Can You Be Financially Abused If You Have Access to Money?

Yes, you can be financially abused even if you have access to the family money. Financially abused people could have an individual checking account, or a retirement account, or a job. A victim can be financially abused when the abuser

  • destroys the victim’s credit rating,
  • prohibits him or her from working or going to school,
  • refuses to pay any household bills (forcing the victim to pay them),
  • keeps the victim in jeopardy of losing his or her home,
  • or any number of things one could do to undermine a person’s financial life.

The point of financial abuse is to make it very difficult for an abuse victim to gain financial independence (Women’s Guide to Financial Self-Defense by June Mays). This means the victim isn’t likely to leave the relationship for fear he or she cannot make it alone. Even if a victim has access to the family money or knows that he or she could survive financially upon leaving the relationship, emotional and verbal abuse make it very hard to see oneself as capable of living in the real world (Long-Term Verbal Abuse Symptoms).

Financially Abused by Creating Self-Doubt

You can be financially abused even if you earn your own money or have access to family funds. Financial abuse is more than you may think. Read this.In some ways, the financial abuse in my marriage was his emotional and verbal abuse about money. He accused me of overspending, hiding money, wasting his hard-earned money. His words branded themselves into my mind, and now, five years after leaving him, I still have a difficult time believing I can achieve financial independence even though it’s obvious that I have done so.

The financial abuse in my marriage was covert as I always had access to the money. From the beginning of married life, I budgeted, invested for retirement, paid bills, and shopped. My husband didn’t want anything to do with the money except when he felt a need to berate my stupid decisions or lecture over how I nickel and dimed us to death. I spent hours with my angry, explosive husband explaining

  • why we had more than a mortgage and utility bills,
  • why our credit balance kept climbing,
  • our budget,
  • and mostly, “Where did all the fuckin’ money go, Kellie?”

No true answer satisfied him. It amazes me that he undermined our family’s financial health to create reasons to abuse me (Things Abusers Say and Do). And I have to add, what on earth was he thinking?! We shouldn’t have more than two bills each month? Nonsense. But at the time, I thought explaining it to him would make all the difference.

Financially Abused Through Undermining

It made me crazy that although he obviously distrusted me, he would not take responsibility for budgeting or his spending. I’d set a budget, he’d agree, then come home that night and say he had to buy a special tool or had found a fantastic deal he couldn’t refuse (Types of Verbal Abuse: Undermining).

I reworked the budget countless times, but the money simply wasn’t there. I came to rely on credit cards, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Our debt rose slowly, but surely. He used our credit cards too, so when he acted surprised and outraged over our debt, I felt betrayed and quite frankly, baffled.

Financially Abused Because of What Should Be

He worked, but the money just wasn’t there like he thought it should be. At one point, he took a second job. Unfortunately, having more money meant he spent more money. He spent freely on liquor and beer, going out with friends and his truck.

Yet he didn’t want me to take a job or go to college or do anything to help our family make ends meet. I was a housewife. Housewives stayed at home. I think his old-fashioned ideas of what it meant to be a man (and a woman) created a fantasy world of what should be instead of what was real. I think he didn’t make as much money as he thought he deserved, and that – not my money-handling skills –  made him furious.

Financially Abused Through Bankruptcy

When both our children were in school, I started a furniture refinishing business from our garage. It seemed that when he saw I could make it work, he decided to act on his idea of owning a towing company. The expenses for his towing company came before my business, and I accepted that as fact.

I came to believe that dropping my business in favor of his because he was, after all, the husband was the right thing to do (brainwashing). So, I transferred our credit card debt to my business credit card. Then, a few months later, I declared bankruptcy independent of him so he could have the clean slate he wanted. I took the credit hit because

  • he badgered me relentlessly to do so,
  • he blamed me for the credit debt, and
  • said my credit rating wasn’t important anyway.

I look back on that time and want to berate myself mercilessly. But I don’t because I now know what abuse does to a person, and I was no exception.

Financially Abused Without Realizing It

One day when money weighed heavily on my mind, an angel gave me some cryptic financial advice. The angel reminded me that no “more capable” hands could free us from financial problems. I see that now as a gentle jab letting me know that Will couldn’t do any better. I was blind to that hint and the others the angel gave that day.

Yes, I suffered financial abuse during my marriage although I had complete access to the money.


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About Kellie Jo Holly

Kellie Jo Holly passionately advocates against domestic violence through her writing and mentoring service. She loves helping women cope with abuse while in the relationship and supporting them as they leave the relationship and begin to heal. You can also find Kellie on Google+, Facebook and Twitter. You can buy her books from Amazon.


  1. I could have written an almost identical post. I made budgets, including doing cash envelopes. He would agree then use the credit card anyway. He flew into a rage when there wasn’t money for him to buy a new camera or something else over $1000 but wouldn’t make a plan to save for it. I would shuffle money around so he wouldn’t get angry. He would agree with financial decisions then blame me and say I forced him into it, if it went wrong. If I suggested I get a job, he would have a million reasons why It wouldn’t work, or why I would fail. Now he threatens to reduce child support and can’t do mediation because I am too greedy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I didnt even realise I had been a victim of financial abuse until reading this website. I was rescued from my abusive ex-partner 6 months ago from my family. My ex fiance  was mentally and verbally abusive and I put up with it for years. I am now out of the relationship but I am also financially scarred because of him. He refuses to pay outstanding bills, which are in my name. Refuses to pay outstanding daycare bills for our daughter, even though he hasn’t paid a penny towards the care of our daughter for around a year. I am now trying my hardest to salvage my credit rating, if its at all possible. There are lots of other outstanding bills, and during our relationship I managed to keep a float, I had a brilliant job, I have worked so hard, I made sure our daughter never missed out on anything. To get out of the relationship meant leaving the country, meant leaving my job, but luckily my manager realised the predicament and danger I was in and granted me unpaid leave, but I still had to leave the bills. I had two choices stay and keep my credit rating afloat and endure my fiancés abuse which would soon start effecting our daughter, or leave and get away from the abuse and gaurentee my daughter’s safety and my own. It was an easy choice, but I threw away my good credit rating and my life I had created. But my priority is my little girl. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciate.

    • J landgraf says:

      You seem to lament the credit rating alot. And your job. Remember you cant have it both ways. Why didnt you just have your husband rrmoved from your home for the abuse? I did. That way i kept what was mine. Never run from an abuser. I stood my ground had him removed kept my home and let him suffer the financial woes without me to support his bs

      • J landgraf says:

        Oh. And my ex was physically violent. I forget. If your husband didnt beat you like mine you cant have him removed from the home. But still…something doesnt sit well with your story. I feel you are not entirely truthful

      • I did have him removed from the home.

      • SafeandWarm says:

        “Never run from an abuser”???!!?? said Jlandgraf.
        Many times that is exactly what a victim has to do. Run. Flee. Get out. There are circumstances that lend themselves to having no other choice than to run. This does not mean the abuser has ‘won’. It means the abuser has lost their supply, their target of rage. No one there to control, have power over, or humiliate. The abuser comes home and the victim is gone. Many times this is exactly also what saves the victims life, and then they become Survivors, not another statistic. There are so many unique scenarios in abuse. It’s usually not a mutual, calm or rational departure. The abuser may say, “Why didn’t you just say you were unhappy and going to leave?” Uhhh because you don’t and have never woken like that with such rationality. That is nearly impossible with an abuser. The most dangerous time for the victim is during leaving, and the times right after that.

        My abuser had recently aquired a firearm without my consent or even talking it over with me. Oh, he had his ‘reasons’, none of which made me feel safe. It loomed in my face even when it was under his bed. It was another power trip tactic. It terrified me and was the catalyst to me leaving. He had stalked me & found me before and been extremely erratic in his behavior. Add a gun to that mix? To that level of rage & physical violence? No thanks. When I called the National Domestic Violence Hotline and told them my story, hearing he had a firearm prompted them to say, “Get Out as soon as humanly possible, NOW if you can.” (Kind of humorous as those were two of his favorite words to scream/yell at the top of his lungs at me during his many many abusive rages. “Get Out!!!!”)
        Yes, I ran from my abuser and the cycle of abuse. And now I am safe, 100% No Contact, cut him completely out of my life and any way to get ahold of or find me, im calm in the knowledge there is no way for him to find me. He’s a stalker, he uses work software to look people up when that is not part of the job. He loved having that ability to know about people, where they lived, how much they owed on their mortgage and other very personal information.
        Consider other people’s lives before you put out a blanket statement like that.

        (My initial response was financially based, but I saw that comment and it sparked me to respond to it.)

      • Yeah? How?? You make it sound like it’s so easy to do. My husband did put his hands on me, and I still couldnt get him out. I ended up with a PFA with him still living in the house with me!! It’s awful. I sleep on the couch while he gets to sleep in a comfortable bed and if I suggested it be the other way around he says it was my choice to separate.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I earn good money, so it wasn’t that his spending left me in need, but it was all encompassing. He has not worked since we met. I have paid the bills and most of the groceries – he controlled the cooking so would sometimes buy particular groceries he wanted, always with a strange treat bought for me, that if I didn’t really want he would get very sulky, upset and offended. But that’s an aside, He has convinced me to buy him all sorts of things – even a new motorbike. I am new to earning good money, so in a way it boosted my ego to be able to do that for him. Luckily I started to realise what was going on and started to call his game. I refused to get a new phone and new computer when his broke. He kept chinking away and getting little things out of me. I have not long kicked him out but know I am strong enough to make him gone for good. I want to thank you for these posts, I have devoured them tonight as I plan my next steps. I would never have considered myself financially abused till I read this, but it is absolutely what has happened. Thank you for helping to empower me.

  4. My minister husband demanded that I turn over my earnings to his “ministry”. For a while I did. One day I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for myself and he hit the roof. He upbraidedme for not using the money “for the Lord” since “the Lord” had helped me earn it. Then I realized it was a con and he really was only interested in my money. When I divorced I found out all the things he had done with my credit and bills he had not paid. Also of course I wanted custody of my kids and he paid to child support, refusing to work so he couldn’t be garnished. It took me 10 years to dig out of the poverty after the divorce. My youngest finally got some of his social security but the other two did not get anything from him. So often the hidden agenda behind abuse is control of money, sex, or just control itself.

  5. I don’t have it as bad as some of you but I’ll share what I thought was deceptive. First, when we were engaged, applying for a mortgage, I found out he had $80,000 worth of student loan debt. I found out this from my mortgage broker and had to confront him, to which he replied “Student loan debt isn’t really debt”. Nice dodge. He was 35 at the time, not sure how he managed to dodge payments since his twenties. Second, like the author, we had a joint checking account where he put what was he determined was our yearly budget—so I had access “his money” to pay the bills. But like other cases discussed here, I HAD STRICT ACCOUNTABILITY TO HIM, AND HE HAD NONE TO ME. That double standard! When I questioned anything—he standard reply was loudly, “I pay the mortgage” (as in, don’t question me). When we would discuss a budget, I would point out facts—like how he spent on himself at least as much, if not more than I did paying all the household bills, plus taking care of all of our property, plus all of our spending still was less than half of what he spent on himself. I wish it was like some of you are describing—-he bought a new truck or something like that, because then even though it is not fair, he still have something to show for it—I really don’t know what my husband spent his portion on—probably gluttony and partying. So, but even when I had numbers to back up his part in our predicament, he would not stop blaming me. So these abusers blame at every turn—the making of the money, the spending of the money, the LOSS of the money…. The biggest offense he did and continues to do is berate me on spending decisions I made which he thinks are stupid and are proof to his mind that I can’t handle money. Like when we moved to our current house, I had a budget to remodel with—-he gave me permission to do what I wanted. Well, our old windows were drafty and had no screens and we were surrounded by farming fields, which meant bugs all summer. I made a decision to buy new windows for half of the house. I got a tax credit, no bugs, and likely savings on heating bills. But every time we talk about money—that’s the kitchen sink he throws in—how I bought new windows when we didn’t NEED new windows. So that is the verbal abuse component and the fact that no abusers will ever keep their word for freedom. They will, in a good mood give you permission to do something (which would normally be your right anyway in a HEALTHY relationship), and then take it back and criticize you for doing what you did in that brief moment of freedom.
    Now we are in the process of divorce and since I understand about narcissism, the light of truth has cleared my confusion. I know without me playing constant defense with money (not spending, doing coupons) he would have next to nothing left because he is irresponsible. When we divorce, he may say it’s his money, but I will agree with my state law who says I get half and not look back. And somehow, I know I will end up with more because I learned to live with so little, while he spends himself into poverty.

  6. My spouse is an expert manipulator especially when it comes to money. Our credit is in the tank. I realized most recently, mine is actually worse than his now, because in the last few years of our jointly held business ran strictly by his chaos, it was my credit that was accepted for things he wanted–and although I opposed his plans, I still signed up for it anyhow. Now, the only assets we hold jointly is our house. I want to sell it while we can. He refuses. We have enough equity that the mortgage company jumps at the earliest moment to start foreclosure proceedings. I borrowed from my life insurance and got it caught up year before last, but now we have just gone late again. He refuses. I live in Colorado. I am thinking after 35 years, this may be the only chance I get to reap the benefits of equity and start my new life–can’t even borrow on it because of circumstances (kind of glad). It is not a community property state, but I have no problem splitting with him if the bills are also split–except a lease he insisted on and I refused to renew for some $40K. I want out of this marriage–financial ruin has been my life due to his gambling, recklessness and chaos. Perhaps I can’t get the gumption to leave him for being a jerk, name calling, and recreating my history while insulting my integrity; yet maybe this is exactly what I needed to read today. I think it is the money that angers me the most. Thank you for your post.

  7. This is a great article! Though I was aware that there was emotional and physical abuse, I recently realized that I’ve also been financially abused. There don’t seem to be too many stories on the Internet about this, especially where the person is working and has their own income, so this is really helpful thank you! My situation is that he manipulated me into bankruptcy basically. He would show me screenshots of our joint account with a negative balance and At the time I had an excellent credit rating. thousands of dollars were available to me and I was a housewife, but I’d been responsible. I began buying food on credit because there wasn’t always food at the house. I began taking cash advances which I had never done before in order to solve this joint account problem. Next thing I knew, the credit was out of control. I had gone back to work and was working full time just to make minimum payments pretty much. Now I am back into trouble again. It’s not as much debt as before , but I don’t think I’m gonna stay afloat and this time there’s nothing to do about it. One reason for this is that he threatened to divorce me. I don’t have money for a lawyer so I refinanced my car. It was a big mistake my payment is extremely high and I had to take a lower paying job. When I say to him that I’m struggling because this payment he says “you chose to take the payment.” He doesn’t accept any responsibility. Sometimes I wonder how I’m gonna keep going …

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