Financial secrets can cripple your relationship

While you prepare for Valentine’s Day tomorrow, think about being more open about your money matters with your better half.

This shouldn’t be an issue since you already share meals, bathroom space, children.

But experts from Just Money says many couples are not comfortable with revealing the ins and outs of their finances.

They believe that our childhoods and upbringing, personalities and cultural backgrounds influence how we manage money, which can lead to friction and even marital breakdowns.

Here are their tips to break the cycle:

From small secrets to financial infidelity

Although it may seem harmless to hide the R3,000 pair of shoes you bought, or tell your partner you got them for R600 on sale, it’s secretive behaviour – and an even greater issue if you’re taking R2,400 from your monthly grocery budget or school supplies allocation. 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. This can drive a wedge between you and erode your relationship. Non-disclosure can include selling joint assets without your spouse’s permission, hiding the fact that you’re in debt, or being too embarrassed to share that you helped out a friend, and now they cannot pay back your loan.

“Many people are secretive about their finances because they feel ashamed and worried,” says Shafeeka Anthony, Marketing Manager of JustMoney. “They may fear that they are a poor provider, or cannot keep up with friends and relatives. Work retrenchments during the Covid-19 pandemic have also strained many formerly close relationships.

“A secret addiction, such as gambling or alcoholism, can worsen things further.”

Blaming and shaming

Not everyone speaks the same financial language. Your partner may feel entitled to spend their money as they wish, for example, while you think the two of you should pool your funds in a joint bank account. It’s important to discuss your beliefs and try to examine why you hold the attitudes you do.

Your worth is not just based on money, and you bring more to a relationship than currency.

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

A couple doesn’t necessarily need counselling – they just need to be willing to pay attention to the issue. 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.

If you have a financial problem, open up and admit it. Print out your bank accounts and credit card statements, and share them with your partner. This helps you both to understand the true extent of the situation, and shows that you are being serious about addressing the issue, says Anthony.

“You need to agree on how to address the problem, whether it’s paying back debt or seeking psychological help. You could make an appointment with a financial planner or a debt relief agency together as a couple, then hold a weekly discussion on how you are progressing.

“Dealing upfront with money matters that you have long been secretive about, could be a huge relief, and in the long term, deepen your relationship” she said.

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