Are you being financially abused?
Abuse comes in many forms and one of it is financial abuse. In a marriage, money is usually co-owned but in many cases, the husband may control every aspect of finances and the wife doesn’t have access to it.
If she needs to ask for money, the assumption is that she doesn’t have any access to the bank accounts. This can be the case in many situations, especially if the husband is the sole breadwinner in the family, with his income going directly into a bank account that only he can access and control. In some instances, the wife won’t have her name on it and will need to ask for money in order to purchase basic household items.
Other than the fact that she’s in a very dangerous position if anything happens to the husband, the marriage is built on the principle that he is above her in terms of finances. He makes all the financial decisions, and then decides if he wants her input while she has no control over it because she has no access to the money.
From the beginning, if a marriage is built on the basis that money is “his”, and he’s doing her a favor by letting her have some of it, this is not acceptable in today’s climate. Marriage is for two people to come together as one flesh and a partnership, not for one to be fully dependent on the other. If your partner is denying you access to finances and is treating it like it’s only “your” money instead of the marriage’s money, that can be categorized as financial abuse.
Money as a method of control
The partner often uses money as a weapon to maintain control in the relationship. Your partner may assure you that they have it all covered, but the reality is that he or she is restraining you of your rights and potentially robbing you of your freedom.
Financial abuse in a relationship is often hard to identify considering that the abuse is embedded with complex beliefs and social norms, so it can often go unrecognized by the person experiencing this. This robs the woman’s or man’s right to acquire and maintain economic resources, threatening their financial security and pushing them to not be self-sufficient.
Types of Financial Abuse
- The controllers – This person uses a combination of abusive behaviors to exert their power over their family
- The exploiters – This person takes all responsibility and also uses all kinds of abuse to financially exploit their partner for their own needs
- The schemers – They have a specific plan in place to steal their partner’s financial resources and leave
Research has shown that the traditional stereotypes and attitudes toward gender roles and attitudes make grounds for controlling, exploitative and abusive behaviors regarding finances. In most cases, women trust their partner to act in the best interest of their family. However, their judgment is often clouded by the belief that their partner knows what’s best for the relationship, resulting in them fully relinquishing all financial responsibility to the abusive partner.
It doesn’t get easier after the separation
If the partner decides to leave the abusive marriage, it doesn’t mean that the effects of the abuse stops. Studies have shown that their income decreases further and suffers more after leaving their marriage, in addition to being impacted psychologically, whereby they experience a loss of confidence, guilt and also shame.
“Each year, more women are touched by domestic violence than breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer combined.”- Purple Purse, Allstate Foundation
How do I get out of a financially abusive relationship?
Most of the time, people tend to feel trapped in their position. They stay in an unhappy marriage or relationship out of fear that they can’t afford to feed, clothe and house their children, as a result of having no idea about their partner’s income, or even the assets and debts in their name.
The first step to move on is to understand and believe that there are ways to leave this financial abuse in the past. It’s so important that you’re mentally prepared and have decided that you’ll do whatever it takes to leave this toxic relationship for that light at the end of this tunnel.
Step two is to gather all the information about your finances. Every single detail is needed to take the first steps towards regaining your power. The last step is to start planning out your new financial life. Write down all your hopes and dreams for yourself and your future. Think of realistic ways for you to take steps towards achieving your financial dream.
The journey is a long one. It’ll be tough psychologically, physically and financially but the earlier you take the necessary steps to gain control of your finances, the better the chances are of you determining your own financial future.
This article was originally published on Smart Investor, Malaysia’s leading investment magazine.