Financial Infidelity: Would You Lie About Money to Your Significant Other?
by Tracy Quan
I'm one of the 31% of Americans who can admit to financial infidelity. Yes, I've occasionally lied about money to the man I was living with -- and I don't think that's a bad thing. I have lied about my spending, using cash instead of credit cards to buy sweaters, scarves, restaurant meals and presents. Once I bought a plane ticket to San Francisco, but that was not a typical omission -- and I got a discount.
Was this a little neurotic? Of course: living with another human being -- if you've been on your own for awhile -- can make you neurotic. I didn't have any proof he would object to these purchases, but it gave me a strange kind of thrill (and a sense of security) to hide the receipts. At that point, I needed to know our lives had not completely merged like so much soft food in a relationship blender. And yet I was also ready for some old-fashioned domestic bliss. It turns out I am not that unusual.
A Harris Interactive online poll of 2,019 adults released last week suggests that three in 10 couples who combined their finances have trouble with total naked honesty. For many, it's difficult or impossible to tell the whole truth about bills, debts, spending habits or income.
And sometimes -- admit it -- you can't resist the urge to judge your partner's financial behavior. So, if you're not guilty of financial infidelity yourself, you might be a person who inspires a partner to lie about money to YOU.
Most people have competing needs. We love to connect but want things our way. Lying to a partner about money is a symptom of that. Rather than ending the relationship at the first sign of claustrophobia, it's more interesting to carve out a private space for yourself. A lot like a sex fantasy you never discuss, this becomes a zone where you can say "I write the script, I'm in control here." Of course, nobody is totally in control of her own life, but it's okay to indulge that illusion. Embracing the contradictions creates depth. It's realistic and, in many cases, erotic.
There are different ways to lie. If your financial infidelity results in damage to your partner's credit rating or visits from a loan shark, you've gone to the dark side. But a "white lie" may in fact be the small financial sin that keeps you -- and your relationship -- sane.
It's hard to be entirely rational about money. Sharing bills, joining two incomes -- that's a declaration of trust. It can feel cozy, but it can also be threatening. As twisted as this sounds, lying to a man is a sign of healthy respect. You are more than two perfectly meshed atoms. You get that he's a separate person. Not only that, it's exciting to be with a dude who challenges your independence. It's a compliment if you occasionally feel the need to tell a small fib.
Having a secret is one way to keep some part of yourself unexposed and protected. This is probably the number one reason for female financial infidelity. Some women have concrete goals and many thousands salted away. I'm not that skillful. My financial infidelity was more symbolic and less practical. Just having a $200 shopping secret restored the balance I needed in my life.
It's easier to give a guy his male space when you aren't the world's most virtuous partner, and it's easy to feel good about that when your gift to yourself is some dishonestly acquired girl-space. If you're a paragon of honesty, coming to terms with a man's missteps or discrepancies is going to be a lot harder. Being forgiven by a saint is stressful for most guys, but everybody -- at some point in a relationship -- needs to forgive or be forgiven.
When I'm being too faithful or well-behaved, I become suspicious and insecure. It's how I'm built. Breaking a few rules makes me more tolerant which, in turn, makes me a happier mate. The little kick I experienced hiding a transaction from my fiancé made our domesticated existence sexier -- and kind of perverse. Every relationship needs an edge.
But there was an occasional cloud.
As an air miles junkie I felt guilty about one aspect of my secret spending, a precaution I took to cover my tracks: not using my frequent flyer number for that San Francisco flight. That's when I knew I had gone too far.
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