Monetary infidelity

Oct 9, 2011 @ 12:01 am

By Jeff Benjamin

If money is among the most common causes of domestic spats, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that almost one in four Americans would try to hide money troubles from their spouses.

That doesn't mean that it is a good strategy for keeping a marriage intact, though.

“Even if well-intentioned, withholding financial information from a spouse is not a sign of a healthy relationship, either emotional or financial,” said Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

In the NFCC's September online poll of more than 1,400 individuals, 24% of the respondents said that they wouldn't inform their spouse if they were experiencing financial difficulties. Among the reasons for not speaking up were fear of worrying the spouse (9%), because the spouse isn't aware of the debt (8%) and fear of damaging the relationship (7%).

“People bring financial baggage into a relationship that they often don't deal with until there is a problem, making it challenging to have a constructive conversation,” Ms. Cunningham said. “Court records show that financial stress is one of the main causes of divorce, and taking action now could prevent a disaster later.”

The NFCC recommends a number of steps to help facilitate a positive conversation on the topic of personal finances.

A few “don'ts”: Don't approach the subject when you are already arguing about something else, don't point fingers and assign blame, and don't try to hide the debt.

Some of the actions that individuals are encouraged to take: keeping the conversation casual, being open to making lifestyle adjustments to help manage the debt and developing a plan to deal with financial skeletons in the closet.

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