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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Of Marriage, Money and Lies

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 8th 2011

Of Marriage, Money and LiesI will never forget the times, during my childhood, when my Grandfather brought home his twice monthly salary. It was always in a small envelope filled with cash. My Grandfather and Grandmother would sit at the kitchen table and divide the cash into piles. The piles were divided into rent and utilities, food shopping, clothing and savings. I remember accompanying my Grandmother as she went to the bank, Con Ed, office, and Landlord's office to pay everything in cash. She was not alone as it seemed like the entire city was doing the same. In those days, that was probably true. Ordinary folks were suspicious of and chose not to have check books. When it came to the budget, salary and expenses, there were no secrets. In fact, there was perfect trust between Grandma and Grandpa. Evidently, this is not true for many of today's married couples.

The research on which this blog is based can be found at this URL:

More than 1/3 of those couples who choose to have joint checking accounts secretly use the money for their own purposes. Those purposes range from using the money for gambling all the way to hiding cash or keeping a secret account in the service of secretly planning for divorce. This is not to imply that those with separate accounts are any better off.

I remember one case (identities hidden) in which the woman came to therapy because she was shocked and overwhelmed to discover that their money was gone, were deeply in debt and were about to lose their house. All the assumptions she made about their financial health and status (They were wealthy) were false. Her husband, when confronted, admitted to investing in risky financial adventures with out consulting her. That led to their financial ruin. Needless to say, by the time she came to therapy, the marriage was on the verge of divorce.

It should go without saying that these lies destroy any trust that might have existed in the marriage. Many victims report that it felt no different from learning their spouse had an extramarital affair.  They feel deceived, humiliated, scared about their future and betrayed. Lets not forget the impact of this type of thing on children and their future. One spouse, who had been confident that their children's college education would be paid for, was astonished to discover that nothing was left for their college education. Children and spouse were all in a state of shock.

Why Do People Lie?

Boston-based family therapist Carleton Kendrick has been counseling couples for over 30 years says people lie are:

pragmatism, control, guilt and fear.

1. The pragmatic lie may result from planning an eventual split.

2. Financial infidelity may include revenge spending, as one partner over spends to prove their independence or to get back at the other for something lacking in the relationship.

3. Knowingly irresponsible behavior may cause guilt and embarrassment, so the person attempts to cover it up.

4. Deceit may also occur because they fear their partner’s reaction to the truth. That fear may even stem from domestic violence.

In my opinion, does this qualify as a form of domestic violence? Yes. What's your opinion?

What would you do if you are in this situation or, what did do when you were faced with this?

Your comments are encouraged

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Learning to deal - - Mar 11th 2011

Presently I am in a situation where there is a huge financial debt and a husband who has left.  I was not aware of the extent of the debt ,he is a self employed individual.  He has borrowed from friends and relatives without my knowledge.  Which is now putting a strain on my freindships.  I also would like to add that we have three children which range in age from 21,19, & 17 which are all in university or college. So there is no money to pay for their education.  He has left the family because he cannot contribute but is able to find a woman who has 2 children. No one prepares you for this part of the marriage, let alone this part of life. 

egregious misuse of family assets - athena - Mar 9th 2011

As my title suggests, I call this excessive spending "egregious misuse of family assets", if it has been hidden from or coerced from the other spouse through manipulation, threats, physical violence or other forms of abuse.  I have purposely used a legal term because I think it should be accounted for in the divorce process.  ie: if it can be proven that one spouse hid assets away or spent assets on themselves that were intended as savings for the family, then they should get less than half of net family property in accordance with the "crime".  If there are no family assets, then they should pay a larger amount of spousal support (or lose their right to spousal support, as the case may be) to the other spouse to compensate.  If that's not possible - I don't know - perhaps there are other suggestions.  If children are involved, automatic loss of custody comes to mind - this parent is certainly NOT a good role model.  They throw thieves and fraudsters in jail.  I would put these types of individuals in the same category.  Would jail change them or help the situation in any way?  I don't know.  But there should be consequences for this kind of behaviour. 

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