Spousal Dishonesty – Red Flag

By Peggy Tracy, CFP, CDFA®, CFE On 08/16/2019

When I am called to work out the financials in a divorce case, often the larger reason I am there is to discover the extent of spousal dishonesty. There are often signs that were missed along the way and upon discovery of the affair or the addiction the innocent spouse will say, “Oh yeah, I did notice that……”

I’ve had clients run across thousands of dollars in their garage, open up a gift meant for someone else or be ignorant of all the debt accumulating. Every couple seeking a divorce is unique but there are lots of signs that could spell trouble if you’re aware.


Some obvious ones are often thrown under the mid-life crisis label. Your spouse buys a sports car, has a hair transplant, joins a gym, etc.  What about if they start buying new clothes? Going to a hairstylist? Where does your suspicion begin to kick-in that this is not a stage we can label but a real extramarital activity?


What about the spouse who suddenly decides to take over the family bill-paying after you’ve been doing it for years? Does that mean that there may be some incriminating credit cards, bills or correspondence they don’t want you to see?


How about daily habits? Have they changed? Is someone spending more time away from home? Have they purchased a separate cell phone? If they are working overtime, are the paychecks bigger? Are they only available by cell phone?


And the computer has entered the marriage in a big way. Is someone spending more time in front of the computer? Do they click off when you walk in the room? Do they have an online payment system in place?


There are many verbal and physical signs that a spouse has been lying about their activities or whereabouts. Verbal examples include answering a question with a question, looking relieved when the subject is changed and they haven’t answered your inquiry or providing more information than necessary or overreacting in expressing an opinion. You can almost trust any Freudian slip.


Physical indicators of lying can include the liar’s face becoming flushed or turning white, touching different parts of their face and liars have a tendency to move away from you or towards an exit as the conversation edges closer to uncovering the truth. Liars may display a forced smile and in an intimate relationship, you notice they are not touching you as before. One of the biggest tells is that a liar will generally not make eye contact with you. And you may notice some rapid breathing or change in heart rate. They may also exhibit some shakiness in hands or voice and their posture may be hunched instead of upright.


Another area of suspicion is centered on a spouse secretly spending money. This can have devastating effects on the financial security of a family. Signs may include getting calls from unknown creditors, applying for credit cards in your name without telling you or a pattern of making minimum payments on a variety of debts. Question if new, unexplained items show up at your home or if your spouse does not want you to look in their car trunk or their closet.


Any of these can signal that deception is occurring and may need to be addressed with each other or through therapy or marriage counseling. Don’t bury your head in the sand or get in a situation where you can be accused of willful blindness. In the long run, you are only hurting yourself and your marriage the longer these items go unanswered.

Tagged with: affair, dishonest, signs, divorce

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