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Is your spouse having an affair with a credit card?

The word "infidelity" often triggers images of sexual affairs that may lead to the breakup of a marriage. However, infidelity doesn't always involve a secret romance. In fact, one of the more common types of infidelity may have nothing to do with sex.

If your marriage is under a strain because of your partner's money secrets, you are not alone. Financial infidelity happens — to one extreme or another — in nearly every marriage. While many times it involves an occasional splurge or a secret stash of mad money, it becomes a serious matter when the marriage begins to suffer.

What was your first clue?

The dishonesty may have been going on long before you married your partner. Maybe your spouse felt embarrassed about a student loan or credit card debt and tried to keep it from you. However, you may have recently discovered something that confirmed your suspicions that the dishonesty was more prevalent, for example:

  • A credit card you didn't know about
  • A joint account that no longer has your name on it
  • High-end purchases your spouse did not discuss with you
  • Cash routinely withdrawn from your joint checking account
  • Lies about income or spending
  • Evidence of gambling or other expensive addictions

Your spouse may also become unnecessarily emotional when you try to engage him or her in a conversation about finances. On the other hand, your spouse may shut down altogether any time you mention the family budget.

Protecting your future

Money conflicts are commonly the reason for marital discord. The inability to discuss family finances and plan for a secure future may build resentment between partners. While financial infidelity may simply indicate that your spouse wants a little freedom to spend on a whim, it may also be the sign of something deeper in your relationship. Credit cards and expensive purchases in which you had no say may lead to debt you cannot control.

If this has already happened, your spouse may have broken the trust essential for a lasting marriage. While divorce is an option you may be considering, you are likely concerned about how your spouse's secret spending may affect you. Often, courts consider any debt accumulated during a marriage as shared by both spouses even if only one spouse was responsible for the debt. To protect yourself and your interests going forward, you may wish to contact an attorney who can work to ensure you receive a fair settlement.

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