Short of cheating, nothing destroys a relationship as quickly and completely as one partner lying to the other about their financial situation. It combines the deceit of infidelity with the anxieties of personal finance, which is frequently cited as the number-one cause of conflict in relationships.
It’s startling, then, to realize just how common it is. A staggering 38 percent of men and 40 percent of women admit to lying to their partners about how much money they spend, according to a new survey of 2,000 British men and women.
While the study doesn’t show a significant difference in lying about spending between the genders, it does find men and women differ in the types of purchases they lie to partners about:
- About a quarter (23 percent) of men have lied to their partners about how much they spend on alcohol
- Whereas 10 percent of women have lied about how much they spend on food.
- 16 percent of women have lied about purchases they made, saying they were on sale when they actually weren’t.
- 5 percent of men have lied about spending money on strippers.
- Over the course of their relationships, men have lied about spending nearly $100 (or £73) on gambling.
The study, conducted by Paymentsense, a U.K. credit card processing company, paints a stereotypical portrait of the genders with respect to money — men hiding out from their wives at the bar or racetrack, and women assuring their husbands that everything in their shopping bags was indeed on sale.
These are minor cases of what relationships and finance expert Cary Carbonaro refers to as “financial infidelity,” and can easily be resolved within the context of a committed relationship. Things only become irreconcilable when someone develops into a degenerate gambler or shopaholic and puts the couple’s financial future in serious risk.
But these smaller instances of financial infidelity can have a negative effect on relationships, too. The study finds that a third of all respondents suspect their partner is lying about their spending habits, and that kind of rampant distrust is never good for a relationship. Because as with sexual infidelity, it’s not the act itself that makes financial infidelity so difficult to get over — it’s the lying.