A relationship, romantic or otherwise should be a two way street in which both parties feel comfortable and enjoy their time together. A relationship that is one sided, totally dominated by one person is not a healthy one. Unfortunately most troubled relationships don’t start out like this however the warning signs can usually be seen early on.
Domestic violence is an example of this as is financial abuse. This can be financial abuse between loved ones, family members, even employers with vulnerable staff members. Whatever the case it is wrong and needs to stop and if you are in a financial abusive relationship you need to make plans to leave it and in some cases take action against the perpetrators.
Now this is easier said than done (particularly for females with children in domestic relationships). If you are in this predicament please reach out for help as soon as possible and start making plans to leave the relationship. At the end of this article there are links to organisations that can help you with this.
What is financial abuse?
According to the Australian moneysmart website their definition of financial abuse is “when someone takes away your access to money, manipulates your financial decisions, or uses your money without consent. Once you know this, there are ways to get help and regain your independence.”
It doesn’t have to be black and white. There are usually subtle signs (at least in the beginning) where you may not be aware that someone is beginning this abuse. There may also be times whether you are questioning yourself to see if you are in the wrong! Abuse is abuse and no one deserves any of this, subtle or outright.
Financial abuse doesn’t just occur in romantic relationships, there is also a significant occurrence of financial abuse towards an elderly parent or relative. Unfortunately there is also evidence of financial abuse of employers towards vulnerable staff such as overseas workers.
Just because you are in love or a family member is supposedly “doing the right thing” doesn’t give anyone the right to dictate your life.
What are some signs of financial abuse?
You are not getting access to any money or household financial information
Your partner has determined that they will control all financial aspects of the relationship and won’t allow you any money or if they do allow you money they dictate how this is to be spent and demands receipts for all purchases you make.
In extreme cases you aren’t given any income and you have no bank account or access to household bank ATM cards. This is different to one partner handling the finances, this is one partner not allowing you access to anything financial in your relationship. If this is happening to you this is not normal and needs to stop.
You are stopped by your partner from earning money
Your partner has decided that you are not allowed to earn any income or have any independence through a job or earning an income. This is a way of keeping you trapped with no ability for independence that having access to money allows.
This is also a way for the abusing partner to limit access to potential friends or colleagues outside any immediate family or social circle that the abusive partner can control.
You are told where to direct your income or to take on debt for the use of your partner
In this example the abuser is preying on your feelings by directing your income towards purchases, accounts or investments that they control or will utilise. Your abuser partner might also have a drug or gambling habit and is using manipulation for you to continually bail them out of their troubles.
This also applies to family members who are continually in financially trouble and manipulate the feelings of family members for continual bailouts.
Constant arguing about your use of money or constantly being put down over your money choices
This isn’t the normal arguments that a couple might have about spending or going over a budget or even splurging on an extravagant item. This is constant abuse from your partner about how you spend your money, how in the eyes of the abuser that you constantly waste money and how according to the abuser you know nothing about money.
In some examples the abuser will take out these money frustration out on you physically. This episode could then end in an apology from the abuser, a promise that this will never happen again, yet the cycle continually repeats. In a normal relationship money discussions are handled with a normal discussion. There should be no threats, no derogatory puts downs and certainly no physical violence.
Unauthorized use of your bank accounts or cards
This is applicable in both romantic and family relationships. The abuser is again playing on your romantic or familial bonds and violates you through these unauthorized uses. Extreme versions of this include identity theft such as taking out credit cards or debt in your name only to blow these funds on frivolous spending or their addictions.
This identity theft is very serious and the law is likely to get involved.
Remember financial abuse in most cases leads to physical abuse in a relationship. If you are seeing signs of this early in your relationship it’s time to talk. If that person says they will change and don’t, it’s time to end that relationship.
I think I’m being financially abused, what can I do?
If this is happening inside a romantic relationship as mentioned above this is a pretty big red flag and should be reason enough for you to start the process of ending the relationship. If the relationship is new you might want to have a deep discussion on this however this is a pretty big red flag and might be in your best interest to cut and run before the relationship gets deeper or you have have any children.
However you may also choose to work on this relationship issue and if this is the case we suggest you and your partner speak to a professional counsellor or therapist that has extensive experience in this field. Unfortunately relationships that involve financial abuse are likely to involve physical abuse and leaving a physical abusive relationship (particularly with children involved) can be difficult and even fraught with danger.
If this is you, leaving the relationship may not be sudden however you should begin the steps to leave the relationship and reach out to friends, family members and professionals in this field to help you make the move. Please take care of your safety and if applicable the safety of your children when leaving a violent relationship.
Once you’ve made the decision to act on any financial abuse (and if you are in a position to leave the relationship) make sure the abuser is denied access to any part of your financial life. In most cases seek out the help of a counsellor or therapist and you’ll probably want to organise a credit check to see the full extent of any damage to your financial standing. If identity theft was involved you’ll also want to contact the relevant financial institutions as well as the relevant legal authorities if applicable.
Women’s Aid in the UK offer a comprehensive Survivor’s Handbook which has some excellent advice and tips for women (most abusers are men) which can be found here.
Financial abuse may not be visible such as physical abuse however the mental scars can be just as deep. Anyone that tells you that financial abuse is nothing to worry about or they tell you that they are a good partner because they aren’t physically abusive then they are deluded and this is a relationship you shouldn’t be in.
IF you are in a relationship that is financially abusive please seek help. If you know of someone in an abusive relationship please help that person. You may not be able to leave (or help someone leave) straight away but please seek help and start planning your exit strategy. The sooner you are out of a abusive relationship the quicker you can start living life on your terms!
Depending on your country of residence, there are some links below to organisations to provide help: