The idea that money, power and relationships often intertwine may be no surprise. If real life has not taught us this, movies from Citizen Kane to Pretty Women, and countless others long before and after, use sex and money as a go-to subject to attract audiences.
Unfortunately, real life does teach most of us this lesson. It is disturbingly common for people in couples to use money to control and punish their romantic partners. And often it is the only part of a larger pattern. Knowing the signs and what to do about them can help get past a financially abusive relationship.
More common than most people understand
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that at some point in their lives, 1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence, often still called domestic violence. As a recent article from the AP points out, some form of financial abuse is almost universal in these cases of abuse.
Financial abuse is even more common. The website CentSai, while presumably less authoritative than the CDC, reports unsurprising survey results suggesting 70% of women 18 to 35 years old say they have experienced financial abuse in an intimate relationship. Among men, nearly half of millennial men have also experienced this abuse, according to the survey.
Recognizing the symptoms
Some behaviors that qualify as financial abuse may be easy to miss. Getting you to take out loans from banks or family and never paying it back or hiding money from you might seem to some like “bad behavior.” But they are often examples of abuse.
Other behavior is closer to unmistakable. Secretly opening credit cards in your name, defaulting on accounts in your name or sabotaging your earning potential by keeping you from working or succeeding can, alone or in combination, form a pattern of ongoing abusive behavior.
Getting to a better place
Experts encourage those who are subject to this abuse to consider talking about it, according to the AP. It may be possible to end the abuse by calling it out and making your partner aware of their own abuse and the effect it has on you.
However, especially as part of a pattern of more physical abuse, ending the abuse can trigger a more dangerous transition period. Experts suggest gathering all the information you can about your finances and trying to get access to them.
A qualified attorney with relevant experience in family law and divorce can be essential. Banks and other financial institutions tend to be all-too familiar with these cases and typically already have procedures and resources ready for just such occasions.