Financial Infidelity by Bonnie Eaker Weil is a book all couples should review. When I first saw the title, I immediately thought to myself – “Awesomedude (yes, I call myself Awesomedude in my brain), you and your wife communicate openly about everything so probably won’t get much out of this book.” So I let it sit for a couple weeks before I took a look at it, however I’m glad I did. Financial Infidelity isn’t a book for people dealing with financial infidelity, it’s a book for people in relationships and establishing a framework for open communication about everything (but focusing on the effect of money). If you have problems (and you’re not alone, financial infidelity is rampant ), this book can help. If you don’t have problems, this book will uncover what you don’t know or simply confirm all is well going forward.
First off, this is not your typical “personal finance” book. Dr. Weil is a therapist, has been for over thirty years, and was named one of New York City’s top therapists by New York Magazine and one of America’s best therapists by Psychology Today (her credentials and appearances read like a laundry list of famousness). Financial Infidelity is a book about relationships and its effects on money. That’s right, it’s about relationships’ effect on money, not money’s effect on relationships.
What we do with money is merely a symptom of the problems we have be facing in our relationships. When you hide your spending from your significant other or spouse, it’s a symptom of a deeper problem. When you play games with money, either withholding it or using it as a weapon, it’s not about the money, it’s about the relationship.
The book begins with a discussion of the term Financial Infidelity. It may be an innocuous as participating in an office pool for the NCAA tournament or as deceptive as hiding your spending from your spouse, but it’s any sort of financial dishonesty. In the case of the office pool, it’s deception by perhaps accidental omission or lack of recognition (it’s just a pool, no big deal right?). In the case of hiding your spending, it’s flat out active deception with total recognition of the intent. In either case, it’s not being faithful to the team. A recent Harris pool showed that 82% of respondents have hidden purchases from their partners.
However, the important part of financial infidelity isn’t the dollar cost. It’s the underlying reason or reasons and the effect those will have on a relationship as the years pass. Just because you don’t talk about it, doesn’t make it untrue! If there is no other lesson in the book, it’s that you need to be open in your communication and tackle all subjects, especially the difficult and uncomfortable ones.
The second part of the book covers the seven steps that will “strengthen the trust and intimacy in your relationship” by identifying and tackling financial infidelity. These seven steps were created through Dr. Weil’s experiences as a therapist for the last thirty years.
- Step 1: Calculate the Cost – What the Balance Sheet of Your Relationship Reveals
- Step 2: Examine Your Power Dynamic – If Money Is Power, Is There a Balance in Your Relationships
- Step 3: Divest Yourself of the Past – Understanding Your Inherited Money History
- Step 4: Break Up with Your Money – Letting Go of Money’s Emotional Hold
- Step 5: Define the Currency of Your Relationship – Working Toward a “Free” Exchange of Love and Intimacy
- Step 6: Refinance Your Relationship – Reorganizing Your Priorities to Reclaim Lasting Love
- Step 7: Invest in Your Future – The ongoing Work of Maintaining Your Relationship
The book finishes up with a look at the biochemical component of financial infidelity. It’s a section that focuses on the more “dramatic forms of financial infidelity,” like compulsive gambling and binge shopping. It goes into topics like neurological imbalances and hormones and the like, it’s for when reason alone cannot explain the decisions some make with regards to money.
Lastly, one point a friend of mine, who had read the book, made was that this book differs from many other money and relationship books in that it didn’t blame anyone. She said that many books about relationships frame the woman as the crazy spender and the man as the one who uses money as a weapon. She said it was refreshing for her to read a book where those stereotypes weren’t used.