Financial infidelity: Not talking about money in your relationship can ruin it

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
  • Relationship expert Paula Quinsee says money conversations are either ignored or postponed in many relationships.
  • It's easy to 'blame and shame' your partner if they're not contributing in ways that you think are fair, which can lead to them keeping secrets from you. 
  • Paula delves into why money conversations are so sensitive and how couples can address them in a healthy manner.

Some people deem money a deal-breaker. It sounds extreme, but someone once said when they date, a conversation about how much they earn, their expenses, policies and bank statements is not off-limits.

It might be a bit much but it's necessary for people who have expectations about the person they want to be with and the kind of life they want to live. How do you plan a life when you don't know what the financial muscle looks like?

READ MORE | Are you sabotaging your love-life?

There are many things couples openly talk about, whether dating, in a relationship or married. But when it comes to money, this conversation is not always met with honesty.

Not being open about your spending habits in a relationship can ruin it, things like spending money on a designer bag when the electricity bill or rent has not been paid. Or not being truthful about what you can afford, debts or financial aspirations.

READ MORE | 'I don't post my boyfriend on social media, and it's affecting our relationship'

Relationship expert Paula Quinsee says trust is a crucial component in any relationship, personal or professional. 

"When our trust gets broken, it can have all sorts of repercussions and even lead to a break-up or divorce. Finance is one of the leading problems that couples often argue about and end up getting divorced over, so couples should have these conversations," she says.

But why is talking about money perceived as a sensitive issue not easy to talk about?

"From a very young age, we are taught not to talk about money like never tell anyone how much you earn. We also seldom have money discussions at home. More than often, it's a heated discussion or argument. Seldom do our parents include us in money discussions as these are seen as 'adult talk', and our first experience of money is usually related to pocket money earned through chores. As a result, money conversations are usually experienced as awkward conversations that we avoid," Paula says.

READ MORE | What if an affair could be the start of a necessary conversation about sex and intimacy for couples?

So when should couples indulge in some 'adult talk'? Often, the 'adult talk' happens when things fall apart. "Early on in the relationship," Paula says.

"Start with the basics such as drawing up a household budget and agree on how each one will contribute to the everyday costs relative to their income and personal expenses. Once a couple is settled in their relationship and committed to each other for the long term, they should be having more serious discussions such as medical insurances, policies and wills based on their lifestyle and aspirations." 

READ MORE | Partnering up can help you grow as an individual – here’s the psychology of a romantic relationship

From small secrets to financial infidelity

Shafeeka Anthony, marketing manager at JustMoney, says it starts with small secrets and turns into financial infidelity.

"When two people are in a relationship, they bring a lot of baggage with them and often have different money personalities. Both may believe their views are correct, which can cause a significant amount of friction, leading to deception. Whether hiding how much you earn or keeping a secret stash of cash in case your relationship doesn't work out, you're behaving in ways that suggest you don't trust your partner." 

"A secret addiction, such as gambling or alcoholism, can worsen things further," she adds.

READ MORE | Is it normal to check what's on your partner's phone or are you insecure?

Blaming and shaming

Your worth is not just based on money, and you bring more to a relationship than currency. However, it's easy to 'blame and shame' your partner if they're not contributing in ways that you think are fair, which can lead to them keeping secrets from you. 

Everyone has the right to privacy and agency over their finances, and you shouldn't have to account for every cent you spend. However, your actions can impact your partner's life, and you owe it to them to be honest. 

Close the trust gap

"The only real solution is radical honesty, with yourself and with your partner. If you're not willing to play open cards with your partner, you may need to re-evaluate the relationship itself," Says Paula.

She recommends that if you struggle to have these kinds of conversations, get a therapist or financial advisor to help facilitate before severe repercussions like repossession of goods or insurmountable debt occur.

Are you comfortable talking about money in your relationship? Tell us here.

Follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 1179 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 458 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2541 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 68 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 916 votes