If you’ve never thought of hiding debt as infidelity, think again. For most, infidelity is cheating–any type of cheating, lying, etc.–in a relationship. Lying by omission is also considered by many to be a type of infidelity. If your spouse has been hiding large amounts of debt from you, your spouse is guilty of infidelity.
Whether this money was spent on golf, dinners, mini-vacations, or illicit items, the consequences of racking up thousands of dollars in debt is most times worse than an affair. Um, WHAT? Yes! The reason is that money is involved, and it’s usually large amounts of money being spent without your knowledge. Additionally, if a stranger racked up thousands of dollars on your credit card, you could prosecute and be forgiven for the debt by your creditors. However, if your spouse does it, the debt also legally belongs to you.
Fixing the financial side of things
The first step is to determine where the money went and how much is owed. To find out what was charged on joint credit cards, request your credit report. Realize, however, that your spouse may have credit cards in his or her name only. Ask your spouse to come clean. Go through all of the credit card statements carefully, and prepare for the worst. You could quiet possibly find things on those statements that pertain to secret items, secret relationships, or even illicit activity.
There are three things you will need to realize. Your spouse needs to stop spending, the issue needs to be addressed, and the debt has to be paid. You will need to make a repayment plan. Even though you didn’t cause this mess, it’s yours, and it will affect your credit score.
Have your spouse sell anything they bought while racking up this debt and put that money toward the debt. Insist they get a part-time job or work overtime, and put all that money toward the debt. It may be a good idea to consider credit counseling. Depending on the amount of the debit, some people in this situation may even consider bankruptcy. Either way, cut up the credit cards, make a budget and reduce spending until the last credit card balance is zero.
Working on your relationship
Get counseling. This racking up of credit card debt is a red flag that your marriage is not in sync. Make time for discussions and talk about this issue, as well as the life you want in the end. Few relationships can survive this type of betrayal without counseling. If you’re intent is to say together, see a professional. This is especially important if there is an addiction involved – gambling, illicit substances or compulsive shopping are all realistic possibilities in this situation.
Other suggestions …
- Follow an intense plan to get out of debt. This will require an incredible commitment by both of you.
- Be unified. If your children are of appropriate age, let them know there are some changes being made and how it will affect them.
- Show leadership.
- Set goals, and celebrate when you meet them.
- Commit to a future of change when it comes to using credit cards.
- Involve your children so they can see what it’s like to struggle and to lay the groundwork for them to not fall into the same trap.
If your spouse or partner has come clean about debt that you didn’t even know existed, and you choose to stay in your marriage or relationship, let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. Give us a call today at 949-220-3211, or book your appointment using our online scheduling tool. It’s time to make things better.