Financial Abuse: Is Your Husband / Wife Financially Controlling?
Financial Abuse – Relationship Advice for a Financially Controlling Husband / Wife:
Financial conflict causes a great deal of unhappiness and tension in relationships. I received this email last week and they have given me permission to share it, here is the advice I gave Emily (name changed) I hope if you are facing financial control or other conflicts this helps you.
My husband is financially controlling. I literally have nothing but the bare minimum given to me as an allowance for our needs and the rest I never see. I thought at first it was great he wanted to take care of all the bills but now I see his behaviour as controlling. I am not one to spend much on myself anyway but I have to account for anything and everything and he doesn’t. Everything I have to disclose and when I want to do things, I can see him internally calculating how much it will cost and so it has made me hardly want to bother to do anything anymore.
He says I cannot manage the budget, yet he fails to realise there is no money to budget, it is always under what the children and I need. He says he is doing this for us, our future and investments but I know nothing and I’ve read this is financial abuse!
I’ve listened to all your podcasts and thought about reaching out to you for your free marriage consultation but wanted to see if I could fix things on my own first. So I decided 5 months ago that the best thing to do would be to get a job, so I get my own money hoping this would make things better. But it’s actually made things worse, he gets both of our paychecks and I see none of my hard earned money. I feel trapped, angry and I am starting to hate him. I no longer want him to touch me. When I ask him for more money, he gets angry or defensive saying I need to manage better. He’s impossible. What shall I do?
Sorry to hear of the stress you are going through, financial conflicts of some kind come up in my online sessions frequently. Clearly what is going on in your marriage is serious, as you no longer feel close or want to be intimate. I’m not a big believer that labels help but what you are describing was labelled by the BBC Personal Finance Reporter Brian Milligan as “Financial Abuse”
Milligan said that financial abuse “involves your partner spending your jointly-earned money, taking out loans in your name, making you pay the utility bills, or scrutinising every penny you spend….Worse, it can be the forerunner of even more serious emotional, or physical, abuse”
According to the charity Women’s Aid – Marilyn Howard and Amy Skipp who produced a report Trapped and Controlled say the most frequent signs to look out for are a partner who:
- takes large independent financial decisions without you
- controls your access to money, through credit cards or a bank account
- takes your salary and controls what happens with it
- refuses to contribute to household bills or children’s expenses
- puts bills in your name, but does not contribute to them
- takes out loans in your name – but does not help with repayments
- takes money from you without asking
Another form of financial behaviour that affects a marriage I see all too often is a lack of transparency. Where a spouse is kept in the dark when it comes to earning, spending, investing or giving. This can impact closeness and intimacy in a marriage if things are hidden, so it is good for long-term happiness to share information.
So what can you do about it?
Whatever you do, do not follow marriage counsellors or well-meaning friends advice and accuse your husband of being financially abusive or a financial bully. That is one sure way to make them become defensive, get aggressive or shut down the conversation. Having helped saved hundreds of marriages now, many men who fit this “financial abuse” pattern, would be horrified to learn they are guilty of this and hurting their partner and relationship in such a way. To many men all they are doing is taking care of the family, so it needs to be handled carefully, to get a positive outcome.
First it is good to understand the two basic drives and thought cycles that men and women have. The masculine and feminine energy focus. Men and the masculine energy (which some women can have more of) are constantly stuck in a loop asking themselves “am I successful enough?” “am I succeeding?” “am I failing?” “am I doing enough?” These loops occupy their thoughts, mission and focus in life.
So more often than not, the financial control has little to do with their wife and everything to do with their drive to be successful and avoid the failure and shame that comes with it. They want to monitor everything for fear of not failing as their role as a provider. So in response to their fear, they control.
The feminine energy thought cycle and drive is focused on being loved it women constantly ask themselves “am I loved?’ “am I loved enough?” “am I loved? am I loved enough?” They see spending and being given money as a sign of being loved and cared for. They see control as a sign of unlove and control which often ignites fear and makes women want to spend money and keep more of their own money. It creates the opposite effect that the man is seeking rather than being careful, they think the money may be withdrawn again, better spend it all in case it is limited again.
I see this becoming a vicious cycle in couples. Could this be true in your marriage? These two drives highlighted by David Deida clash in marriages time and time again over finances and time spent at work or in social activities.
The way to address finances differs from marriage to marriage but here are some suggestions you may like to implement, that has worked for the women I’ve helped. Only you can decide what is safe for you to communicate to your partner regarding these moves towards more financial independence.
- Get to know more about your husband’s financial mission
Express an interest in knowing more and in supporting you husband to succeed in achieving his and the family goals. Ask him what his dreams, plans and savings are for. Explain your dreams and why having more financial freedom is important to you now. With or without a relationship specialist, set a date to discuss finances and create a compelling future vision incorporating both of your dreams, when it comes to spending.
- Be financially responsible
Make a plan to take back control of your money. It is fortunate that you work and have your own source of income. Open a separate bank account in your own name, and have your paychecks deposited there. Having a joint account for joint expenses can work really well for some couples. Do your own research into savings and share your ideas.
- Be aware of patterns to keep you “utterly dependent”
Other warning signs of financial abuse and financial bullying are when a husband or wife is using the money to socially isolate a spouse. Where the financial control stops you from going out and socialising, and by doing so making you financially dependent. It can also involve stopping a spouse from working, from having any access to funds making it possible for them to have any freedom at all. This is abuse in some respects because it can make the other person feel like they have nothing outside of the relationship and cannot see anyone else.
There is an important difference between being in a relationship where someone takes care of the active financial management and someone who keeps you financially dependent. It’s fine to not be hands on in the day-to-day operation and bill paying, but if you wanted to see and know anything about your finances at any point you could. If you are not allowed to know more or be more involved, this is not good for a relationship. Having restricted access makes you vulnerable, as you have a right to know and determine everything that concerns your money in your committed relationship.
- Get support if you need to
You deserve a partner who supports you, not one who controls you.
If your partner reacts to any of the above steps aggressively, refuses outright to discuss or if you are too scared to do so consider outside support from a trusted friend/family member or relationship specialist to assess what to do next.
You did the right thing to listen to your instincts and reach out for guidance. Look after yourself and don’t neglect your needs. It is rare that couples see eye to eye on finances, it often takes couples a few years to get comfortable sharing and managing finances together. So don’t be alarmed if it’s not working right now and needs adjusting. Outside circumstances like the economy, threat or loss of job can often trigger fear which in turn, turns into control. But with awareness and open communication can be resolved.
From my heart to yours Nicola
If you are reading this and are concerned about yourself or someone close to you suffering a more severe financial abuse or other abuse seek support immediately.
To book your free save my marriage consultation with me here how to discuss your relationship in confidence visit www.savemymarriageprogram.com/consult
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