The scenario is all too common and all too chilling. A partner in a healthy marriage attempts to assert control by taking over all assets. The underlying intent is clear: keep the spouse from having the means to leave the union. When one spouse creates a situation in which the other spouse does not have access to liquid assets, financial abuse is in play. Financial abuse is a very sick (sic) dynamic in a marriage. Every expenditure is aggressively accounted for. Purchases at grocery stores and other venues are vigorously tracked, with the “buyer” given just enough money to compete the task. Other expenditures like health care expenses, clothing, and the like are discouraged. If a partner does not comply with these rigid demands, there is a “price” to pay.
Let’s be clear as we begin… Financial abuse is a subset of emotional abuse and can be just as corrosive as physical abuse. Any time the need for absolute control undergirds the actions of our intimate partners, there is a reason for concern. Being able to recognize and contend with financial abuse leads to the potential of health and wholeness for the one who is being maligned.
Let’s take a look at the signs of financial abuse and consider some ways one can contend with this.
The Obvious Signs of Financial Abuse
1. Denial of Access
If your partner does not provide you with free access to your money, there is reason for concern. While marital assets come from a variety of streams, they are marital assets. Not being able to access these funds when the need arises is a significant red flag.
2. Intense Monitoring of Spending
A spouse that requires a detailed expense report, receipts, and anecdotal descriptions of your spending is a spouse with pronounced control issues. Further, requiring that you remit every penny of change after an expenditure is an area of concern. Monitoring is compounded by the advent of digital accounts. Because digital interfaces afford consumers “Real Time” monitoring of financial transactions and balances, the scrutiny from the one perpetrating abuse can be even more pronounced.
3. Anger with Spending that Benefits the Abused One
If you spend money on yourself for clothing, entertainment, food and the like and your partner goes nuclear, you have a problem. There is nothing wrong with engaging in self-care and spending a little bit of money to make it possible. Gauge the reaction of your partner when you report an expenditure. Is he furious? Run!
4. Your Partner Gives You an Allowance
Friend, you are not a child “earning your keep” or attempting to curry some favor with your intimate partner. It’s not okay for your spouse to give you an allowance. Again, marital assets are marital assets. You are entitled to spend the marital money so long as you are doing it in a healthy and communicative way. If you been restricted to predetermined, inflexible amount of financial support, something’s not right. Further, if the “allowance” is taken from you, something truly unsavory and concerning is afoot. Don’t stand for it!
5. The Significant Other Demands Repayment
Your spouse/partner is not a savings and loan. When you make household purchases out of marital funds, it is quite inappropriate for the partner to ask for repayment of the funds. Unfortunately, this happens too often. Further, some extremely nasty spouses demand interest on marital funds that are to be repaid. Yes, it’s ridiculous and yes, you do not have to live with it.
6. The Partner Will Not Let You Work
Often the financial abuse individuals endure morphs into something far more nefarious. If your partner will not let you work outside of the home, the issue runs far deeper than finances. A dangerous situation exists if you are unable to leave the home. No one should ever feel restricted in this way. Even if you are made to feel guilty about working, be on your guard. You should never be made to feel shame about wanting to work outside the home.
7. The Double Standard
Sometimes an abusive partner will make a whopper of purchase with your joint money after you’ve bought something small for yourself. A massive, unexpected purchase after a rough fight is an indicator of financial abuse. This is, of course, all about control. Your abusive partner cannot stand the thought of you doing something good for yourself that reaches beyond them. They need to get over it.
What to Do?
If you have experienced any of these tail-tell signs of financial abuse, you are probably dealing with other types of abuse in your marriage. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, and the like should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is to create an escape plan for yourself and your dependents. By nature, an escape plan will require a lot of behind the scenes, clandestine work. Store some money with a trusted friend or family member. Identify an emergency place of residence. Let police officials know about your predicament so that a file and response will be ready when you need it. Gather your important documents, prescriptions, and the like and have them ready for quick retrieval should the moment of escape present itself. First and foremost, do not hesitate to ask for help. Do not put yourself in a situation that provides few avenues for escape.