Money talks: financial infidelity is growing.

For as long as Anna can remember, she has loved online shopping.

First it started with a simple scroll on her phone after work, a form of stress relief. But the scrolling itself became repetitive, and the purchases started adding up more and more.

"Facebook marketplace, online boutiques, department store retailers — I was invested in it all," she tells Mamamia

At the time, Anna was married to her husband of two years, though they had been in a relationship for more than eight years. He knew about Anna's shopping habits, and he was frustrated, reflects Anna. 

But soon that frustration turned into concern.

Watch: Ladies... let's talk money. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

"I had become kind of addicted to shopping online. Actually, it was really just an addiction, not 'kind of'. I didn't have the closet space at all, let alone the funds, but it was like I couldn't stop," says Anna.

"We had a mortgage at the time, and we had to default on it because my spending meant we were late on a few repayments, and it was just becoming impossible. He was resentful, I felt judged, it just wasn't good. It's hard to say, but our divorce was essentially my fault."


It turns out money talks, and love walks.

One in six Australians say they've been through a breakup due to their financial situation, according to new research by Finder. That's the equivalent of 3.2 million Australians who have been dumped because of their financial troubles. Interestingly, there are three specific reasons cited: no savings, unpaid debt and poor financial knowledge.

Rebecca Pike is Finder's money expert. Speaking with Mamamia, she notes that slightly more women have been left by a romantic partner due to their financial situations compared to men.

"It can be a deal breaker if your spending and savings habits don't match up. Talking about finances can be taboo, particularly if you're a little ashamed of your habits or savings, but that doesn't mean you should shy away from it," Pike says.

"If your partner can't be transparent about their spending, that could be a major red flag. And yes, tough times around money are bound to happen. When they do, it's crucial that the lines of communication are open and you're on the same page."

Leigh* says she was with her boyfriend for more than four years before she decided to end the relationship. And the breakup predominantly came down to money disagreements.

"He had come into a significant inheritance in unfortunate familial circumstances, and with all this money now at his disposable, I think it really messed with him," she tells Mamamia.


"He suddenly had about three million [dollars] sitting in an account, and as a guy in his mid-20s, he wasn't very financially literate. He would just spend on the wildest and most unnecessary things.

"And it wasn't my money, so it was hard to not sound like a nag. But I was more so worried about the impact the dwindling money would have on him. He was spending more and more going out partying, and it led to so many arguments. In the end, I just called it."

Samantha recently shared her story with Mamamia as well.

For a long time, Samantha thought her husband was cheating. He had multiple phones, he was never home, and he couldn't explain his whereabouts.

In reality, he had been alone in his car gambling away the family's mortgage repayments. By the time Samantha found out he had a problem, they were $30,000 in debt.

"It's not easy to talk about, because you're conditioned that it's not yours to talk about — it's not your problem. But it still happens to you, so you have every right to tell your story," she says.

'Sexually transmitted debt' is a term often thrown around amid cases like these.

Speaking on Mamamia's What The Finance podcast, financial expert Melissa Browne says approaching the money conversation with a romantic partner in a curious, rather than judgemental way is the best starting point.

"In a relationship, it's easier to talk about sex than it is to talk about money. Relationships Australia research says money is the number one thing we fight about — we fight about it twice a month. And what do most people do when they know it's a subject that will cause a fight? They avoid it," she says.

"We end up avoiding talking about finances, and then when we do, it's only when there's a big decision or a big issue. We need to let go of the shame and have open conversations early on."


For those in long-term relationships where money matters have grown into a more complicated, thornier issue, the road to a solution can be even harder to pave.

Bill Kordos is the Head of Family Law at Australian Family Lawyers, Melbourne. He notes that financial infidelity is a big deal breaker, with some believing it's just as damaging as physical infidelity.

Here in Australia, two in five Australians don't know how much their partner is worth. It's a daunting thought.

"Financial infidelity is when one partner keeps major money secrets from the other. From embarrassment or shame, to unclear boundaries and communities, through to addictions and intentionally hiding assets, there's a number of reasons [for it]," he tells Mamamia.

"If you are wondering whether there might be financial infidelity in your relationship, there are signs to look out for. One is your partner's evasive or defensive responses to normal financial questions. Another red flag is if you've found secret credit cards or noticed unexplained purchases that seem to indicate that your partner is spending money without your knowledge. And a third is if your partner makes large purchases without discussing them with you."

Often, the first thing to do is to have a conversation; to acknowledge the concern. The next is to seek professional advice, especially when it comes to serious money matters, or when communication has broken down. This could either be employing the services of a financial counsellor or a relationships therapist, depending on which avenue works best for the specific couple.


But crucially, in Kordos' professional expert opinion, healing is possible. And money doesn't have to be the final straw in a lot of relationships.

"Open communication, setting clear financial boundaries, and seeking professional advice, both legal and through counselling, can help rebuild trust. But it will take time and effort," he says.

Anna did end up getting help for her excessive shopping and spending. And although the help didn't come soon enough to save her marriage, she wants people to know that it's never too late to seek financial support — relationship or not. 

"I look back on my first marriage and how it ended with a lot of sadness. When you're in debt, it just feels overwhelming and impossible to fix. But I sought both financial and mental health experts, and thankfully I still had the means to do that.

"I just hope others don't have to go as far down that super s**tty road like I did."

*These women's names have been changed for privacy reasons. Their identities are known to Mamamia.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.

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