Financial Sense… Are you in a Financially Abusive Relationship? Pt 1 – Recognising the Signs

Judy M McCutcheon

by Judy M McCutcheon MBA

I was reading an article about how women view their finances based on their different life stages, and usually I don’t read the comments, but I did for this article and one comment really jolted me. The commenter was saying that there are lots of articles about helping women to deal effectively with their finances.

However, there is none that deals specifically with women who have been in a relationship for 35 plus years, have never worked and their spouses have checked out emotionally but refuse to leave. And I thought, my gosh how many women are out there in that situation? Ladies, I have empathy for you and your situation, because I fully understand some of the twisty roads we must travel to arrive at whatever situation we find ourselves in. But, I do also believe that at some point in our lives we need to take full responsibility for ourselves. You cannot give someone else the responsibility for your happiness nor your finances.

Being in a relationship with a partner that is emotionally unavailable must be one of the hardest thing for a woman, we are emotional creatures, that is our greatest strength and sometimes our weakest link. Couple that with no financial power and you have a recipe for financial and emotional abuse; and no matter how bad your situation gets you cannot leave. Or so you think. I remember my first serious relationship, it was dreadful and I still ended up marrying him – I am still trying to figure out why, may he continue to rest in peace. I was working but not for much money at the time, we shared an apartment and so, of course I depended on him for financial help. I remember clearly one Christmas I had to ask him for grocery money and he gave me $300 (TTD). I can now look back and laugh at it, but at that time, it was difficult and painful. How did I get out – I found my voice, I educated myself and I got a job that took me all over the globe. Then I came home one day from one of my trips, calmly packed his bags and asked him to leave. What happened? I gained financial security, therefore he had no further hold over me. I am sure my story is not very different from some women out there; the thing is to find the courage to move on from where you are.  It’s tough but you can do it, you were built to last.

Being in any kind of abusive relationship is especially crippling, but it becomes so much more stressful when you have no control over or access to the finances. Financial abuse leaves the woman in a chicken and egg situation – stay in a financially abusive relationship, where you will have limited access to money or face a situation where you will have to build from the ground up. Building your own after you’ve been in an abusive relationship leaves you feeling empowered. Abuse of any kind weakens our resilience and erodes our self-confidence, we see ourselves always in the role of victim and that further weakens our position. Ladies I know that this is difficult, but you must employ strategies to help you break free. However, you must first recognise the signs and acknowledge that you are in an abusive relationship and want help.

There are certain behaviours that signals to you that your relationship is heading into the abusive realm. These behaviours are visible from the very start of the relationship, but we tend to brush them off thinking that things will change – things do change, but not in the direction anticipated. During my research, I found several articles that outlined a list of traits that are present in a financially abusive relationship. Here are the most common ones:

  • You are kept short of money
  • You have to account for all the money you spend
  • You have to ask for basic necessities
  • Your attempts to improve your education are derailed
  • He controls the finances
  • All the major financial decisions are made without your input
  • You are not allowed to work or if you do, he controls your pay cheque
  • Makes you ask for money
  • Refuses to give you money.

Sisters, in the end you’ve got to look after you; remember the instructions on the airplane – take care of your own mask before attending to others. Therefore, you must plan on being independent and self-sufficient financially. It’s about you putting a plan in place for your life and your finances. This planning becomes even more essential if you are in an economically abusive relationship, so it’s important that you find strategies to help you cope, while you put an exit plan in place.

Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net

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