The travails of Financial Infidelity.
When I read this on Get Rich Slowly, I was heartbroken:
My ex took out a credit card in my name and ran up $40,000 debt without my knowledge. Now I’m paying it off. I asked the credit card company to investigate the matter as fraud, but they didn’t. It doesn’t seem like I have many rights. As I found out, there were many secrets behind the numbers. Right now, I’m waiting for the divorce to come through.
It’s called Financial Infidelity and it is tearing apart families. Divorce is painful and expensive — two realities that are exacerbated when one has “cheated” with the shared finances by accumulating credit card debt, making secret purchases and dealing in silent investments.
Though I was not married, I, too have been a victim of this type of activity with a partner. To recover from it — I’ve almost paid off a credit card that was maxed out without my knowledge — one must first get past the anger and get to the business of once again becoming financially whole. Outside of legal action, that means having the discipline to begin the process of paying down the debt.
This article offers terrific advice to help you get on track. For me, one item stood out since it clearly defined my own behavior at the time when I allowed this to happen to me:
Lastly, if your spouse has committed financial infidelity, you may need to take a long hard look at your own money habits and head-in-the-sand behavior.
There are, according to the article (and I agree), two prongs: The Mess and The Marriage. Get your credit report to see if there are any other accounts opened in your name and the complete debt owed. Then, begin the process of repayment. You may need to sell items, get credit counseling, downsize and make other life adjustments. And, if you and your spouse remain together, he or she will need to contribute, perhaps by getting a second job and certainly by getting rid of the items that were purchased. Use that money to help repay the debt.
Then, there is the issue of the marriage. Unfortunately, you could discover that your partner has a spending habit that needs to be addressed, or worse, an addiction that requires him or her to seek professional help. Then, there’s the issue of looking in the mirror to determine how you became so uninvolved in the family’s (and your own) financial matters — daily and long-term — that you did not notice credit accounts, excessive spending and other financial misdeeds going on under your nose. Yes, your partner or spouse probably went to great lengths to keep it hidden, but in all honesty, you may not have been paying close enough attention, either. I know I didn’t, a mistake that I’ll never repeat.
Question: Have you ever been involved in financial infidelity? Did you “cheat” with money? Did your partner or spouse? How did you handle it, and what was the damage?
More importantly, how do you think this type of issue can be avoided in relationships?