Financial Infidelity in Marriage

God has faithfully given biblical principles to guide our financial decisions within marriage.

Oneness and unity in the marriage relationship are often hindered because of differing views on money. The behaviors of a frugal person, a saver, a spender, or a free spirit can become idolatrous. These different views have the potential to cause marital conflict over finances due to a lack of understanding or submission to biblical principles of money.

 

After taking a Financial Peace University course[1], Harry and his wife, Penny, agreed to get out of debt. About three years later, Penny discovered a garnishment letter in Harry’s name from a credit card company that totaled over twenty thousand dollars. She was at first shocked, then angry— wondering what else Harry was hiding from her. After Penny discovered his deception, she reached out for biblical marriage counseling.

Keeping money secrets from your spouse, like Harry’s secret spending habits, is called financial infidelity. It is not just one financial incident but a pattern of habitually hiding financial activities from a spouse. The subject of finances is one of the greatest divisive topics in marriage. Both spouses have their own unique views about money, which can lead to financial infidelity.

The Destructive Impact of Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity is a pervasive problem for Christian marriages and one of the leading causes of divorce.[2] It can be as detrimental to love and trust as any other traditionally recognized marital issue, such as adultery, if not identified, confronted, and addressed by both spouses. The topic of money must no longer be taboo. Every couple must examine their relationship for the risk of financial infidelity.

Typical cases of financial infidelity often involve having secret credit cards or bank accounts, hiding compulsive shopping or gambling debts, or secretly taking money from the joint savings or retirement accounts. When the deception is exposed, it wreaks havoc on the relationship—ushering in feelings of anger, betrayal, and loss of trust and communication, which often lead to divorce. Marriages damaged by financial infidelity need to go back to the basics of a biblical understanding of money in order to overcome it. 

A Biblical Understanding of Money in Marriage

Financial infidelity should be addressed not merely as an individual’s problem but as a relational problem in the marriage. Oneness and unity in the marriage relationship are often hindered because of differing views on money. The behaviors of a frugal person, a saver, a spender, or a free spirit can become idolatrous. These different views have the potential to cause marital conflict over finances due to a lack of understanding or submission to biblical principles of money. The couple must adopt a common standard or value system about their finances. The Scriptures outline God’s biblical principles of money:

  • God gives man the ability to make money (Deut. 8:18).
  • Everything we have belongs to God (Ps. 24:1).
  • Our souls are more valuable than gold (Matt. 16:26).
  • We are to keep away from coveting (Ex. 20:17; Heb. 13:5).
  • God expects us to work (Ex. 20:9).
  • God commands us to give (2 Cor. 9:7).
  • God commands us to plan (Prov. 27:23-24).
  • God warns against debt (Prov. 22:7).

God has faithfully given biblical principles to guide our financial decisions within marriage. They are the standards by which financial disputes and conflicts should be settled. 

Overcoming Financial Infidelity

The gospel of Jesus Christ gives hope for a marriage damaged by financial infidelity. In the gospel, there is repentance, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. For such an act of betrayal, it will take time for a marriage to rebuild the damage that was done. The couple must put their hope in God’s principles of overcoming financial infidelity and restoring their marriage by putting the gospel to action. 

Financial Repentance

Financial repentance is for both spouses (Acts 3:19-20). Harry must confess and repent of his financial betrayal in totality. Penny must confess and repent of any sinful thoughts, words, and actions on her part. This must take place individually before God and then with one another. Honesty is crucial in reaching a marital resolution to resolve their differences. 

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