It doesn’t take an expert to know that lying can wreak havoc on relationships. Whether romantic or not, relationships are built on trust and when that is defied, the foundation can crumble.
As relationships build, revealing how you manage money is an inevitable topic of conversation, and agreeing on it as a couple can be an even bigger feat.
To find out if Americans have lied or been lied to about finances in a relationship, we led a study asking the hard questions about deception when couples talk about their debt, savings, expenses, income and investments.
Some key findings include:
- 89% of people say they haven’t lied to their partner about finances.
- 34% of people would leave a relationship if their partner lied about their finances.
89% of Americans Say They Haven’t Lied to Their Partner About Finances
Lying can inevitably occur in relationships. Whether it’s a white lie, like not admitting to eating the last cookie, or it’s more damaging, like hiding that you spent your combined savings, the common saying of “honesty is the best policy” can be pushed to the wayside for some couples.
That’s where financial infidelity comes in — or when someone directly lies about their finances or spending in a relationship. For example, if a partner opens up a secret credit card in a marriage with agreed combined finances, they’re committing financial infidelity.
Experts say that when it comes to money, it can make or break a relationship.
Although one study claims that 73% of individuals manage money differently from their partners, we found that most people haven’t lied about their finances in relationships.
In our study, we found that people are understanding when it comes to financial infidelity with 34% of people saying they would leave a relationship if their significant other lied about finances.
When it comes to fessing up, forgiveness is on the table. However, women are more forgiving with men, who say they are more apt to end a relationship over financial infidelity.
Americans Are More Likely to Lie About Sex Than Money
In a 2018 study, it was found that 44% of people have engaged in sexual infidelity while in a relationship. That’s compared to the 11% of people who admitted they’ve committed financial infidelity.
The motivators behind infidelity can help us understand why sexual infidelity is more common than financial infidelity. In a 2019 study, evidence pointed to eight motives for sexual infidelity: falling out of love, variety, neglection, situational forces, self-esteem, anger, lack of commitment and sexual desire.
When we compared it to why people commit financial infidelity, a 2018 study revealed that much of it happens due to a power imbalance, trust issues and to avoid conflict, ego and shame. Financial infidelity can come in many forms — from buying a coffee every morning even though a couple agreed to bring one from home, to spending your combined savings on something frivolous rather than something you both agreed on.
One underlying problem is common for both scenarios: a lack of communication. If couples were more open about how they’re feeling in a relationship, both emotionally and physically, the issue of infidelity is less likely to come up.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Partner Isn’t Being Honest About Money With You
If you suspect that your partner is lying about their finances, you might be hesitant to start a conversation around it to avoid a fight. However, there are ways to tread lightly and respectfully so both of you can spend time understanding each other.
- Communicate calmly: It’s possible that your significant other could become defensive over your questions about finances, but show that you are willing to listen and understand why there might be discrepancies in what you found versus what they say about their finances.
- Address the root cause: Have an open and honest conversation about where a financial lie might have stemmed from. Avoid a repeated issue in the future by encouraging your partner to open up about the why.
- Schedule a regular conversation: Once you have a chance to get everything on the table, it doesn’t stop there. Schedule a reminder on a regular basis where you can discuss your financial goals and decisions.
- Share responsibility: Sometimes financial infidelity can stem from a power imbalance. Fair involvement on how finances are managed will help you both remain honest about your finances. If you keep your finances separate from your partner, have an open conversation about what details you’re willing to share with one another, and how you expect finances to be managed in the future.
- Give it time: You might have caught your significant other off guard by bringing up the issue, so give them time to process. It could take time to build up trust again, but remember that it’s a joint effort and it’s possible to regain it if you’re both honest with each other.
Whether you’ve encountered dishonesty around finances in a relationship or not, it’s important to keep the conversation about money honest and open to build trust with your partner. To learn more, check out our post on how to deal with financial infidelity in marriage.
This study was conducted for Money Crashers using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no fewer than 1,000 completed responses per question. This survey was conducted in May 2020.