Joint Accounts

When Your Partner Keeps Their Money a Secret

How to talk about financial infidelity

Kristin Wong
Published in
4 min readMay 28, 2019

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Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

My husband and I have been married for three years, and he’s against us having any joint accounts. He also doesn’t like talking about his finances with me and gets uncomfortable whenever I ask, but he asks about mine. He’s made comments in the past about living month-to-month, enough that I’ve gotten worried about his financial situation.

A few weeks ago, I took a look at his bank info online when he was still logged in, only to find out that he has plenty of money saved. I know he makes a good salary, but I’m bothered that he continues to lie to me about his finances. I have a good track record of being financially responsible, so I don’t understand why he feels the need to keep his money a secret. Should I confront him, or ask him flat-out how much he has saved to see if he lies? How should I handle this?

Sincerely,

Financially Betrayed

YYikes. This is a classic (and extreme!) case of financial infidelity, which is when one partner hides financial information or behavior from the other. “Infidelity” might seem like a strong word here, but really, that’s what it is: Keeping financial secrets is an abuse of the trust that a relationship is built on. It’s fairly common for spouses to do this on a small scale, like hiding an impulsive purchase or lying about how much something costs. That’s not to say those lies are harmless, but hiding an entire, fully-funded bank account is a whole other issue.

People hide financial information from their partners for a number of different reasons. At worst, it could point to addiction, an affair, or some other destructive behavior. At best, there’s a lack of trust and communication in your relationship and it’s playing out in your finances.

Whatever the reason for your husband’s behavior, you need to get to the bottom of it, and that probably means admitting you’ve snooped. It’s going to be a difficult conversation: Your husband will probably also feel betrayed in this situation (and he has reason to). And there’s a good chance he won’t want to talk about it at all.

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.