Financial Infidelity: How Money Can Ruin a Marriage

Being dishonest with your partner about money can cause big problems.

Oct. 21, 2008— -- Marriage is supposed to be for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. But what happens to your relationship when the sickness comes in the form of finances?

The current financial crisis may be putting a strain on some couples.

According to the American Psychological Association, 83 percent of women are stressed about money, compared with 78 percent of men.

For Abelardo and Angela Muniz, money troubles put a drastic strain on their relationship and they almost divorced. And after 32 years together, the couple still clashed over finances.

Angela said she is a saver and more cautious than her husband when it comes to money.

"I am a little more cautious. I don't like to take as many risks," she said. "I am a worry wart. I worry. He doesn't. He sleeps. I don't."

Abelardo, on the other hand, said he is a spender.

"I like to take risks. I like to always look ahead," he said.

The entrepreneur buys and renovates houses, and back in the 1980s, his auto body shop business was going belly up, but he committed financial infidelity by not telling his wife and lying to her about their finances.

"We sold the business at a loss. We had a $30,000 debt, three children and we almost lost our home," Angela said.

Angela, a dental office manager, said her husband was withholding lots of important information.

"When my daughter was born, he had changed insurance policies and he forgot to tell me and I got pregnant in the process -- there was no insurance," she said. "I was in the hospital and everything was wonderful, according to him, 'til the bills started coming in."

Abelardo remembers it differently.

"I don't believe that I was holding anything back. I don't believe that I was lying or holding anything. The reason why I did it was to save her from getting all upset and whatever," he said. "I didn't feel it was necessary to tell her all the wrong things, all the bad things. I thought I was going to deal with them and get them over."

No matter what the reasons were, the result was a lot of arguments between the pair with Abelardo sometimes sleeping on the couch.

While the Munizes were able to work out their financial differences, some couples are unable, and financial infidelity is a major source of marriage breakups.

"The reason is, it's the breeding ground for a power struggle, and most couples avoid conflict. Similar to [Abelardo Muniz], most men get physiological discomfort from arguing. They will walk out of the room; they will do anything to avoid a conflict, and that's usually why they avoid telling the wife or the girlfriend what they are doing or what they are spending," said Bonnie Eaker Weil, therapist and author of "Financial Infidelity."

"Financial infidelity is a subtle form of cheating," she said. "Sometimes you don't even realize you are doing it and a lot of people think it's very benign because you are omitting something. When you omit something, it's the same of lying."

Eaker Weil sat down with the Munizes and said they are an example of how financial opposites attract. She had suggestions for the pair.

"I want you to take 15 minutes out a week to talk about money with that bulletproof vest on. I also want you to separate money from other problems," she told them. "I want you to make time for fun."

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