need to be addressed.

Here's what you might have discovered.

Financial infidelity. Why your partner's is lying to you about money and what to do about it.

8 Signs of financial infidelity

  1. Your partner or spouse has applied for loans in your name, without your knowledge
  2. You've discovered evidence of a secret joint loan, from which they've siphoned off money
  3. They've opened secret credit card accounts in your name
  4. They've opened secret credit card accounts in their name
  5. He or she has made secret purchases on credit cards
  6. They’ve failed to pay bills as agreed
  7. They've been saving money without your knowledge (This may be done in preparation for ending the marriage OR a special treat for you!)
  8. They've been borrowing from joint savings or other bank accounts for their own purposes

Financial infidelity can potentially be just as devastating as any other type of cheating, including adultery.

However, there's another layer of suffering when your partner has lied about money. Depending on the amount of money involved, it can jeopardise your emotional well-being as well as your financial security. Both are even more worrisome if you have children.

It’s perfectly fair to expect your partner to be honest and upfront so that the two of you can openly discuss your finances. If that’s not the case, discovering that your partner has been leading a secret life can be devastating.

So in this article, I'm going to help you get to grips with it all.

Let's start by at looking the potential reason(s) for their lies...

Why your partner might be lying to you

First of all, know that I'm in no way judging you or your partner. The list below isn’t designed to paint either of you as the villain. I’m simply trying to help you figure out what’s going on. Because unless you know what’s wrong, you won’t be able to make it right again.

Here are some possible reasons why your partner might be lying to you:

  • They're planning a surprise for you! :-)
  • They're embarrassed about how much they’re spending or what they’re buying.
  • They feel ashamed of their financial habits.
  • They have narcissistic tendencies.
  • They like the sense of control deception can give.
  • They may have had a difficult childhood or learning challenges and have developed a habit of lying and hiding things for fear of being 'discovered'.
  • They may be a compulsive liar.
  • They are cheating on you (see: Signs of a cheating spouse or partner).
  • Or there may be several of these factors at play.

Now, take a deep breath because the following could be a bit challenging for you. But, it's important that I discuss this with you.

Bear in mind that this next list looks at the challenges from your partner’s point of view. That doesn’t mean that they're the truth. It’s just important that you consider the role you might be playing in this situation too.

Here are some other reasons why your partner, wife or husband might be lying to you:

  • They find you too controlling, leaving them little freedom to make their own decisions.
  • They consider you tight with money.
  • They think you don't trust them, even though they've never done anything to betray your trust.
  • They anticipate that you'll be going on for ages about something you don't agree with.
  • They find that you make a mountain out of a molehill.

Have these lists set you thinking? Or are there other things at play I haven't mentioned here?

In any case,  you may want to read my article on how to make your partner love you again to see if it's possible that you're a little bit too demanding.

Have you helped to settle your partner's debts?

If so, you may feel - like so many people in your situation - ashamed and stupid for having allowed themselves to be 'tricked'.

I don't want you to spend any energy on beating yourself up over this. You probably felt you had good reasons to act as you did.

Maybe you were already deeply into the relationship when your partner revealed (or you discovered) that they were in debt. Perhaps you were even contemplating a future with your partner and you wanted a clean slate before setting up home together.

Or perhaps you ended up paying the bulk for big joint purchases.

Accept that you did what you thought was right. You're human - learn from the experience and forgive yourself.

Just in case - do make sure you're not the victim of a scam.

I've made peace with insecurity, because there is no security of any kind. -Dick Van Dyke

6 tips to help you deal with your partner's lies and betrayal

On discovering that your partner has been lying about money, it's completely understandable that you feel knocked of your perch. 

You'll need to take action as soon as possible - taking into account the time needed to get over the initial shock. Debts only accumulate, with potentially huge consequences for your emotional and marital stability too.


I promise you it won't last. Give it 10 - 14 days and you'll begin to feel a little more in control of your emotions again.

2. Gather evidence

Before you have another conversation about the problem. When you do talk to your partner you'll want to be ready with the evidence.

3. Take responsibility

If you've never concerned yourself much with the household budget, now is the time to take control. If numbers are not your thing, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you.

4. Give your partner the opportunity to be honest

You could shout, holler and accuse. That would be very understandable. But! It would also raise their defenses, meaning you won't stand a chance of getting to the bottom of the problem.

For information on how to get your partner to be honest with you, read my article on how to deal with your partner's shopping addiction (even if that's not the source of the problem) for ideas on how to tackle that conversation.

5. Don't expect a change in behaviour

Depending on precisely what the problem is, your partner may not be willing or able to change their behaviour (as the case with a shopping addiction).

6. Take my relationship test

You'll need to know now more than ever if your relationship or marriage is really worth saving. Much will depend on your partner's reaction to being confronted and their honesty and willingness to change.

7. Get help

Speak to someone at your bank, a debt counsellor or a financial adviser. Don't forget to ask for names and keep a record of who you spoke to, together with dates, what was said and what action was to be taken.

I also recommend you connect with an online professional counsellor. He or she (your choice) can help you figure out how best to repair the damage to your relationship or marriage.

Which scenario fits your situation?

The impact of your partner's financial betrayal depends to a large extent on the general state your relationship.

It also depends on what stage in life you're at…

  • Just moving in together
  • Just starting a family
  • Waving the kids off to university
  • Feeling as though your marriage is heading for the divorce court
  • And anything in between!

The discovery of financial infidelity is likely to have a different impact in any of these situations. Each would require a different approach.

The emotional fall-out, however, is likely to be much the same as if your partner had cheated on you by having an affair.

If you've only just found out, I wouldn't be surprised if you feel your legs have been cut from underneath you. Know that you'll slowly begin to recover from that. Day-by-day you'll begin to feel a little better. To learn more about this, hop over to my article on surviving infidelity.


How to get immediate help from a licensed counsellor

Your problem is never too small or too big, too silly, too embarrassing or too complicated to get personal advice (anonymous if you want) from a licensed therapist. They'll be happy to help.

  • Click the image below and answer a few questions about yourself and your situation (it takes just a few minutes).
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  • Write down what's troubling you to start (chat, text, email, video-chat)...
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