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What Should You Do When Your Partner Lies About His Earnings?


This man was a financial adviser, and I would have thought that a useful piece of financial advice for two life partners is to be transparent about finances with each other. Learning his income shouldn’t have come as a gut punch. Now for a few caveats. You can’t be absolutely sure that he lied about his net worth, which reflects the value of his estate minus his debts. Either way, it would be odd to apportion your relative expenses by net worth, which can fluctuate with the market value of your assets, including highly illiquid ones. And that clearly wasn’t the arrangement you two had; otherwise, going by his reporting, your share would be 40 percent, not a third. (If, instead, you paid in proportion to the income you now know him to have, your share would come to a sixth, not a fifth.)

Your response to what you discovered makes it plain that he has been misleading you about how much money he has. That’s a breach of your agreement and an act of dishonesty. I doubt you will be able to begin to restore your trust in him unless you let him know what you are feeling. Maybe his shifty ways are restricted to the realm of money; maybe, though, he simply isn’t worthy of your trust. People differ in respect of how much bad character they can tolerate in a partner. That punch to the gut, however, may reflect the realization that this man isn’t the life partner you thought you committed yourself to. The fact that you, in turn, have kept from him what you’ve learned and how you feel about it — the fact, bluntly, that you’re pretending to be in the dark — suggests that a serious trust deficit has settled between the two of you. Have that uncomfortable talk. But it may not be possible to pay this deficit down.

Some months ago, a friend of mine went to Kenya, and we discussed his not being vaccinated when he was planning the trip. Both his doctor and I urged him to get vaccinated because of his age, his weight and his high blood pressure. He told me I was living in fear and went anyway. He almost died there after getting hit with Delta and later Omicron. He was in the I.C.U. both times over a six-week period. When he did not return home as scheduled, I called a Kenyan friend of his in the United States about his welfare. I was told he was in the I.C.U. a second time and that this friend was dealing with the hospital and the bill. His friend then asked me point blank: “Tell me something, and I want the truth. Was my friend vaccinated?” I told him no and explained that I tried to convince him to get vaccinated before his trip. Now my friend is back home with health issues and refuses to speak to me. I suspect it is because I told the truth when asked about it. Was I wrong? Under the circumstances, I felt that his Kenyan friend needed the truth for medical reasons. Name Withheld

You didn’t learn your friend’s vaccine status as a health care provider or as an insurer. It would seem, rather, that he told you himself, without demanding confidentiality. While random gossip about someone’s vaccine status might violate the reasonable expectations of a friend, you were discussing someone’s situation with another friend of his, someone involved in his care. You had no obligation to treat what you knew as confidential. It’s not that the other man needed the truth for medical reasons. But he did have cause to inquire — this patient’s mulish and misguided decision imposed a significant burden on him — and you certainly would have been wrong to lie.

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