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
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.