10 Money Secrets You Should Never Keep from Your Spouse

MANAGE MONEY - BUDGETING
Keeping even one of these secrets from your partner can imperil your relationship.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Michelle Smith Edited By Chris Kissell
husband and wife fighting over money and expenses

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We have all heard of infidelity and emotional affairs, but what about financial infidelity?

This type of cheating revolves around keeping financial secrets from your partner. A 2018 study by the Financial Therapy Association found that 27% of Americans admitted to doing just that at some point.

Keeping such secrets is no way to reduce the level of financial stress in a relationship. In fact, it is more likely to inflame money anxieties and undermine a couple’s bond.

If you’re not sure which money habits point toward financial infidelity — and whether or not your own habits fit the bill — the following are 10 money secrets you should never keep from a spouse or partner.

Opening a secret bank account

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Opening a personal bank account without informing your partner is one of the biggest warning signs of financial infidelity. In a committed financial relationship, you and your partner need to be open and honest about your bank accounts. 

You might have a joint checking or savings account, or you might not — the important thing is that neither of you keeps a chunk of your finances secret from the other.

Getting a raise or bonus at work

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Hiding positive changes to your finances might not seem as problematic as hiding debt, but the truth is that keeping any financial secret points toward financial infidelity. 

If you don’t want to inform your significant other that you’ve recently gotten a raise, bonus, or promotion at work, you should ask yourself why.

Are you worried your partner won’t celebrate with you? Do you suspect they might resent your success? Or do you simply want to keep them in the dark about this major change in your financial situation?

Racking up debt with secret credit cards

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe couple arguing about debt

In most — but not all — states, your spouse typically cannot be held responsible for any debt you incur on your own after marriage. But that doesn’t give you the green light to secretly take on debt without consequences.

Racking up enough debt on multiple credit cards can push your finances to the brink and may eventually require you to declare bankruptcy. And a massive financial hit like bankruptcy impacts not just your credit score and financial future but your spouse’s as well.

Making a major purchase without discussing it

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Buying something small and within your budget — such as a cup of coffee or pack of gum — without telling your partner isn’t a red flag. But making a huge purchase without discussing it with your partner beforehand is.

Major purchases like cars often require financing, and taking out a loan with a high interest rate can mess up your bottom line for years, if not decades.

Alternatively, if you buy something like a car or boat out of pocket, you’re likely shelling out thousands of dollars from a shared budget without your partner’s consent. 

A choice like this can have devastating consequences on both your household budget and your relationship, especially in terms of your partner’s ability to trust you.

Taking out a second mortgage

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Taking out a second mortgage adds another mortgage payment to your monthly list of bills to pay. Second mortgages are riskier for the lender than primary mortgages, which means they usually have higher rates.

In other words, a second mortgage usually requires more than a small adjustment to your monthly budget. And if you’re trying to avoid living paycheck to paycheck, accommodating a second mortgage payment might be impossible.

Getting a second mortgage without your partner’s knowledge and consent can be devastating to both your joint finances and your relationship.

Failing to mention late bill payments

Kaspars Grinvalds/Adobe couple in shock after receiving legal notice because of late payments

It’s hard to admit you can’t afford to pay a household bill you’ve promised to pay. But lying about it and simply hoping your significant other won’t notice is much worse than talking openly and honestly about late bills with your partner.

Missing a bill can set you back more than just the cost of the missed payment and the late fee. Paying the bill late might mean you can’t make other payments on time, which can bury your household in debt fast.

Not discussing debts or late payments that impacted your credit score

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Anything that lowers your credit score is likely to eventually affect your partner, especially if you plan on making large joint purchases together like a house or car.

So, whenever your credit score takes a hit, you need to discuss it with your partner since it impacts their financial future as well as yours.

Lying about paying full price for a purchase

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Financial infidelity doesn’t just refer to hiding cash, cards, and debt from your partner: It can also mean straight-up lying to your partner about how much you paid for a purchase.

If you’re tempted to justify an expense by saying you got it on sale or telling your partner it cost much less than it did, you need to hit the brake. 

Lying to a partner — whether about the real cost of a purchase or working overtime when you’re really getting drinks with a friend — is a clear sign of infidelity.

Spending money on other family members without discussing it

Danie Nel/Adobe couple having argument about Christmas spending

You and your partner need to be on the same page about how much to spend on other family members, especially any children or other dependents in the household.

If you find yourself secretly spending more on the kids than you had previously agreed, sit down and ask yourself why.

Hiding a purchase

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Like we said above, it’s probably not a huge issue if you secretly splurge on your guilty pleasure every once in a while, as long as doing so doesn’t endanger your and your partner’s finances.

But consistently purchasing things on the sly, storing those purchases out of sight, and destroying the receipts cuts your spouse out of crucial financial decisions that impact your family’s bottom line.

Bottom line

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Financial infidelity can be much harder to recognize in your relationship than better-known types of cheating. If you see any of these signs in your own money habits, consider this your wake-up call.

It is always better to talk through such issues. For instance, if you have been racking up debt, tell your partner. Then, find a way to generate extra income, pay off the debt, and pledge never to hide such behavior again.

Now is the time to come clean with your significant other and work toward rebuilding a financially healthy partnership.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.