Lies, money and marriage – what can you do?

By glblguy

He’s been buying those sunflower seeds again and not telling her*

What would you do if you suddenly found out your spouse was $20,000 dollars in credit card debt and didn’t tell you? Turns out this situation of husbands and wives lying about debt isn’t so unusual. People around the country are accidentally finding out that their spouses have debt they weren’t aware. In many cases, the debt is small. In other’s, the amounts are high…real high.

Lies like these can bring a seemingly healthy relationship to a dead stop, devastating the marriage and frequently leading to divorce. Most of us realize that big lies like this are a huge problem, but how about small ones? Ever lie about how much something cost? How about telling your husband something was on sale when it really wasn’t? Or maybe, buying something costly and just plain on not telling your wife at all (ahem, those golf clubs in your trunk)?

Harris Interactive was commissioned to do a survey by Redbook magazine that provides some very interesting insights:

  • 29% of U.S. adults ages 25 to 55 who are in a committed relationship say they have been dishonest with their partner about spending habits
  • 24% of all those currently in a relationship say honesty about finances is more important than honesty about fidelity, and 72% say trust is essential to a successful romance.
  • 96% said it was both partners’ responsibility to be completely honest about financial issues.

According to the survey, here are the things we lie about:

  • 21% Spending on ourselves
  • 6% How much we make
  • 12% Spending on children
  • 4% Our investments
  • 9% Household finances
  • 2% Our retirement accounts 2%

Going back to the original question, “What would you do?”. Here are just a few suggestions about what you should do if you find out your spouse is lying about debt and/or money:

Confront the Issue

The first thing you must do is confront the situation. There really isn’t any way around this as it has to be dealt with. I’d suggest reading through a book called Difficult Conversations. It deals with how to have conversations like this, but in a positive and productive manner. Excellent read.

Also important in this process is the 5th habit from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and that’s “Seek first to understand, then be understood”. I say this because there is a reason your spouse is lying, and it’s your responsibility to determine why. Dive into the reasons why they felt they had to hide the debt from you and/or lie about it. Make sure you first understand their reasoning before you work to make your feelings understood.

Something I want to mention here: One of the key aspects in this conversation is going to be forgiveness. You need to forgive your spouse for the mistake they’ve made. This doesn’t mean you need to forget it, but it means you need to forgive them. What has been done is done, and that can’t be changed. In order to move forward from a clean slate though requires forgiveness. Don’t continue to bring it up, don’t continue to zing them. Focus on the future and not on the past.

Begin working together

The next step is to begin working together on your finances and communicating on your finances. Be warned though, if one of you is a saver, and the other a spender, this process will require some level of compromise. Develop your financial goals, your financial plan, and budget together! Don’t just do this one time, but work together constantly. My wife and I review our budget weekly.

Keep some things separate

Sometimes in a marriage it becomes easy to forget that each partner is also an individual. My wife and I have found it critical to our financial success and marriage to have separate spending categories just for us, for whatever we want. There is a line item in our budgets for this monthly. We can do whatever we want with this money, blow it, save it, invest it…whatever.


The above items work on small issues, but on large issues or repetitive problems, the problem isn’t a money problem, but a marriage problem. If your marriage has issues with large amounts of debt, continuous issues with lying and hiding money, or constant fighting than it’s time for marriage counseling. Marriage counseling will engage a third party that will help your marriage. Being Christian, I would highly recommend a Christian marriage counselor. Your church pastor should be able to recommend someone.

*Photo by: dalvenjah

Have you been (or maybe you currently are) in a situation like this? What did you do? What suggestions do you have for someone in a situation like this? How would you handle your spouse lying about money? Add a comment!

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