Financial abuse is emotionally devastating, especially for a woman. It can happen to anyone it is not just the meek and timid that fall prey to this. Strong vibrant women who have been capable of holding down top level corporate jobs and earning excellent salaries are just as vulnerable.
One day she meets the man of her dreams and falls in love. While they are dating he tolerates, even admires her self sufficiency but when they get married, the rules change. He may insist that she becomes a homemaker; slowly he starts to strip her of any vestige of financial and physical freedom.
When individuals tolerate financial abuse from their partners, it is not just because they are so love struck, they will jump off a cliff, sell their souls and family members to be with them. There is a fundamental lack of self confidence that often underlies this behaviour.
Spot financial abuse
Financial abuse comes in many forms. The following behaviours from your partner can be an indicator.
• Being prevented from getting or keeping a job.
• Being denied sufficient housekeeping money.
• Having to account for every penny spent.
• Being denied access to cheque book/accounts/finances in general.
• Having all the bills in your name, and being expected to pay them.
• Threats to leave you if you do not conform.
• Demanding your pay cheque.
• Spending the money allocated to bills on himself/herself.
• Making you give up your savings.
• Not working themselves but forcing you to work to pay for everything.
Financial abuse can have serious and long-term effects on women, men and children experiencing it. They can become trapped in a cycle of poverty and experience physical and psychological ill health, isolation and feelings of helplessness.
The most important thing to know about financial abuse is that the abuser is not out of control. They can moderate their behaviour to suit their objectives. They can be charming and persuasive one minute and the devil incarnate the next (usually after they have achieved their objectives). The biggest mistake you can make is to expect an abuser to be reasonable.
Draw the line
You need to take a step back and ask yourself if the behaviour is reasonable. If you cannot think straight tell a trusted friend or family member what you are experiencing. Their reaction should be enough to give you an indication whether it is within the realms of acceptability. If more than one person acts with shock and horror, you know it’s time to take action.
So what can you do next? Your first option is to tell your partner "thanks it was fun but I need to save the rest to buy my yacht" then hand them their clothes in garbage bags.
The other option is to try and reason with them and get them to see the error of their ways. Be warned though, you would have a better chance of convincing them to walk naked in Siberia.
People who take advantage of partners they claim to love do not have much of a conscience, so appealing to their better nature may not work. If you are going to try the reasoning route, practice your pitch by writing it down and commit the figures to paper so they can see in black and white how unreasonable they are being.
Your partner will need to know that if they do not change you are leaving. In the meantime you need to find a way to gather as much cash and assets as possible, so you can actually leave. This may mean going out and finding a job, finding a safe house and garnering the support of family members to help you through the initial stages.
Decide up front that if your partner does not make a commitment to change you will leave. Do not make threats, tell them firmly what you expect, stipulate a dead-line then wait and see if they comply. If they go on doing the same old things, well it’s time to make the ultimatum-no change-no relationship.
For more financial advice, workshops and articles, go to Iona Minton's financial blog here.