Book Review: Financial Infidelity

“They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.” – Oscar Wilde

Love and money go hand in hand which is why financial infidelity is often just as damaging to a relationship as a physical affair. Just ask Kathy Griffin.

Better yet, ask Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil. She’s an internationally acclaimed relationship therapist (not quite as well-known as Dr. Phil, but she’s made the rounds on Oprah and the morning shows) and author of Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker. For thirty years, she’s been dishing out relationship advice as a New York City therapist.

As a lesbian, I typically shy away from the mainstream relationship books. After all, was there any reason for me to read, He’s Just Not That Into You when it was the hot dating book several years ago? But Financial Infidelity applies to all relationship varieties: straight, gay… perhaps even a trouple operating as a fiscal unit.

In Financial Infidelity, Dr. Bonnie, offers effective solutions to this pervasive relationship threat by enabling readers to:

  • Assess the true cost of financial infidelity
  • Understand how buying, rewarding, or controlling behavior with money can open the door to lies, betrayals, and affairs
  • Understand how childhood relationships to money and love can create damaging emotional links
  • Separate the value of their relationship from the value of their bank account
  • Disconnect from harmful emotional and financial behaviors in order to reconnect with their partner
She ends each of the seven steps (chapters) with what she calls Smart Heart dialogue… these are suggested replies to a variety of “money talk” case studies and while most represent straight couples, most of the examples apply to us. Note: At one point, Dr. Bonnie does address the special needs of gays and lesbians in her sections on prenups and cohabitation agreements – a must for those of us that still can’t get married and are shacking up!

She also works with gays and lesbians in her practice in NYC and so I asked her three questions that I thought might enlighten our readers:

1. Does financial infidelity play out any different in gay partnerships vs. straight marriages?
Gays do not “co-mingle” their money due to trust issues and their fear of intimacy which may come out by “switching partners” to protect themselves. They think they would be more vulnerable if they did “co-mingle” funds.

2. Do you have any advice for lesbians?

Financial infidelity comes in to play due to mistrust and intimacy issues and to an emptiness from childhood, or missing out on getting what you want or need emotionally in childhood or from the relationships that they are in now. It mirrors sibling rivalry issues that they engage in with “one-up” or to outdo your partner and to manipulate or get back at partners, or “omit” (buying something but not mentioning it to your partner), due to fear, shame, blame and abandonment about money!

3. How do your theories apply when many gay men openly choose not to be monogamous?

Gay men may have stress levels and there is a “stress gene” that is being researched now that comes from early childhood and was featured in the May 10 issue of “The Economist” that could play a part, due to their conflicting feelings about their sexual identity earlier in childhood. This stress level or gene makes them attracted to “thrill seeking” behavior and to “self-medicate” to calm down and to feel better and that has to do with financial infidelity.

Dr. Bonnie talks extensively about how this brain-body connection can promote relationship-destroying habits:

Just as an individual may turn to an illicit love affair to provide the biochemical feelings of connection and experience the thrill of a new romance, over and over again, so, too, they may turn to risky financial behavior for stimulation. Even if they stop the love affair, they may not have the self-control to stop the risky financial behavior.

The reason is that the behaviors that stimulate these feelings can easily become addictive. For instance, for any addict, the choice to self-medicate in any number of ways—with alchohol, medications, sex, or money—can begin with a desire to relieve stress or mute depression. The addiction then progresses to a preoccupation with where their next “fix” will come from, and often involves a strong desire to create rituals around obtaining the “high.” This preoccupation becomes a compulsion—to use drugs or alcohol, or to have sex, or to shop—followed by depression and despair as the effects wear off, leading to the start of the cycle all over again.
Sounds like the aftermath of a wild circuit party. That said, our relationships don’t need to be a bad trip or contain crazy dysfunctional cycles. Dr. Bonnie provides hope and help for the inevitable emotional fallout:
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes courage and effort.
You can buy the book online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Or you can win the copy I’m giving away by revealing one of your naughty financial infidelities in the comments section over at Queercents. I’ll pick a winner within a couple of days.