Simone Milasas has first-hand experience with financial infidelity, both in a former relationship and in her own personal finances. The best-selling author, renowned speaker and founder of Relationships Done Different — a program that mentors people to start creating amazing relationships, whether single, coupled-up or somewhere in between — is a leading voice in helping people navigate that often daunting world of financial wellbeing and mindfulness, particularly when it comes to taking control.

Financial infidelity is more common than you’d think, with money a huge source of conflict in many relationships — something I’m sure, many of us could attest to. But, how do you actually discern what constitutes being financially unfaithful? To Milasas, it comes to down “lying” about anything that concerns your finances, whether that be big or small.

“It’s when you’re choosing something with money and finances, that you’re either keeping a secret, hiding, or you have an expectation that your partner is going to get cranky, et cetera,” says Milasas. “It’s actually not addressing the issue, and addressing the energy of what you could have with finances. It’s lying about what you’re doing.”

For Milasas, one of her early experiences with financial infidelity was with a former partner, who she explains had an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality when it came to money, something she explains was sparked by his personal experiences growing up.

“My ex-partner, we bought a house together. We just bought the house, and we were sitting in the foyer, and he said to me, ‘Oh, by the way, I just got this letter from the tax department.’ And he said, ‘I forgot, I owe a whole bunch of money.’ It was over $200,000. I looked at him and went, ‘Isn’t that the sort of thing you tell someone before you buy a house with them?’ Because, of course, we were now tied together. He said, ‘I honestly just forgot’, and that’s how he always treated finances. He always just shoved it aside, put it aside.”

Milasas recalls her partner’s personal experiences as the catalyst for his approach to money, growing up where discussions around finance were often met with “violence.”

“You can go back to his history. When he was younger, he said, he always remembered violence and abuse coming up when money was discussed. So in his world, he didn’t want to have to look at it,” Milasas explains. “It’s not a reason and justification, but there’s also a lot of insane points of view around [finances]. So people just go, ‘I don’t want to have a look. I’d rather walk down this road and be oblivious to it.’

Milasas says there are “many reasons” why someone might be financially unfaithful, including as she said, personal experiences, as well as lack of control or understanding, shame, addiction, as well as general attitudes. But noticing financial struggles as a trigger point is, as Milasas says, the first step to overcoming it, looking out for warning signs and having “enough gratitude” to notice and get it out in the open.

“This is one thing that I did, asking if we could have a ‘Financial 101’ for ourselves. If you’re actually willing to look at it, then you can create it together. And that’s what we ended up doing. But it does take that vulnerability of actually addressing it, but not making somebody wrong. They’re not wrong for not looking at it. They just need to change it.”

Milasas adds, “Be kind. It shouldn’t be something that’s a burden or something creating less for you, the relationship is a choice.”

It’s also not all about having your finances in order, as Milasas notes, but having the ability to create a dynamic that works best for both involved.

“You don’t have to have all your finances together. Every couple is different. If you want to have separate bank accounts, do that. If you want to have bank accounts together, do that. But if it’s not working for you personally, then talk to your partner about it. Whatever works for you, so that you’re not always looking for permission to spend money, because that’s a form of gaslighting. And nobody should be gaslighted in a relationship.”

“Everyone’s different, every relationship is different, and every relationship that you go into is different.”

Whether you’re the one being financially unfaithful or on the other side, Milasas knows it takes “a lot of courage and a lot of vulnerability” to open up about money, especially when it might bring up a negative response.

“I mean, I know for me, my mother’s point of view was always, ‘You’re not allowed to talk about money at the dinner table.’ And I was always like, ‘Why not?’ My dad was an accountant, he loved business and money, and I was interested in it as well. So it was like, ‘Why is that a taboo topic?’ So have a look at your partner. Is it a taboo topic? Is it something that you’re allowed to talk about? Start to bring up the topic of money, and just say, ‘Hey, look, I’m really confused, and I know I haven’t been the greatest, but I would like to change it. Can you help me?’ Start simple and ask for that.”

Looking back on her own experiences, Milasas notes it was “from that moment on” that she and her ex-partner began looking at the big picture together, which “changed the energy.”

On the flip side, Milasas explains she has been unfaithful to herself when it came to personal finances, finding herself close to $200,000 in debt. Deciding to create a complete shift in her mindset to take control, Milasas managed to take herself out of debt and also used that personal experience to write a book, Getting Out Of Debt Joyfully.

“I got myself in a financial mess many, many years ago. I was $197,000 Australian dollars in debt, and I didn’t want to look at it, I really didn’t. Somewhere, I thought that magical fairies are going to come along and just go, ‘Don’t worry, Simone. Everything’s sorted. And one day I realised, that’s not actually happening. I need to change this myself.”

From there, Milasas sat down and started looking really clearly at her finances, putting into practice Access Consciousness tools to change her point of view. Milasas is now a leading Facilitator at Access Consciousness, an organisation that empowers people to help themselves, providing tools and techniques to focus on “your knowledge and the world around you.”

“If you’re clear on your finances, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got $10 in your bank account, $10,000, $10 million, or you’re in debt. If you get clear, then you can make another choice.”

It’s not a simple path to master either, with many forgetting that taking control of finances is as much a skill as cooking or running. It takes time, patience, and most importantly, mindfulness.

“Look, I think your whole life is a series of places where you run, you walk, you stumble and fall, and you always gain awareness from it. I grew up with a saying that I used to write in my pencil case every year in high school, it was just for me personally: ‘Imagine what you would do, if you knew you couldn’t fail.’ And I think that’s really profound.”

Milasas looks back at her financial troubles and brushes away any negative feelings towards herself, and instead, appreciates the awareness it gave her, instead choosing to look at where she could continue to make changes. “I think that you can always turn something into something greater, is my point of view about everything.”

As for the advice she thinks is the best starting point? “Come out of judgement.”

“I just think that you need to come out of judgment of your finances, and come out of judgment of yourself, and come out of judgment of your partner. Judgment never, ever, ever, ever creates something greater, it always creates something less. If you can ask yourself the question, ‘If we were creating our financial reality today, what would I choose? What would we choose? And start to be in that question, and create your own reality, not based on what the world is telling you it should be.”

Image Credits: @Unsplash, @SimoneMilasas