The damage of financial infidelity

Do you splurge on high-priced designer sandals and stash them where your husband won't see them?

How about the $5,000 Vegas gambling tab that you hope to hide from your wife?

Those are examples of financial infidelity, which can unravel a relationship just as easily as sexual infidelity, according to a new book by a New York psychologist.

Bonnie Eaker Weil's book, “Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker,” is a talker. It made me think about the ways people use money and power in relationships.

If you care about your money and your spouse, there are lessons to be learned.

Weil told me in an interview that the book came from 30 years of working with warring couples about money. Often, the conflicts lead to divorce.

“Secret credit cards, stowed purchases, revenge spending, gambling and financial manipulations become weapons when our partners do not give us the love we crave,” she says.

Weil calls revenge spending “pissed-off purchases,” or POP shots.

Does this happen in Charlotte? Oh, yes, says Lee Rosen, a partner in the Rosen Law Firm, which specializes in divorce and has offices in Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh.

Rosen recalls a case several years ago where a Charlotte man had to pay about $175,000 in debts incurred by his wife on five credit cards in his name.

She got the bills and concealed them from her husband till the divorce.

“The wife had spent and spent and spent,” Rosen says. “She had been juggling the money, using one thing to pay off another. He ended up taking responsibility for the debt.”

Why was she spending so much?

“I think she felt very strongly she was entitled because she was not happy with him or with the marriage,” Rosen says. “I believe she felt neglected and abandoned because he was doing deals and working all the time.”

Rosen says he advises divorce clients to root out secrets by running credit checks on themselves and copying records from the home computer.

In one case, he says, he and a wife who was a client examined the husband's Quicken financial records and found he had listed prostitutes he was paying by name.

Rosen, 47, who says he's happily married, advises couples to be upfront about spending because little deceptions tend to lead to bigger lies. Eventually, they destroy the relationship.

Weil's steps to repairing financial infidelity also center on communication.

Among her suggestions: Analyze the attitudes toward money you learned from your parents and grandparents. Never use money as a punishment or a reward.

Work through tough money issues by “fighting fair,” safely and openly communicating. Nurture your relationship daily by touching and saying tender words.

If couples are honest with each other, she says, “You will see that it's not the money that is harming the relationship – it's the deception that is damaging your love and intimacy.”