In modern relationships, there are many different definitions of the concept of 'cheating'. Some consider cheating to be only physical, while some consider emotional cheating more deceptive and hurtful. A third kind of cheating, referred to as 'financial infidelity', is likely nothing new, but according to a recent study, it may be more harmful to marriage and more likely to lead to divorce and separation in today's shaky economy.

Financial infidelity refers to the practice of lying to one's spouse about money in any of a variety of ways. According to a recent Harris Interactive online poll of approximately 2,000 adults, just over 30 percent of American couples who have joint finances are habitually untruthful with one another when it comes to cash, bank accounts, earnings or debt. A similar number report being purposefully deceived about finances, the study says, with men and women doing the deceiving in equal numbers.

As the economy struggles to recover, financial infidelity has become more common, according to "Financial infidelity may be the new normal," said a company spokesperson. But this 'new normal' may have lasting consequences: according to the survey, 11 percent couples who experienced financial infidelity cited the deception as a cause of their separation, while 16 percent said that it contributed to their divorce. Ted Beck of the National Endowment for Financial Education was unsurprised by these statistics. "These indiscretions cause significant damage to the relationship," he said.

Of the financial infidelity reported, the most common deception was hiding cash, to which 58 percent of respondents admitted. In addition, 54 percent stated that they hid a minor purchase, and a significantly less 16 percent hid a major purchase. Approximately 30 percent hid a bill and 11 percent lied about their earnings.

Source: Reuters, "Three in 10 Americans commit financial infidelity?", Daniel Trotta, 13 January 2011