We're all familiar with what sexual infidelity means to intimate relationships: shattered dreams, deep & lasting hurt, lies & deceit and, ultimately, broken relationships. All because of actions fuelled by emotion:
Interestingly, these emotions are also associated with a different kind of infidelity that can be just as, or even more, devastating over the long term: financial infidelity.
What is financial infidelity? Lying (includes non-disclosure) to your spouse or significant other about:
- Your financial status (debt, wealth, assets)
- Your costly vices and/or addictions
- The true cost of your lifestyle
- The true state of your combined finances
- Recent/large purchases you've made
- Your applications for and/or use of credit
- Your expectations/intentions for the future
- Having paid your bills or having repaid a loan
- The state of your business or employment
- Your obligations toward those who depend on you (children, parents, other)
As a society, we tend to speak about sexual infidelity in relationships a whole lot more than we do about financial infidelity and I can think of only one reason: shame.
That's why Valerie Rind's book: Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads, released November 2014, is so important. Valerie, a corporate attorney, uses the power of stories, her own and those of individuals she interviewed, to pull back the veil on the topic of financial infidelity and other financial horror stories, including the difficult topics of inheritance and elder abuse. Themes include:
- Loans to a loved one gone bad
- The cost of hidden addictions
- The cost of covering a love interest's expenses
- The cost of sharing credit or co-signing a loan
- Surviving a shopaholic
- Financial abuse, under the umbrella of domestic abuse
- The hidden behaviour behind support payments, or lack thereof
- Wills and the dysfunction that can occur when a family member dies
- The desire to care for, and protect, an aging relative from money vultures
Luckily, Valerie uses humour to help the reader cope with reading about such difficult topics and offers advice on how to protect ourselves from experiencing, or survive the aftermath of, this sort of deceit and devastation.
It's Even Had An Impact On Our Relationship
I have to admit that reading this book helped scare us into making some adjustments in our relationship, despite having what others might characterize as a healthy marriage. Though he didn't read the book, I took the opportunity to share some of the stories during a few evening dog walks. We took the opportunity to discuss the book's main themes, and it, along with other work we're doing, changed our behaviour in a few fundamental ways: we talk about what we're thinking of spending money on before we do, we're upfront about purchases we've made, and we've agreed to play an increasingly shared role in managing our "MatriMoney".
We Talk More About Future Purchases
We now talk more about future spending, whether it's for things we intend to buy soon or even years from now for larger, more significant items. We can see how the way we spend money has a lot to do with what we want, or think we want, in life. We think that spending more time speaking about intentions may keep unpleasant surprises to a minimum and could help ensure we understand each others' desires for the near and not-so-near future. These deeper conversations may help both our wallets and our relationship.
We're More Upfront About What We've Spent
We talk to each other more about purchases we've recently made in the $50-$500 range. These are purchases we weren't necessarily talking to each other about before (they appeared on our joint credit card bill after all) and, though we've been lucky it's never been a problem, these could easily have started to snowball over time. Case in point: I recently made a $350 purchase that we hadn't discussed. I figured it was fine, given it was for consumables that we would've eventually purchased anyway, but this book made me realize that not disclosing the purchase could possibly lead to not disclosing larger purchases in the future [insert your favourite personal justification here] and this made me uncomfortable enough to not let the fear of disappointing my partner in that moment keep me from "coming clean".
We're Moving to Joint Responsibility for Household Finances
A lot of the stories Valerie shares in her book have to do with secrecy. The fewer the secrets, the better off everyone can be. That made us discuss the management of our household finances. I'm currently the owner of this task. I pay the bills, manage our savings, our investments and update our net worth picture on a quarterly basis. By sharing in the decision making in each of these buckets of financial activity, we can share responsibility for how our respective behaviour and joint decisions impact our household's financial picture. We've built a solid financial foundation for ourselves, both in the present and for the future, but the themes covered in Valerie's book have taught us not to take this security for granted.
We All Want the Dream
We want to live the fantasy of "happily ever after".
I feel grateful that my husband and I married in our twenties and neither one of us had much of anything at the time. Even so, I know either one of us could very easily have been one of Valerie's interviewees for this book under only slightly different circumstances. That's why these stories are so important. They're true examples of what happens when love blinds us from knowing, or even wanting to know, the truth about our partner's past, present...and even potential future.
Despite the difficult stories, what Valerie offers is hope. She offers hope that, by protecting yourself as soon as possible--preferably up front--you address the uncomfortable topics and actions required to better ensure you can have a successful long-term relationship, along with all the associated benefits of love, trust, and mutual respect. And that you keep having these discussions periodically along the way as you each evolve and change.
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Disclosure: I did receive an advance electronic copy of this book and have collected no remuneration of any sort for the above content. This article was prompted by my interest alone.