Even the best of relationships can be strenuous. People tend to focus on physical and verbal abuse in toxic relationships, but not on financial abuse. According to U.S. News, “Financial abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships.” To ensure that you don’t harm your partner in this particular way, learn more about what financial abuse is, the signs you’re financially abusing your partner, and helpful tips on how to stop this behavior. A solid, supportive, and healthy relationship requires open communication, trust, understanding, and so much more.
What Is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is when someone controls his or her partner’s ability to acquire, maintain, and use financial resources. The forms of financial abuse are varied, and each situation is different. No matter what, each person in a relationship should have the ability to be financially independent. Preventing this ability results in financial abuse.
Subtle tactics like manipulation can be used to enforce financial abuse, but in some cases, more overt and intimidating tactics can lead to other forms of domestic violence. Financial abuse is often the primary reason a victim remains trapped in an abusive relationship.
Possessive, overbearing attitudes and behaviors in a relationship can significantly impact a partner’s welfare. If you’re worried that you’re being financially abusive, keep reading as we explain the different signs of financial abuse in a relationship.
The Big Signs: You’re Being Financially Abusive If…
1. You Control All the Income
Some couples do have one person handle all the financial responsibilities if the other partner is doing something equally important—this balance of responsibility is very important in healthy relationships. This only becomes a problem when one controls the money in an unhealthy and manipulative manner. Whether you control only the credit cards or all the income, seizing financial authority over your partner makes them dependent on you. This creates an unequal partnership. If you frequently check your partner’s bank account but don’t let them see yours, you’re creating an imbalance in the relationship, and this can be detrimental.
Example: You open credit cards in your partner’s name without telling them.
2. You Get Upset When Your Partner Spends Money
A lot of couples agree to follow a budget, but when one person calls all the shots, an unhealthy relationship can develop. If you’re deciding when your partner spends money and what they spend it on—or if you get angry when they spend money without your approval—this is an issue. If your partner feels the need to seek retribution for a purchase they made, you have undoubtedly created a financially abusive situation.
Example: You become angry when you find that your partner has spent even a little bit of money without your approval.
3. You Ruin Job Prospects
Preventing your partner from going to work or harassing them while they’re at work doesn’t just make them look bad—it can also cause problems with their ability to hold down a job. When you go to your partner’s workplace, prevent them from doing their job, or keep them from getting a job altogether, you violate their independence.
Even bombarding your partner with texts and phone calls can distract them to the point where they can’t complete their work. All of these small distractions can add up and create larger issues at work. Any of these examples are a problem, especially when done purposefully. Ruining your partner’s job prospects restricts their movement in an organization that provides them with resources to get them out of this abusive relationship.
Example: You discourage your partner from going back to school, making them dependent on your income.
4. You Constantly Assert Your Financial Dominance
If you consistently indicate to your partner that you’re in charge, you’re enforcing an unequal and unhealthy balance within your relationship. Even if a bank account is under one partner’s name, the other shouldn’t be left with nothing. Don’t let this create a power imbalance, since that can cause you to act in a dominant and manipulative manner.
Example: You use phrases like “This is my money…” or “This is my house…”.
5. You Give Your Partner an Allowance
Just like getting upset when your partner spends money, giving your partner an allowance is another aspect of financial abuse. Your partner is neither your child nor your dependent—they are your equal, and you giving them an allowance does not treat them as such.
Example: You decide when and how your partner spends money.
6. You Keep Financials a Secret
You may think that keeping financial information a secret from your partner is a good idea, but this is a form of control. As we’ve noted, each person in the relationship should be able to practice financial independence—if you keep your finances a secret, you’re taking control of someone else’s financial matters in an unhealthy manner.
Example: You keep bills, loans, and debt a secret from your partner.
Tips on Stopping Abusive Behavior
After recognizing the different signs that you’re abusing your significant other, you may wonder how to stop. A lot of abusers don’t realize that their actions are wrong, don’t care about the damage they do, or simply cannot stop themselves. The inability to stop their own abusive behavior can stem from substance abuse problems, impulse control issues, and even brain damage. If you find yourself the abuser in a relationship and want help stopping the abusive cycle, there are a few things you can do.
- Learn what exactly abuse is. For example, understanding the five main types of domestic violence is a good place to start.
- Get sober with the help of rehabilitation programs, counseling, and other similar resources.
- Stop rationalizing abuse. Abuse is never an acceptable way to deal with personal or relational issues.
- Fully accept how seriously you have hurt the people you care about, whether it be your partner, family members, and/or children.
- Talk to a professional to deal with any anger issues, substance abuse problems, lack of boundaries, or personal relationship strategies. There are people who want to help if you’re willing to admit to your abusiveness.
- Commit to succeeding. There will be times when you’ll want to revert to past methods of dealing with stress and anger. Stick to commitment to change.
If you’re unable to control these unhealthy behaviors and find yourself in legal trouble, contact a Clackamas County criminal defense attorney to help you in court.