Money affects almost every decision we make in our relationship … and money decisions that are made in secret lead to what we call, Financial Infidelity. Just like sexual infidelity starts with a little flirting here and an innocent business lunch there, Financial Infidelity sneaks into relationships without warning and creeps in through those little lies and harmless secrets. Financial Infidelity can start with one credit card used on a website: “I will only charge $100 a month.” But then $100 turns to $500, and $500 to $5000 and it just spirals out of control. Over the next five weeks we are going to share stories that will shock, inspire and give you hope for your relationship.
We have 35 years of financial experience and it happened to us!!
Our house was wired for a home theater system and we agreed we needed to buy one for some serious family movie nights (okay, I did think a little bit about how great Gladiator and Monday Night Football would be in Surround Sound). As we talked about how much we’d spend, my mind spun through all the cool things we could do with this great system. When Bethany said, “We’re agreed on the budget, right?” I heard the number, but it didn’t really register. I just nodded, grabbed my keys and headed for the car.
At the store I met a helpful fellow named Danny. As I told him what I was looking for, his eyes lit up, “I’ve got just the thing.” We spent two hours strolling the aisles as he explained why the entry-level cheap stuff didn’t have enough wattage to produce the effect I was looking for and they would break down and need repairs. Then he ushered me into a dark room where the movie Top Gun was playing. “Listen to this,” he said, grabbing a remote and punching a few buttons.
The next two minutes were magical. Tom Cruise flew his F-14 right beside me. I swear the hair on my arms moved in the wind. “Yes!” I shouted, “This is the one I want! My wife will love it!”
We grabbed two flatbed carts and stacked them with speakers, woofers, sub-woofers, tweeters, receivers, remotes, tuners, and about 16 miles of speaker wire. Danny told me what a great deal I was getting. He even gave me a discount and threw in the protection plan. I was all smiles as the perky checkout girl scanned my loot. She finished and said, “Mr. Palmer, that’ll be $5,027 dollars and 78 cents. Would you like to put that on your Visa?” Yeah … this wasn’t going to go over very well.
I had Bethany close her eyes while I lugged in every box from the car. Five trips later, I told her to open her eyes. Before she could speak, I rambled off all the reasons why this tower of boxes was necessary. I told her about the discount, the quality of the system, Danny the salesman, and even the perky checkout girl. But instead of getting excited about my triumphant purchase, she looked at me and said as calmly as she could, “Exactly how much did you spend?”
The next couple hours were some of the ugliest I’ve ever experienced. I had violated a money rule, to be sure. But I had also violated our financial relationship. We’d made a decision together and I went off on my own and acted like our marriage didn’t matter as much as a subwoofer.
I confessed I’d spent five times the amount we’d agreed to, and as angry as Bethany was, we faced my mistake together. We talked about what had happened and what to do about it. The next day I returned more than half of the stuff I’d bought.
I didn’t feel cheated out of my cool system by my nag of a wife, instead I felt loved, forgiven and understood by my partner. We have learned how to communicate about our finances in a way that allows us to solve the problem and move on. My act of financial infidelity didn’t destroy us, we recovered from it and learned from it.
Are you willing to share a story of Financial Infidelity to help other couples? It doesn’t have to be big, it happens in even the small things. Leave us a comment and let’s talk!