When Keeping Secrets is a Problem

Why are so many of us bad at keeping the secrets we should keep, but good at keeping those we shouldn’t?

Like the financial secrets you’ve been keeping from your spouse.

Gulp. Oh, yeah. Those.

I’m convinced this happens because some financial realities are painful to face. And yet the pain of dealing with those issues now is nothing compared to the pain that awaits those who procrastinate. And there’s also this: When secrets are discovered rather than revealed, the problem gets even bigger and messier.

If you’re keeping significant financial secrets from your spouse, I’m guessing you’re not only hiding problems from them, but also, to the degree possible, from yourself. 

If you are keeping financial secrets from your spouse today, you’re facing a future of even greater pain.

For example, you get your credit card statement, but you don’t look closely at how much you owe or how long it will take to pay off the debt. You just make the minimum payment as quickly as possible, so that you won’t have to think about it again for 30 more days.

Or your spouse thinks you’re filing an income tax return every year, but you’re aren’t. And so you live in fear of being discovered. By your spouse and the IRS.

All you are doing is kicking the can down the road. And each time you do, the can gets bigger (and uglier).

Here’s a better plan than keeping secrets and worrying: Spill the beans, face the truth, assess the problem, attack the problem, and celebrate the victory.

  • Spill the beans. You need to come clean to your spouse. The secrecy has to end. If you can’t do that by yourself, bring in a trusted third party to help break the news. But don’t just break the news—bring a commitment to work on a plan to solve the issue. 
  • Face the truth. This isn’t a time for finger pointing and blaming. That won’t solve anything. What will help is owning your part in creating the mess. Did you do things you shouldn’t have done? Did you fail to do things you should have done? Then admit it. The five words “I’m sorry. Please forgive me” have great power when said sincerely and followed by a change in behavior.
  • Assess the problem. The first order of business after everything is in the open and you’ve taken responsibility is to size up the problem. Again, when couples enlist the assistance of a trusted third party, this part can be much easier. You’ve got to get a handle on what you owe, how much money is coming in, how much you are spending, etc.
  • Attack the problem. This is the long, hard part. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, “This will test your marriage.” Overcoming a financial crisis might draw you closer, but there are no guarantees. It’s really up to you. What will be your attitude in addressing this situation? Blame and resentment—there will be ample opportunity for both. Or grace, humility, and a mutual resolve to get out of the pit…together…no matter what. 

I strongly suggest the latter.

  • Celebrate the victory. It you do choose the later and work through this struggle together, you’ll have much to celebrate. You will have finished the marathon, climbed the mountain, gone the distance.

If you are keeping financial secrets from your spouse today, you’re facing a future of even greater pain. Don’t do it. Come clean, and get the help you need for a future that leads to rejoicing instead of regret.

A great place to start is by reading my new e-book “How to Put Money Worries in Your Rear View Mirror – The Financial Freedom Roadmap.” It’s free—and a quick read. Email me at bmoore@argentadvisors.com and I’ll get it to you right away. 

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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