What to do when your spouse is lying about money

How to handle your partner’s lies about their spending

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 paycheque. So additional worries about your partner’s spending habits are likely to make an already stressful situation even worse.

Money itself is 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 the following 8 signs:

  1. A chance comment from someone
  2. A hidden receipt you’ve found
  3. An unrecognisable entry on a bank statement
  4. A suspicious email or letter that doesn’t seem to make sense
  5. Far greater expenses than you’d accounted for and thought reasonable
  6. Increasing (credit card) debts
  7. You suddenly can’t use your bank- or credit cards because they’ve maxed out
  8. 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…

(Be sure to also read my article on money issues in a relationship).

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

8 SIGNS YOUR PARTNER OR SPOUSE IS LYING TO YOU ABOUT MONEY

  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 (see my article on how to save your marriage from divorce) 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. Be sure to also hop over to my roundup post The Complete Guide to Surviving Infidelity (opens in a new tab).

Let’s start by looking at the potential reason(s) for their lies…

Why your partner might have a spending problem and 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 or spouse is lying to you or, in your view, keep spending money:

12 REASONS YOUR PARTNER COULD BE TELLING LIES ABOUT MONEY

  1. They’re planning a surprise for you! :-)
  2. They’re embarrassed about how much they’re spending or what they’re buying.
  3. They feel ashamed of their spending habits.
  4. They have narcissistic tendencies.
  5. They like the sense of control deception can give.
  6. 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’.
  7. They may be a compulsive liar.
  8. They may be cheating on you (see: Signs of a cheating spouse or partner).
  9. They’re addicted to gambling.
  10. They have a shopping addiction.
  11. They’re addicted to adult material.
  12. Their secrets are part of a bigger pattern of abuse. See my article on the signs of an abusive relationship.
  13. Or there may be several of these factors at play.

The above issues can all, potentially, be the reasons why your spouse’s spending is out of control.

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 necessarily mean that any of them are true. 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 to be 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 often 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?

Either way, you may want to read my article on how to make your partner love you again to see if it’s possible that you can be a little bit too demanding sometimes…

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Don’t delay getting professional help!

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 yourself 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.

7 tips to help you deal with your partner’s lies and betrayal

On discovering that your partner has been lying about money and/or has been spending too much, it’s completely understandable if you feel knocked off 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.

1. ACCEPT THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE IN SHOCK

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

Do this 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 aren’t your thing, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you.

4. Give your partner the opportunity to be truthful

You could shout, holler and accuse. That would be very understandable. But! It would also raise their defences, 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, so take this opportunity to discover what’s really going on with my comprehensive relationship test. 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 advisor. 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 that 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 of 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 and spending problem 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 stop your spouse spending too much

How to stop your spouse spending too much

Yield: A happier couple
Active Time: 30 days
Total Time: 30 days
Difficulty: Easy to tough
Estimated Cost: Free and paid-for services

Here are the five steps to help you stop your spouse lying about money about their spending habits.

Please note
Your spouse has a right to their privacy, you don't have to know about every single purchase. So, only use the advice below if you strongly suspect your spouse or partner is lying to you and/or their spending is out of control.

Materials

  • Pen and paper
  • Folder

Tools

  • Patience
  • Mobile phone

Instructions

  1. Banner step 1: gather evidenceGather evidence of your spouse's spending
    Take screenshots (link to how to make screenshots), download credit card statements (if you have access to the accounts). Search for hidden purchases. Take photos of evidence.
  2. Banner: step 2 - show the evidenceConfront your spouse with the evidence
    Confronting your spouse is going to be tricky. The only way you may have success getting them to own up is by being non-confrontational - however difficult! Allow them to explain themselves. Read my article on how to stop arguing first.
  3. Banner step 3: tell them how you feelTell them how you feel
    Say something like: I feel let down / hurt / worried / disappointed / angry / frustrated.
  4. Banner step 4: talk about the consequencesThen tell them calmly what the consequences of their spending problems are
    Stick to the facts only without any accusations. Consider closing accounts, reducing regular outgoings, cancelling subscriptions, cutting up cards, etc
  5. Banner step 5 - Ask how you can helpAsk how you can help
    Do not be tempted to 'help' by paying their bills and covering their debts!), but by assisting them to change their spending habits. Or help them with the underlying problem. You may also want to suggest they access professional help.

Notes

If the spending problems are due to an addiction, expect that your spouse is going to deny all wrong-doing. They might blame you, someone or something else, often because they feel too ashamed about what's happening to reveal it even to those closest to them. In that case, keep looking for evidence for another few weeks before you confront them again with the facts.

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Finally

You’ll need time to come to terms with a new reality when you’ve discovered that your partner is lying to you about money. There will be financial and emotional implications to be identified and addressed. You’ll probably also question the integrity of your relationship, and whether or not you even to work together to right the wrongs. 

I’d encourage you not to be too hasty or to make any rash decisions while the betrayal is still raw. Seek support – whether from friends, family or a professional – and allow yourself to take the time to process what’s happened. That way, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of making the decisions that are truly right for you.

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