Let’s Talk About Financial Abuse...Did You Know It’s a Thing?
You know, when many of us think of abuse, we think of the horribly typical physical, sexual, and emotional assault that plagues our society, but little is said about financial abuse. In fact, it might even be a precursor and/or ongoing side dish of the standard abuse going on in your relationship(s).
What is financial abuse exactly? It’s controlling your combined money. It’s controlling whether or not you are allowed to work, and what you are allowed to do. It’s controlling every purchase you make.
It’s making sure they are comfortable while they determine what you are worth.
At first, I struggled with the idea of financial abuse. I cringed, actually. I began reading this article, Is Your Spouse a Financial Bully?, and like every other description of abusive control, I wondered if I was really a victim—or a perpetrator.
Have you ever felt like that? Like when you try to take control of a situation, you wonder if you are the narcissist or abuser? Here’s a hint: you are not. It took me a lot of therapy and research to realize that was all the gaslighting manipulation that warped my sense of self.
But why did I even feel this way? Because I read the questions:
Does your spouse require you to tell them about all purchases? I did do that.
Does your spouse prevent you from having access to account information? I did this, too.
Has your spouse ever threatened to cut you off from the money? And this.
But then I realized that I would not have been that way if I wasn’t being financially abused myself, and needed to protect myself, my income, and keep a damn roof over my head. He had to tell me about all of the purchases, because we had such a strict budget to maintain, and so many times he went over and I needed to understand why.
For the same reason, I had to limit his access to not our joint accounts, but my personal credit card accounts in my name only, otherwise he’d have a field day. After exorbitant spending sprees and unexplained money losses and missing paychecks, I had to resort to threats to make him see the seriousness of his irresponsibility and actions.
So you can see why I thought that I myself was a financial abuser. I was guilty of all of the above. But I was wrong.
Thankfully, there were more questions and answering those helped to put my mindset back in alignment.
Do you find yourself having to ask for more money to pay everyday bills? Not for more money—just for him to get a job that actually gave us some kind of secondary income so that we could pay the bills that he was racking up without my knowledge.
Does your spouse make significant investments without consulting you? I never did anything of this nature without consulting him—but he certainly did a few of these behind my back.
Does your spouse discourage you from furthering your career or making more money? No—I only voiced concerns over all his “missing paychecks” and encouraged him to find something more stable. Plus, all those reimbursed travel expenses were a burden we couldn’t afford. I did also have reservations about his line of work, but it was more for health concerns and financial stability than to kill his dream. But, he did try to sabotage mine—until he realized that me working a lot and making good money worked to his social advantage, and he’d eventually be able to live the good life on my dime.
Does your spouse forbid you from working? No—in fact, I begged him at some points to work and find any kind of job while he was in between dream jobs. And, I wanted him to be happy with what he was doing—I never wanted him to feel like he didn’t matter. So many times, I was the one who got the second and third job just so he wouldn’t feel emasculated or depressed doing something menial.
Does your spouse make poor decisions involving your credit, causing harm to your score? Me? Nope. I always fixed his fuck-ups to help his credit. Him? He almost destroyed mine by taking out cards and accounts in my name and then pretending he didn’t know how that happened.
So although I will admit, especially in the later years, I became a financial control freak, it really wasn’t to punish him or control him; it was to protect myself, to keep our mutual credit positive, to be able to save for amazing vacations and everything he wanted to do, and to keep him from “stealing” from me, even though in the eyes of the law, we were a single entity. That part really sucked.
I’ve heard the stories, especially in situations where it was “decided” a woman would be the stay-at-home type, and now that she is ready to leave, she has no financial ground to stand on, and that breaks my heart. I’ve seen how women’s dreams were completely shattered because of control; because their success or ambition emasculated the significant other and he needed to exert his control.
Whatever your situation is, I hope that you find a way to get out.
I can tell you with all certainty that the moment I left and legally separated our accounts, he was no longer able to steal, abuse, or control me financially. And I have been able to rebuild an amazing life for me and my children without that financial abuse hanging over my head. It is my prayer that you find your way to self-sustainability as well xo
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