THE BLOG
03/19/2014 02:14 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2014

Money, Marriage and Lies: Keeping Money Secrets From Your Spouse?

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Are you keeping money secrets from your spouse?

Whether it's credit card spending or the secret cash stash, it's not healthy for a marriage to have secrets -- financial or otherwise. Broken trust and hurt feelings from financial secrets will put a wedge between a marriage.

Often the damage is irreversible.

Back in February, I wrote about five marital money mistakes couples make. The very first mistake was keeping financial secrets. I've wanted to expand on the five mistakes ever since.

How do I admit I have a dark financial secret I've been keeping from my spouse?

I'm no psychologist, but I've talked with hundreds of couples about money. Some are good and some are bad scenarios. But here's my advice on coming clean:

Tell the Truth... the Whole Truth
Start with just coming clean. That's half the battle! Admit that you have a financial secret. It really doesn't matter if it's secret offshore money or a simple debt on a department store credit card. Remember, don't leave out the details or try to sugar coat it. It's a mistake and we all make them. Remember this is not gender biased; I've seen both men and women do this.

After your confession, sincerely apologize and ask for forgiveness. Be prepared for shock and anger. This will be a surprise to your spouse. If you are on the receiving end of the confession, try to react with understanding and compassion.

Dig Deeper. What's it Really About?
I've seen many people keep money secrets. Often there is a deeper issue going on. Addiction, compulsion and avoidance are habits that go with unhealthy financial decisions. If it's debt, then perhaps your spouse is compensating for being unhappy. Maybe you have been enabling or ignoring this behavior for some time. Really discuss why this started. Is it to fulfill something that is missing, or is it a legitimate addiction.

Work As a Team
Ask your spouse to work with you to tackle the debt. If it's an addiction, then agree to get help or counseling. Whatever it is, work together. If it is debt, then get another job to pay it off, or sell some junk. I don't want to get all corny and mushy, but remember why you became a team in the first place? To support each other through good and bad times.

Continue to Communicate
Once the crisis has passed, continue to talk and seek advice from your spouse. I see too many couples making financial decisions without talking through it first. Make a pledge that if a financial decision is over a certain amount, that you will consult each other first. By having these types of conversations, you'll continue to build trust.

Stay On Track
Stay positive and focused on being a financial team. You've come a long way from hiding and being ashamed. Continue to work together to eliminate the underlying causes of deceptive behavior.

Money secrets will stress marriages. Keeping financial secrets, especially catastrophic ones, can lead to divorce. If you do discover a money secret from your spouse, avoid emotional reactions and try not to jump to conclusions. Remember that no matter how difficult finances get, working them out together is part of your marriage. It will make your relationship rich beyond your bank balance.

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