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Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Financial Infidelity - Apr 3, 2008

Financial Infidelity: Why Couples Lie About Money

April 3, 2008

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

As the economic recession deepens, many American couples are struggling to pay those bills. But what happens when your spouse has a secret financial life? New research reveals that millions of couples aren't telling the truth about their finances. Undisclosed debt, secret spending and hidden bank accounts are some of the leading causes of divorce, especially during hard economic times. Here to tell us more is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: Why is money such a hot issue in marriage?

Dr. Sylvia: It is a hot issue because it represents power, control and the right to influence the final vote on spending. Whoever controls the money holds the "reins" to the marriage, and millions of people refuse to let go of those "reins." Women in particular get really mad when they feel controlled economically, and countless power struggles are played out with money. Angry spouses can become brilliant spenders if they feel controlled. A type of economic tyranny can begin to build in which one partner "calls the shots" economically while the other spouse sabotages that control with financial secrecy. Women, in particular, are renowned for seeking revenge if we feel economically controlled. Money becomes a power struggle that can become a death grip for the marriage. Then everybody loses!

Q: Why do psychologists call this financial infidelity?

Dr. Sylvia: This type of secrecy, especially when it is severe, is a direct violation of the marital contract and is a form of unfaithfulness and disloyalty. In fact, severe marital infidelity, as we saw with the recent political scandal with former New York Governor Spitzer, is almost always accompanied by financial cheating. If you are going to cheat with a new partner, you'll cheat on the money. Extramarital affairs involve some kind of hidden spending.

Q: Is there a continuum of financial infidelity and what are the most common types?

Dr. Sylvia: Of course, money secrets are on a continuum, and range from hiding an extra expenditure online to establishing an undisclosed bank account where you invest half your paycheck. We do know that the number one financial secret is undisclosed shopping.

Here is what a recent poll (commissioned by and Redbook Magazine) of almost 2,000 people told us:

  • One third of those polled admitted that they had lied to their partner about finances.
  • We lie most often about what we spend on ourselves. We also lie about what we spend on the kids.
  • Around 25% of us believe that openness about money is more important that being faithful. In other words, you can cheat on me, but don't take my money!

Q: What do the most serious infractions look like?

Dr. Sylvia: The most serious financial betrayals involve a secret, systematic pattern in which the spouse takes considerable financial resources and deliberately deceives the spouse. The more money involved, the more cunning and stealth the cheating spouse must use. In the extremely narcissistic partner, they savor their deceitful tactics and if apprehended, blame the partner for not being more attentive. Their shameless entitlement and lack of conscience can be overwhelming.

Q: Is this kind of monetary deceit increasing in marriage?

Dr. Sylvia: Without a doubt, financial secrecy is increasing exponentially, since the ability to spend and borrow money is widespread and immediate. During the current recession, such behavior is even more tempting. A "leak in the financial boat" is simply more difficult to track. In our culture of rampant spending, consumer debt has more than doubled in the past decade, and there are now a million ways to hide money and purchases on the Internet, on secret credit cards, etc.

Q: Any tips for our worried viewers?

Dr. Sylvia: Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

Separate Accounts Hide Many Sins: About twenty percent of American couples keep separate accounts, and I think this is a serious mistake. If you can't combine your money, don't combine your lives.

Stop Lying: If you are married and are lying about the money, please find your conscience again. There is no justification for lying, even if you are married to an irresponsible partner. Get them help for their irresponsibility or move on.

Love Gradually Erodes: Remember that relationships die one action at a time. Lies are a toxin for love, since they instantly kill the regard between you. If you want to kill your marriage, lie about the money.