You have heard about physical and emotional abuse in a marriage, but you may not have considered financial abuse. Financial abuse – like other types of abuse – often begins slowly so that the spouse who is enduring the abuse does not notice the effects until they become far more pronounced and damaging. In essence, financial abuse consists of one spouse’s specific behaviors that are meant to control the other spouse’s ability to have financial autonomy within the marriage. This can become so pronounced that the victim’s self-sufficiency is threatened.
Financial Abuse in a Marriage
A financial abuser will often thwart the victim’s access to marital assets and financial information to the extent that the victim feels powerless to leave the marriage. Many abuse victims are convinced they cannot leave the abusive situation because they lack the financial means and autonomy to do so. In fact, many abused spouses stay in terrible situations for this reason alone – and financial abusers often fine-tune their manipulative behaviors to achieve just this result.
The Signs of Financial Abuse
Every instance of abuse of any kind is unique to its own set of circumstances. There are, however, several common signs that you are likely experiencing financial abuse, and they often escalate. These signs include:
- Demanding that you not work outside the home (so that you are unable to foster your own sense of financial security)
- Demanding that you forego higher education and professional training
- Thwarting your efforts to maintain a job by ensuring that you miss work, are late for work, and/or are too shook up to focus on your work
- Depositing your paychecks into an account that you do not have access to
- Not allowing you to have your own bank account
- Allowing you only limited – or no – access to your joint bank accounts
- Keeping you in the dark about your joint finances
- Not allowing you to participate in household finances, including bill paying and other financial tasks
- Requiring you to ask for money when you need it for household expenses and demanding that you explain yourself each time
- Taking out credit in your name without informing you
- Racking up debt on your joint accounts
- Hiding assets
- refusing to pay – or threatening not to pay – for household necessities for you and the children
- Scrutinizing your spending
- Threatening you with poverty if you attempt to leave the marriage
- Falsely accusing you of overspending
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be the victim of financial abuse in your marriage.