Cheating on a spouse in marriage doesn’t always involve another person. Sometimes it just involves money.

Like furtive purchases that a married partner cannot stop making. Like a credit card that the other partner doesn’t know exists. Like hidden clothes or jewelry.

Termed “financial infidelity,” the realm of money secrets in a marriage often leads, unfortunately, to divorce, even in an otherwise healthy relationship.

It needn’t have to be that way, say financial planners, who stress that just a bit of candor and frank discussion about money matters when a couple is either getting serious about marriage or in the early innings of a marriage can be the act that helps to avoid a divorce down the road.

Financial infidelity is far from a trivial discussion item that affects only a small minority of marriages. According to statistics compiled by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), more than a third of all partners in marriage say that they have lied about debt, income or another financial matter.

Tellingly, the results of that deception can be quite serious: Sixteen percent of the persons who responded to a survey by NEFE stated that their infidelity regarding finances resulted in divorce.

NEFE’s CEO, Ted Beck, says that the following could be tip offs that a married partner is being financially unfaithful: doesn’t want to engage in conversations concerning money; surprises the other partner with an after-the-fact substantial purchase; bills are discovered relating to items that one of the partners is clueless about; and new lines of credit are showing up on a couple’s credit report.

Related Resource: Money, “Financial infidelity: Catching a cheating spouse” June 29, 2011