Financial abuse is a little-known precursor to other forms of abuse. A financially abusive partner manipulates the other by controlling their finances and their autonomy to leave. Financial abuse can happen in romantic, family, or pretty much any relationship where one person wants control over another. There are no bruises or physical signs of this, so it’s important to know the first five warning signs:
1. They control the money – all of it
There are many reasons why couples benefit from joint bank accounts. Having a joint account does not qualify as abuse. But it is essential to your freedom to know that you have the right to an individual account as well. If you’re afraid having your own account(s) will cause conflict, they may be manipulating you.
2. They understand your finances and you don’t
If you’re not known for your mathlete skills, a partner with a good grasp on numbers may seem like your saving grace. A financial abuser will take advantage of this and even add constant jabs at your confidence. They want you to believe you can’t understand the ins and outs of money. But you can! There are podcasts, books, blogs, and all kinds of resources available to learn about money. This is an important topic you need to understand. You need a plan if things don’t work out with your partner or if they are in an accident.
3. You can’t break up with them
You’ve thought about leaving, but you can’t do that without money, and your partner will notice all your withdrawals or missing deposits. There’s no way you can put a security deposit on an apartment let alone pay for movers, find furniture, or take time off work without them noticing. Whether it is intentional or not, they want it that way.
4. They restrict your career
Your partner may put restrictions on your availability to work and constantly complain about your job, but make it seem like you are the one who is unhappy. They may even actively sabotage your work by calling too much, showing up at inappropriate times, or withdrawing support. Maybe they get upset if you work overtime, bring work home, or even go to the office happy hour. They do this so you can’t connect with colleagues and talk about your relationship. Your office friends might suspect something is off and encourage you to leave. Or worse, you might get a promotion and make enough money to be independent. It may seem sweet at first that they want bonding time with you, but this can quickly escalate into controlling behavior. Set your boundaries now.
5. They spend your money
With a joint account in place, they can make purchasing decisions without your consent. They may even make you think they “bought these things for us.” Maybe they bought a new smartphone so they can call you more. Or you come home to new furniture, electronics, or other unplanned purchases. If you don’t feel comfortable voicing your opinion about these surprises, this is a big red flag.
If any of these signs resonate with you, know that there are resources to help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or seek help from a trusted counselor.