Financial infidelity is a real thing. It can ruin relationships and financially devastate families. You’ve probably heard stories of people hiding accounts, buying big ticket items without their partner’s knowledge, or cleaning out a joint bank account. Infidelity ruins trust and robs the relationship of financial stability and security.
But what happens if you’re the one who’s been unfaithful? How do you correct the issue and change course? And most importantly, how do you win back your partner’s trust and repair the damage?
Addressing your financial unfaithfulness starts with honesty — which is a tough and scary thing to do. Here are a few ways to come clean after financial cheating. (See also: 8 Signs You’re Committing Financial Infidelity)
Understand why you’ve been unfaithful
Before you drop the bombshell on your partner, it’s a good idea to take a moment and understand why you did it in the first place. You really have to become introspective and do a bit of soul searching to understand your motives.
The key is to be honest with yourself.
Your reasons could be deep-seated issues that stem from your childhood. Or, they could be a simple momentary lapse in judgment and self-discipline. You could be driven by fear, lack of trust, or maybe you’ve just been given bad advice. It’s important to unearth your fears, hidden control issues, or whatever is driving you to exhibit this behavior.
It’s also important to remember and convey to your spouse that your reasons don’t excuse your behavior. Understanding facilitates correcting the behavior, but it doesn’t absolve the wrong or heal the hurt. (See also: 4 Money Fights Married Couples Have — And How to Avoid Them)
Repent with remorse
When you do reveal what you’ve done, be upfront and open. It’s important that you don’t try to downplay or sugarcoat your actions. And don’t blame your partner for driving you to do what you’ve done. Your partner’s actions may have contributed to your decision to be dishonest, but the onus is on you.
It’s also important that your confession is accompanied by a sincere and heartfelt apology. Most people need to see or feel remorse in order to begin the process of forgiveness. Showing remorse places you in a posture of humility and displays that you understand — to some degree — the depth of your actions. Give your spouse space to be angry and don’t allow their anger to make you angry.
Of course, the more egregious the infraction, the more you may need to apologize. Spending the grocery money on shoes can be wiped away with a simple sincere apology. However, stealing your partner’s identity to finance a motorcycle you’ve kept hidden in a storage shed across town requires more than a shoulder shrug and flippant “Sorry.”
Implement accountability and transparency
After you have confessed your financial infidelity and apologized to your spouse, you need to add some sort of reassurance that this won’t happen again. At the very least, assure them that you are working to correct the issue. And that requires more than just a verbal statement.
Most people are inherently good, but the fear of consequences and having to account for your actions also keeps you on the straight and narrow. Every time you think about robbing a bank, you might think about The Shawshank Redemption and quickly reconsider. Accountability gently nudges you in the right direction. Accountability is your friend.
Adding an accountability component provides a safeguard for both you and your partner. It shows that you are truly working to correct the issue. It can be something as extreme as adding your spouse to your bank and/or credit card accounts, or simply allowing them to review your statements with you each month. The key here is to do something that requires you to be accountable and transparent to someone else, and that provides some sort of preventive measure to stave off future occurrences. (See also: 4 Money Challenges That Will Strengthen Every Relationship)
Write your spouse a note
Communicating difficult things to someone you love is not only gut-wrenching, but it can also be tricky. Especially if it’s something that will hurt them. Writing your spouse a letter explaining yourself is a great way to get things out in the open and start the conversation.
This is especially true if verbal communication is difficult for you or if your partner is explosive or talks over you. It allows you to process your thoughts and explain exactly what you’ve done and how you feel in a clear and concise way. Keep in mind, it shouldn’t take the place of a face-to-face conversation — it’s merely a way for you to analyze, process, and explain things in a controlled environment before sitting down to talk further.
When penning your letter, make sure you follow the steps previously outlined. First, ensure you understand why you committed the infraction. Then, explain exactly what you’ve done in detail. Take full responsibility for your actions and explain your reasons for making the choices you’ve made. Make sure that you express remorse and sincerely apologize for your actions. From there, you want to propose a plan of action that allows you to be more accountable to your partner and ensure that this type of thing doesn’t happen again. You also want to give your spouse room and permission to feel hurt, betrayed, and angry.
Financial infidelity is serious and can ruin a relationship, especially if the infidelity is continuous. Your reasons for coming clean shouldn’t be to rid yourself of guilt or to tell on yourself before your spouse finds out. It should be done because you understand that you’ve wronged your partner and want a relationship that is open and honest. (See also: 5 Money Conversations Every Couple Should Have)