Marriage, as we all know, is about love, trust and lifelong companionship. And when someone talks about infidelity in a marriage, he or she mostly means physical or emotional infidelity. But there are so many instances when a spouse is not honest to the other and dismisses it as something very trivial. And one such area where the partners keep each other in the dark is about their financial status. A new study conducted by researchers from four universities has made a very important observation—financial infidelity can be as dangerous as sexual infidelity and it can cause major disagreements between the partners threatening their happiness and peace.
While it’s easy to recognise physical and emotional infidelity, how do you define financial infidelity? Does hiding information about their debt or purchases, bank account or salary count as financial cheating? The authors of the study defined financial infidelity as, “engaging in any financial behaviour that is expected to be disapproved of by one’s romantic partner and intentionally failing to disclose this behaviour to them.”
“Financial infidelity has the potential to be as harmful for relationship health and longevity as sexual infidelity, as conflicts over money are also a primary reason for divorce,” said co-author Jenny Olson, assistant professor of marketing at the IU Kelley School of Business.
“Given the role that finances play in the health of relationships, consumers benefit from being aware of financial infidelity and its consequences,” Olson said in a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Financial infidelity differs from secret consumption and merely hiding spending because it involves a broader set of financial behaviors, including seemingly “positive” actions such as saving extra income in a personal bank account.
“An understanding of financial infidelity can benefit financial services companies and advisors, clinical therapists and relationship counselors, all of whom play a role in promoting consumer well-being,” Olson said.
If couples seek professional financial advice, they must be willing to openly discuss their spending and savings habits, debts and financial goals.
“It is clear that financial infidelity is a barrier to effective planning, as well as to a healthy relationship,” said researchers.
The researchers have developed a “financial infidelity scale (FI-Scale)” using a dozen lab and field tests.
Among the key findings are whether the financial act is expected to elicit any level of disapproval was more important than the degree of disapproval.
“Consumers more prone to financial infidelity exhibited a stronger preference for secretive purchase options, such as using a personal credit card versus a jointly held card, and cash over credit,” said the findings.
The prevalence of financial infidelity among consumers and variations along the FI-Scale affects purchasing decisions.
It is important that companies be aware of certain consumer segments that may be prone to financial infidelity and thus affect their bottom lines, the researchers noted.