A woman’s husband was using money to control her so she could never leave him. He never gave her access to any money – a form of emotional abuse or financial abuse. Every nickel she spent was accounted for. When it came time for grocery shopping, he would make out the grocery list and give her only enough money to buy what was on the list. When she got home, he would check the receipt and demand the change. She finally recognized the signs of financial abuse and knew she had to leave him, but how was she ever going to make it on her own without any money?
After three years, she saved enough money to leave her emotionally and financially abusive husband. Her plan was simple and daring. Each week, she paid for her groceries and got the change and receipt. Before leaving the store, she walked to the Customer Service Counter, presented her coupons, and was able to get cash for her coupons. She pocketed her getaway change for years before she was able to leave him.
Financial abuse, a type of emotional abuse, is just as harmful as physical abuse. It is important you recognize the signs of financial abuse.
7 Signs of Financial Abuse
- Does not give you free access to your money. A friend of mine was in a marriage that was quickly ending. They had separate checking accounts and he told her to switch her pay check to his account. When she did, he refused to give her any money. Thankfully she quickly switched it back to her own account and called an attorney.
- Monitors every penny you spend. This includes checking your receipt and asking for the change down to the penny. Modern technologies that can enable emotional abuse. For example, many bank accounts have apps you can download and review your transactions. A financially abusive partner will constantly ask what you bought and why you bought it.
- Gets angry when you purchase something for yourself. Imagine coming back from a day of shopping with your girlfriends. You walk in the door and your husband grills you about what you bought and gets verbally or physically abusive after you tell him.
- Gives you a shopping list and angers if you stray. Just like with our brave coupon clipper above, any partner that gives you a shopping list and then demands the receipt and change is abusive. It is normal for a spouse to give you a list of stuff to buy at the store for him or her – my wife and I do this all the time. However, it is NOT normal, if he/she gives you a list of stuff to buy for yourself as well.
- Gives you an allowance. I’ve heard of several couples where the husband or wife gives the other an allowance. If both spouses are working, this is often instigated by the one who earns more money…but not always. I understand that some couples fight over money because one partner’s spending is out of control. No matter how bad your spending habits are though, your partner should not dictate your allowance against your will and only give you access to that money. This is financial abuse.
- Makes a big purchase with your joint money after you buy something for yourself. An extravagant purchase after a fight is a dead giveaway of emotional or financial abuse. After a day of shoe shopping for herself and the kids, a woman came home with three new pair of shoes for herself. Angered by her purchase, the husband went out and bought a new $19,000 boat.
- Not allowing you to work. Any time a partner demands that you do not work, shames you into quitting, or makes you feel guilty about working, be on guard. A financially abusive partner may also try to limit the hours you work or harasses you at work causing you to be fired.
I was first exposed to the signs of finical abuse in 2006 while I sat on the Board of Micah’s Place, a domestic violence shelter in Florida. Financial abuse is very real is not easily detectable. If you, or someone you know is suffering from abuse, visit the links below for more help.
8/6/2013 Update – Here is a good article from Girls Just Want to Have Funds – Financial Abuse: 6 Signs And What You Can Do About it