Financial abuse is a type of manipulation. It involves controlling another person usually as a way to improve one’s financial situation.
Financial abuse is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It can take different forms. As with all forms of abuse, financial abuse occurs across all socio-economic, educational, racial, and ethnic groups.
A financial abuser according to Psychology Today can be anyone. They can be your partners, ex-partners, family members, or friends. Financial abuse is not limited to relationships, it can also occur at the workplace or with business partnerships.
There are common methods that financial users use to gain financial control over their partners. These include:
The forms of financial abuse can be outright or subtle. Here are five warning signs your partner is using you
Do you dread the end of the month because you know it’s that time of month your partner reaches out so you can help them sail through the month?
One of the advantages of having family, friends, or partners is you will always have someone by your corner. But if they constantly want you to bail them out that may be a sign they could be using you. If you are constantly bailing your partner out this practice is usually called financial enabling. This means a person enables another person to make poor financial decisions. For instance, you have a partner who doesn’t work or support the family but expects you to cover all their expenses, household expenses, and your own, while they do nothing.
Constantly bailing someone out financially or financially enabling them can also happen outside a romantic relationship. For example, a University student convinces their parents to pay off their loan debt.
Another sign your better half is using you financially is when they rack up debt in your name. This could happen when your partner takes out a loan, or line of credit or makes transactions in your name.
This is one of the most complicated kinds of financial abuse to recover from because it's difficult to prove that you didn't agree to make the transactions, especially if the transactions were made online.
Another sign your partner may be financially using you is when they have little to no interest in engaging in conversations about establishing long-term goals. Financial users may avoid planning for the future with you as it allows them to stay in control of the financial aspects of the relationship.
If you are in a relationship and have agreed upon how much money you and your partner will both have or use then that’s a fairly good idea. But if your partner decides on their own how much money you are allowed to spend, that may be a big sign that they are using you financially.
One of the traits you should look out for is manipulative behaviour. Does your partner dictate how you should use money in terms of saving or spending?
Other signs of controlling behaviour are when your partner:
Another sign of financial manipulation is if your partner constantly reacts with anger or frustration when you forget your wallet or decline financial requests. A healthy relationship requires understanding even with occasional mistakes.
However, if your partner reacts negatively, it might mean they are relying on you financially and view your contribution as essential to their well-being. This could be a subtle form of financial control or manipulation, where your actions are used to fulfill their financial needs. Open communication about financial expectations and boundaries is crucial in such situations.
Lying in any relationship is already seen as a red flag. Lying about money could be anything like saying you are broke even when you just got paid. Let’s use the example of a couple, Lucy and Glen. Lucy is a saver however Glen is not a saver and usually lies to Lucy about his spending habits. The lying Glen does ranges from small lies like hiding cash to much bigger lies like hiding debt, lying about his salary, having a secret account, and making secret purchases. This can have serious consequences like it could ruin Lucy’s budget or make it impossible to meet her financial goals.
The effects of financial abuse can be devasting and the damage done can last up to months, years, or even decades.
Some of the effects are:
Some cases of financial manipulation can sometimes be resolved through dialogue.
“Try approaching your partner about the behaviours you've noticed if you feel safe doing so. It comes down to open communication about money. This communication isn't just about talking about it but also involves seeing bank statements and being able to know what income is brought into the situation be it a relationship or business”, said Shannon Thomas, a licensed clinical social worker and certified clinical trauma professional who has conducted extensive research on financial abuse.
She advises establishing your own boundaries to ensure the decisions aren’t made unilaterally by one party. Thomas cautions that financial abusers may conceal money in response if they are confronted about their actions.
Unfortunately, people who practice this kind of abuse are often very hard to deal with, in that they will deny the behaviour unless it can be proven without a doubt. But there is still so much you can do. Reach out to someone you trust, they could be a family member, friend, therapist, coach, or attorney. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed about finding yourself in this situation but it's important to take the first step and identify the problem.
Moving on from financial abuse can be hard. However, there are a lot of organisations out there that can help you secure short-term safety as well as help you set yourself on a path to long-term recovery. This includes domestic abuse charities, solicitors, and the police.
What happens next if you've taken all the necessary precautions to safeguard your money and achieve financial independence? Although the next phase may seem daunting, it is ultimately a chance for you to establish a solid foundation for the next chapter of your life.