Hidden debt shouldn't hurt spouse's business credit

But financial secrets signal relationship trouble

Your Business Credit columnist Elaine Pofeldt
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com.

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Question Dear Your Business Credit,
My husband is self-employed and has a good credit rating. We have no financial links at all. I have debts purely my own that he does not know about. My husband has applied for an increase in his business overdraft and I am petrified I may affect him or he will find out about my debt. Will the bank check my credit as well or the debt at our address? -- Candace

Answer Dear Candace,
I don't think you need to worry about your secret being discovered. If you have not applied for credit together previously and your husband's new request for credit does not include your name on the application, it doesn't seem likely the bank will check your credit, too.

It appears that you are based in the U.K., based on your email address. According to Experian's Living Together guide, published in the U.K., your credit history will likely only be combined with your spouse's by a lender if you apply for credit jointly.

But even if your husband's loan application sails through, you have a bigger problem -- in your marriage. It is what some experts call financial infidelity.

Financial infidelity is when someone hides purchases, bank statements, bills or cash from a life partner or spouse with whom they have combined their finances. It's not uncommon. A CreditCards.com national survey found about 6 million consumers in the U.S. have concealed financial accounts from spouses or partners. 

I'm a small-business columnist, not a marriage counselor, but based on what the survey found, I can tell you that keeping secrets about money is a red flag in a marriage. When financial infidelity has taken place, 76 percent of respondents said there has been an effect on the relationship.

If you truly feel you can't be honest with your husband about your spending, then I would urge you to talk with a professional such as a credit counselor or financial therapist about why. The stress of keeping this secret is going to wear you down over time if you can't be forthright. (If you're worried about a reaction from him that goes beyond an argument, like domestic violence, then please get advice from a professional skilled in dealing with this issue).

Here's a question you might also consider: How do you feel about your husband's business? Many entrepreneurs are so driven to realize their dream that they will literally tap out all of their family's resources to fund their firm. If you are using credit cards for routine purchases, it's possible your mate is taking too much money out of the household for you to live in a comfortable way. It may be time for you to have a frank conversation about what each of your expectations are, when it comes to lifestyle, and to negotiate some compromises.

If the thought of having a conversation like this fills you with dread, you may need some moral support. Entrepreneurs' Organization, a global group for entrepreneurs, offers spouses' forums, where you can get advice on navigating the challenges of having a relationship with someone who is growing a business.

Good luck. I suspect that when you are finally able to be forthright with your husband about your debt, the conversation will bring you closer together.

See related: How to cope when spouse's secret debts come to light, How to build business credit separate from personal credit, Closing joint bank accounts after a breakup

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Updated: 12-14-2017