It can be very tough to make money work in a relationship. It’s hard to manage money on your own, with your own expenses, income and investments. Add another person, and it becomes so much more difficult. Not only do those issues double when you have another person, but you now need to handle all the interactions and discussions that occur between you and your partner, it gets exponentially harder. How can you avoid doing things that will hurt your partner with your money?
Financial Infidelity looks at just that issue. The title refers to situations where you use money in the relationship as a means of controlling or hurting your partner, possibly by spending without their knowledge or restricting how or how much they can spend. Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil shares stories from her work as a therapist and looks at how these types of financial infidelity arise, how it hurts relationships, and most importantly, provides seven steps on how you can recover from financial infidelity events. Is the information useful for the average reader, or is it all a bunch of psycho-babble? Well, it’s a bit off our normal path, but let’s read on!
Summary of Financial Infidelity
Financial Infidelity opens with an Introduction, sharing some of the experiences that Dr. Bonnie (as she refers to herself) has had in her days as a therapist, and the patterns she’s seen with people being unsure how to handle money in the course of their relationship.
Part I: What Is Financial Infidelity?
Understanding Financial Infidelity
The first chapter opens by describing the basics of financial infidelity, how people will spend money without their spouses knowing or using their income to control the relationship. It describes the eight stages that all relationships go through, from the euphoria of a new relationship through the stage where one or both people want to break up, and finally arriving at a real and lasting love. It then gives a short summary of the seven steps that are covered in the middle portion of the book.
Financial Infidelity: Are You At Risk?
As the title notes, this chapter provides the means to determine if you and your relationship is at risk for financial infidelity. Personal and external factors are discussed, and several quizzes are given to determine both your risk and your overall financial personality.
Facing Financial Infidelity
This section ends by discussing how to handle a situation where financial infidelity arises in your own relationship. There is advice on both confronting and confessing to financial infidelity in your relationship. There are also a few notes on how to handle situations where financial infidelity leads to physical infidelity.
Part II: The Seven Steps
Step 1: Calculating the Cost
This section of the book starts by discussing the importance of taking a survey of your financial situation and making sure that both partners understand where you stand. It stresses the importance of avoiding ‘magical thinking’, the belief that merely by wishing for something, you can make it happen, with either money or your relationship. There are suggestions on how to share your goals and wishes with your partner. As with all the chapters, examples of ‘Heart Smart’ discussions are provided for the subject at hand.
Step 2: Examine Your Power Dynamic
The second step looks at how money can lead to unbalanced levels of power in a relationship, and how some people will attempt to abuse that power. It shows how to handle potentially stressful conversations and ‘fight fair’ when discussing issues involving money. There are suggestions for means to create balanced power relationships regardless of who earns the most money, with particular emphasis on the untraditional situation where the woman earns more.
Step 3: Divest Yourself of the Past
This portion covers how to look at your history with money and how to handle some of the biggest money stresses in most peoples’ lives. It provides advice on creating a moneygram, a diagram of how the people in your past reacted with money, allowing you to trace the concepts that you picked up in your life, and then try to be conscious of those concepts in the lives of both you and your partner, and react accordingly.
Step 4: Break Up With Your Money
Step four is about finding out how you treat money in your relationship and how to develop a healthy level of attachment rather than letting it control you and your relationship. It provides some exercises to divest yourself of excessive money control. There is also discussion about pre-nups and post-nups, and how to bring up that sometimes sensitive subject in a reasonable way.
Step 5: Define the Currency of Your Relationship
This step is about breaking any need to ‘owe’ your partner anything in the relationship, to feel that you should keep score. There is also discussion of how to create a shared idea of what you wish to accomplish with your shared money, and how to use money as something that doesn’t get in between you and your partner in your relationship.
Step 6: Refinance Your Relationship
Step six is about revitalizing (or ‘refinancing’) your relationship, bringing intimacy and excitement back into the relationship. It consists largely of exercises designed to spark new feeling of love, by connecting on your shared goals and interests, and learning to enjoy the interests of your partner over time (even if you have to ‘fake it’ at first).
Step 7: Invest in Your Future
With the first six steps to create a good relationship finished, step seven is about maintaining it throughout the future. The major goal is to be proactive about discussing your finances with your partner, and keeping up your financial fidelity throughout the future. There are ten commandments and thirty points for financial fidelity provided as the main portion of the chapter.
Part III: The Biochemical Component
The Brain-Body Connection
This portion of the book looks inside the minds of people in love (and falling out of love). There is a discussion of the main neurotransmitters throughout the brain and how they interact in both healthy and unhealthy relationships. It stresses how unbalanced levels of these neurotransmitters can lead to addiction, whether to gambling, spending, or infidelity (financial or otherwise).
A Final Word: The Case For Financial Fidelity and Lasting Love
The book ends with a short reminder that although there are cultural and other factors that increasingly encourage financial infidelity, it is still possible to stay in love and devoted to a single person.
- Provides Interesting Insight: Financial Infidelity provides some interesting thoughts on an issue that many people don’t fully consider: the link between money and emotions and how to keep it healthy.
- Gives Useful Suggestions: There are numerous exercises throughout the book that should help you to share more financial (and emotional) information with your partner.
- The Examples are Pretty Extreme: The book is aimed at couples where one partner has done major harm with money, making it difficult to relate if you are (mostly) good with your money relationship.
- Contains Too Much Physical Infidelity: Many of the example couples provided have moved to physical infidelity, so it’s hard to sympathize if you are in a committed relationship.
- Some Exercises Are Excessive: While the exercises are useful, some of them, like the ‘Brush with Death’ (requiring that the couple separate and stop all contact with each other, simulating a divorce) are too much for the average couple.
Financial Infidelity is definitely not a normal personal finance book, and many of the suggestions could be helpful for a couple who are having great trouble with sharing money issues with each other. That said, it seems to be aimed at people who are at the verge of breaking up (frequently with physical infidelity on top of any financial infidelity) rather than those who are generally doing well in their relationship and simply trying to fix or avoid minor problems with partners not being fully open about money. It makes a decent read, but for most people, I’m not sure you need to use the exercises given to fix any problems you may have.