What If My Spouse Lies to Me About the Finances?

Young man sitting at kitchen table with hands on face
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Managing money can be difficult in any relationship, but it becomes even more difficult when one spouse is lying about finances. The lies could be anything, but they commonly include hiding the following:

  • Specific shopping trips
  • Gambling habits
  • Extra debt
  • Salary information
  • Savings accounts

When you discover that your spouse has been lying to you, it may cause you to be angry or hurt, and it may have a lasting impact on your relationship. Depending on the deception and type of lie, you may even consider ending the relationship completely. Here is what you should consider doing if you find out your spouse has been lying to you about the finances.

Gather the Facts

Before you confront your spouse, it is important to find out as much as possible about your current financial situation. This investigation may mean going back and checking your bank statements over the past year to see if there is evidence that this may be a long-term situation. It is also important to have a general idea of the amount of money involved. When it is time to talk to your spouse, you will then have specific examples and issues to discuss.

Discuss the Issues

It is important to have this discussion as soon as possible, but it would be best if you did it when you can remain calm during the conversation. It may be a misunderstanding or a mistake, so it's important to listen to what your spouse has to say about the situation. It may be a symptom of bigger issues like shopping addiction, a gambling problem, or possible criminal behavior. Ask your spouse to be completely honest about the situation and to provide documentation to show that they have been.

Your spouse may bring up even more information or reveal more debts or issues that you did not realize that you had.

Determine If This Behavior Is a Deal Breaker

Since each situation and relationship is different, answers will differ for each relationship, so it often a good idea to seek counseling when dealing with a situation like this. The counselor can help you discuss possible solutions, mediate between the two of you, and even help you determine whether it is time for you to end the relationship.

Lying about finances and hiding debt and other issues break trust, and it can take time to repair. The other related behaviors, such as gambling or other addictions, may affect your relationship in other ways and may make it difficult to continue moving forward.

Consider Temporarily Separating Finances

If you do decide to stay together, you may want to consider separating finances until your spouse can prove that the behavior has stopped. The best way to do this is to set up a household budget where you each contribute the same percentage of your income to cover basic household needs. However, the rest of the money should be kept separate from each other.

In these situations, you still need to be accountable to each other about how the money is being spent. Your spouse may need to show you that they're paying off the debt or have stopped specific spending habits, which may require you to see their accounts and other behavior. However, that does not mean that you should have your spouse be a signer on your accounts.

Set up Clear Expectations

It is important to set up clear expectations about what needs to be done to earn the trust back and rectify the situation. If a debt is involved, it may be that the debt needs to be paid off completely as quickly as possible. If a shopping addiction was a problem, regularly attending Shopaholics Anonymous meetings and seeking counseling may be necessary. If it is a gambling addiction, seeking help to stop the addiction may be part of rebuilding trust.

The offending spouse may also need to temporarily give up control of household accounts until good behavior has again been established.

Moving Past the Situation

If you decide to stay married, you must reach the point where you forgive the person, and it becomes a non-issue in your relationship. This forgiveness does not mean that you do not still check up on the person's finances, but as time passes, it may become more infrequent. It shouldn't be something you continue to hold over their head in the future. This does not need to happen overnight, and often only after the situation has been rectified. If you continue to hold onto the hurt feelings, it can destroy your relationship.

If You Have Been Lying to Your Spouse

It may be that you have been lying to your spouse about some aspects of your finances. If so, you must discuss the situation with your spouse as soon as possible. It is better to confess what you have done wrong than to have your spouse catch you. Your spouse may be upset but willing to work with you to improve the situation, especially if you are honest and apologetic about what happened.