Let’s talk about... financial infidelity

Up to 30% of Irish people are thought to have committed financial infidelity, hiding money secrets from their other halves, says LORETTA KENNEDY, Ireland’s first Trauma of Money practitioner
Let’s talk about... financial infidelity

OPINION Loretta Kennedy is an embodied business & feminine leadership coach originally from the West of Ireland.She lives in Cork .

LET’S talk about sex, I mean money, baby. Let’s talk about communication in relationships.

We are a nation of woke sexually aware lovers, dreamers and go-getters. Committed to our big visions, doing our affirmations in the morning and manifesting Big Time.

However, in my experience, when we pull back the veil a little on our nation’s relationship with money, I see a very different story.

We all know how important clear communication and boundaries are in relationships. We all know how shocked we are to hear about marital infidelity and secret affairs.

But how about financial fidelity? How do we feel about that?

It’s estimated that about 40% of individuals in the United States have committed financial infidelity, which involves hiding bank accounts, credit cards or other financial assets from their partners. The figure for households in Ireland is estimated to be around the 27-30% mark.

Interestingly, research also shows that a partner will forgive marital infidelity sooner than financial infidelity.

It seems that money secrets go deep. Financial security goes deep.

Break my heart and I will survive and move on, albeit painfully. Betray me financially and I will never trust again.

And yet about 30% of households are at it. Cheating on their other halves with secret accounts or secret spending.

So what is financial infidelity? And what does it say about us?

Financial Infidelity can take many forms, including:

1. Hiding bank accounts: One partner may open a secret bank account or credit card and hide it from the other partner.

2. Lying or minimising about spending: One partner may spend money without telling the other partner, or they may lie about how much they spent.

3. Keeping financial secrets: One partner may hide important financial information, such as debts or investments, from the other partner.

4. Lying about income: One partner may lie about how much money they make or exaggerate their income to impress their partner.

Memes of women doing big hauls and hiding purchases under beds are the norm. This behaviour begs the question ‘Why?’ Why do we feel embarrassed or ashamed of our spending? Or feel the need to have secret stashes kept away from those we enter into a lifetime commitment with.

Is our spending out of control? Does it act as a release valve for emotional regulation? And are there other ways you can resource yourself to feel regulated which doesn’t involve an online blow out?

Things to pay attention to when spending are:

Are you dissociating/spacing out when purchasing (especially online)

Are you actually chasing the dopamine high, the sugar rush?

If you are noticing feelings of urgency, of jangliness, of being hyper fixated on hitting the ‘Buy Now’ button, this is usually a dopamine chase.

Remember, we live in a time when pain, shame and boredom can be easily relieved by a quick online shop.

Do you notice after you make your purchase you feel that high drop off quickly? Heck, by the time the purchase even arrives you may have even forgotten what it looks like.

Spending from a place of regulation FEELS very different to spending when dysregulated.

Saving from a place of empowerment and wanting to keep your finances in order FEELS very different to secret saving and spending.

Which begs the question again. WHY the need for this?

Perhaps it comes from a place of scarcity? Or a deep seated belief that if you don’t save, no one else will take responsibility? Or if you don’t save, you won’t feel secure when that worst case scenario happens. These fears can be real. Or imagined. (aka catastrophizing) Many of us have a trauma response to our relationship with money.

We go into a fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode when money conversations come up.

We can feel intensely triggered when needing to justify our spending, our saving, our investing.

As such, our behaviours will mirror our trauma response in ways like money avoidance, workaholism, living in scarcity (real or imagined).

Financial infidelity is not illegal, however it can be just as damaging to a relationship as other forms of infidelity, such as cheating. It can erode trust between partners and cause significant stress, financial strain and conflict in relationships.

To avoid financial infidelity, it’s important for partners, be that business or romantic, to communicate openly about their finances and to be transparent about any financial assets, liabilities or struggles. Struggles are often the things we are most ashamed of and may not even realise the impact this may have on our relationship if unsupported or ignored.

Couples can set up joint bank accounts, create a budget, a savings account together and discuss financial goals and priorities to ensure that both partners are on the same page.

Having a sit down discussion around goals, values, expectations is also really important whilst recognising that we all have different life experiences and money beliefs.

So, the next time you find yourself making a secret purchase, tune in and ask yourself WHY?

The next time you deposit money/overtime into a separate account (or envelope), what is driving this behaviour?

What is blocking you from approaching this like an adult and claiming what you want?

For more information on how I can support you through the money programmes and trainings I offer, please get in touch or visit my website www.wild-alchemyco.com


Loretta Kennedy is an embodied business and feminine leadership coach originally from the West of Ireland. She lives in Cork with her partner, their three daughters and their fur baby Daisy.

She is Ireland’s first Trauma of Money practitioner and works with women to help them identify and rewrite their deep seated money blocks, rebuild trust and a healthier relationship with money, with their self worth and with feeling resourced.

She is deeply interested in what it is like to live a life of intention as a mother, a woman and an entrepreneur in a post colonial, consumer driven society which is still processing deep trauma.

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