Recently I posted a video on social media where I showed how someone can act like they are happy in a relationship when they are actually trapped and cannot leave.
Responses flooded in by both men and women who said the same thing. They couldn’t leave the relationship due to the fact that their spouse/significant other had complete financial control.
“Financial abuse or the control of one’s ability to acquire, use and maintain money by an intimate partner occurs in up to 99 percent of domestic violence cases.” One Love
Although it’s extremely common, financial abuse often takes the backburner because physical and emotional abuse is easier to spot.
There are multiple reasons why but one is that financial abuse can take many different forms and this makes it more difficult to identify.
For example, in some cases, someone may control all the finances. In other cases, they may use you for your resources until your bank account is drained.
What are some signs that you may be in a financially abusive relationship while not even realizing it?
#1. They criticize your spending but buy whatever they want
I am not a big spender at all. In fact, I am pretty frugal with my money.
A few years ago I was living with my boyfriend and he would constantly criticize me if I bought anything. “We need to save our money” was the constant lament, yet he was constantly spending money on eating out or drinking at the bar.
When I confronted him about the fact that there was a complete double standard he said that he was frustrated that I wasn’t asking him before making purchases.
I was dumbfounded. Why on earth did I need to ask him for permission when he was spending money like there was no tomorrow?
Later on, I realized it was because he wanted to control my behavior.
#2. They don’t want you to have a job
Recently I was talking to a victim of financial abuse that said every time she tries to get a job her husband becomes extremely angry/abusive.
He will tell her that she’s only getting a job because she wants to seek out other men. He will tell her that she isn’t going to make enough for it to matter anyway.
The reality is that he doesn’t want her to have a job because it will allow her the chance to claim back her freedom.
It is completely normal for someone to work while their partner doesn’t.
However, if it’s not a mutual decision and you desire to have a job and are getting blocked by your partner it’s most likely because they want full-financial control.
#3. They spend without asking/feel entitled to your money
A few years ago I found myself in a relationship where I was paying for everything.
My ex would take my credit card without asking, take cash out of my purse, and act like I was making a big deal out of things if I brought up the fact that I was paying for everything.
I knew that something was wrong but he made me feel like I was going crazy and would often deny spending anything. If I caught him red-handed he would smile and say that we were a couple and we were sharing a life together so why not our finances?
I ended up making a list of every single transaction so that when he tried to deny it, I had proof from my bank statements.
His behavior didn’t change and I ended the relationship shortly after, very deeply in debt.
#4. They insist on handling the finances
You can be experiencing financial abuse even if you both have separate bank accounts.
Let’s say that Emma and Thomas are happy in their relationship and the future seems to be looking bright. Thomas has a financial background and suggests that Emma starts giving him most of her paycheck because they are sharing a house and life together, finances are the practical next step right?
Wrong. Emma has no idea where Thomas is putting that money. She is trusting for him to be good and fair when in reality she is giving him control over her spending.
Being part of financial decisions and in control of your own finances is imperative, regardless of how much you trust your partner.
#5. They give you an allowance
If someone is giving you an allowance every month it means that they have finally gotten complete financial control.
“Overall, financial abuse is very isolating because victims often become financially dependent on their abusers. This financial dependence traps them in the relationship. Without resources, they are unable to see a way out of their situation.” -VeryWellMind
You need to understand that control was the ultimate goal from the very beginning.
After all, if you have to beg for even a dime of your own money, it’s going to be much more difficult to have the means to leave especially if children are involved.
What can you do in this situation?
When you are experiencing financial abuse it can feel like you are completely trapped and there is no way out.
Often these abusers can become violent and the situation can be life-threatening. Reach out to a domestic advisor hotline prior to leaving if possible, in order to put together a plan.
The reality is that you can leave but it won’t be easy. Try to talk to friends and family if you can. Reach out to local shelters and hotlines. If you can get a job, start putting away small portions of your paycheck so you can start saving to get out.
Even though it can feel impossible, you truly can get out.