When Couples Keep Financial Secrets

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How willing are we to talk about money? Many of us are perfectly willing to talk a lot about others' money: the cost of government programs, the cost of living, our personal taxes, and public policy on taxing business profits.

What we don’t talk about is our personal money.

Imagine announcing your salary, net worth, or credit card debt at a public gathering or posting it on social media. What feelings come up? It would be normal to experience emotions like humiliation, panic, or shame. Those feelings may be so overwhelming that you disassociate and feel nothing. Talking about our personal money is not supported by our society; it’s considered something that just isn’t done.

On the other hand, we tend to expect couples to be completely open with each other when it comes to money. In most cases, that expectation is reasonable and useful. Keeping financial secrets within a marriage can adversely affect the relationship for three out of four marriages, according to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education cited in a CNBC article by Jessica Dickler published February 12, 2020.

The article also cited a survey from CreditCards.com that found 44% of couples keep secrets from each other around money, most often "spending more than they feel their significant other would be comfortable with." It's also common to feel a need to hide debt from a partner. "To justify those money secrets, 36% cited the need for privacy or the desire to control their own finances, 27% said the issue never came up and 26% said they are embarrassed about the way they handle money."