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Three ways to come clean after you’ve been unfaithful financially

You’ve probably heard stories of people hiding accounts, buying big-ticket items without their partner’s knowledge, or cleaning out a joint bank account. Quite often we associate infidelity with falling to temptations of the flesh, but did you know that infidelity also occurs financially? And when this happens it can ruin relationships and leave some families in a state of disrepair, especially if the infidelity is continuous. Infidelity ruins trust and robs the relationship of financial stability and security.

But what happens if you’re the one who’s been unfaithful? How do you correct the issue and change course? Most importantly, how do you win back your partner’s trust and repair the damage? Addressing your financial unfaithfulness starts with honesty, which is a tough and scary thing to do. I’ve detailed three ways for you to mend your relationship after financial infidelity:

Understand why you’ve been unfaithful

Before you drop the bombshell on your partner, it’s a good idea to take a moment, look inward and understand why you did it in the first place.

The key is to be honest with yourself. Your reasons could have been deep-seated issues that stem from your childhood. Or, they could’ve been a simple momentary lapse in judgment and self-discipline. You could also have been driven by fear, lack of trust, or maybe you’ve just been given bad advice. It’s important to unearth your fears, hidden control issues or whatever is driving you to exhibit this behavior.

It may be that you have a gambling problem, you always seem to pick bad investments or you may be hiding the fact that you lost your job recently.

It’s also important to remember and convey to your spouse that your reasons don’t excuse your behavior. Understanding facilitates correcting the behavior, but it doesn’t absolve the wrong or heal the hurt.

Show remorse

When you do reveal what you’ve done, be upfront and open. It’s important that you don’t try to downplay or sugarcoat your actions. And don’t blame your partner for driving you to do what you’ve done. Your partner’s actions may have contributed to your decision to be dishonest, but the ultimate decision was made by you.

It’s also important that your confession is accompanied by a sincere and heartfelt apology. Most people need to see or feel remorse in order to begin the process of forgiveness. Showing remorse places you in a posture of humility and displays that you understand, to some degree, the depth of your actions. Give your spouse space to be angry and don’t allow their anger to make you angry.

Of course, the more egregious the infraction, the more you may need to apologize. Spending the grocery money on a hairstyle can be wiped away with a simple sincere apology. However, pinching from the money you both intended to be a down payment on a mortgage requires more than a shoulder shrug and nonchalant “sorry”.

Implement accountability and transparency

After you have confessed your financial infidelity and apologized to your spouse, you need to add some sort of reassurance that this won’t happen again. At the very least, assure them that you are working to correct the issue. And that requires more than just a verbal statement.

Most people are inherently good, but the fear of consequences and having to account for your actions also keeps you on the straight and narrow. Accountability gently nudges you in the right direction. Accountability should be your friend.

Adding an accountability component provides a safeguard for both you and your partner. It shows that you are truly working to correct the issue. It can be something as extreme as adding your spouse to your bank and/or credit card accounts, or simply allowing them to review your statements with you each month. The key here is to do something that requires you to be accountable and transparent to someone else, and that provides some sort of preventive measure to stave off future occurrences.

• Quinton C. Lightbourne is a certified financial planner with the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland and vice president of the Bahamas Investments & Securities Business Association (BISBA). E-mail: quinton_lightbourne@hotmail.com.

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