Financial abuse looks different for everybody. It purely depends on the dynamics of your relationship. Some abusers will look for a partner with a lot of money so they don’t have to source their own, some will look for a partner that they can make completely reliant on them in order to maintain control. Whatever your personal dynamics are/were, financial abuse can be an added element of the feeling of being trapped in an abusive relationship.
The scope of financial abuse is much wider than people realise, including victims themselves. Oftentimes, people will assume that financial abuse is an abuser withholding funds, general everyday items or relying on their victim to support them financially in order to drain resources. Financial abuse can also be sabotaging the victims opportunities of employment, stopping the victim from working, controlling how money is spent, expecting reciprocation when giving gifts, sabotaging the victims credit status, using the victims details to gain credit, spending money on themselves and not letting the victim do the same, controls all household money despite not working or bringing in income, forcing the victim to hand over wages and other incomes, forcing the victim to account for all money spent and expecting to see receipts, giving the victim an ‘allowance’, forcing the victim to work within family businesses without pay. Domestic Shelters gives more context to what financial abuse can look like here.
I will give more context to my own situation and what financial abuse was for me. When I met my ex partner I was a full-time university student. He didn’t work. His parents funded his lifestyle (this should have been the first red flag for me but we won’t go into that right now). I still lived at home with my parents as my commute to and from university was commutable but I still used my student finances and odd bar jobs to fund any uni materials I needed, paying my parents rent, driving lessons, my bus pass, clothes, food and any socialising I did. I managed and I was pretty happy with where I was at given that I was putting everything I had into my uni work.
I met my ex when I was on a night out with my best friend. As it turns out we had mutual friends. During the early days of getting to know him we would be at friends houses. We didn’t really do the whole ‘dating’ thing. So I never knew much about how he financed his life at this point. As we got to know each other better he would tell me he had tried getting jobs and always struggled with confidence. He made it very clear he was still trying and still job searching. I thought his low confidence could be something I could help him with. I’ve never been somebody that leaves people to struggle I will always try to help problem solve. It is something that has cost me so much in the past but I have much better boundaries with it now.
Over the course of the relationship I paid for our nights out, I paid for him to go on holiday with his friends as a birthday present, I paid for food, clothes, dates. I basically paid for everything that I could, because I could – and he couldn’t. Now, I don’t mean that in a belittling way towards him. I was fully aware he didn’t have an income of his own so I was more than willing to provide these nice experiences for us because I had the means to do that. It made me happy to see him happy.
When the relationship got heavier and we come to the point of arranging living together and buying for the baby we were expecting he got very, very angry about the fact that he didn’t have a job. He relied heavily on his gambling addiction to pay out and provide him with the money he wanted to put into what we needed. Of course, it never did and this just added to the problems we were already dealing with. The frustration built up to the point where his abuse became really heavy. We weren’t able to have honest, open discussions about what we can do to work as a team. It was just me doing what I needed to do to provide and him trying to do what he needed to do to provide. He was abusive if he didn’t have enough money to gamble with. He would even wait up until midnight of the day I was due to get my wages to start gambling and my bank account would be empty with no bills paid by the time I woke up in the morning.
Everything we did, whether it was buying furniture, or the house itself on finance/mortgage we did with my credit score – this was down to the fact that he didn’t have an income he could prove and he had never used his credit score. If you don’t use it you’re not building it. He used payday loan companies, both with and without my permission, knowing full well I would chase my tail to clear any debt away from my name.
When we bought our own house and moved in together, the financial abuse became so much worse. It escalated to the point of me never seeing any of my wages, or my own bank card. Debts and mortgage arrears piled up because I just never had any control over my own money. Now, I was raised in a household where my parents’ wages was household money and everything was managed together. I didn’t mind this at all in fact, that is exactly how I thought things would be when we talked about moving in together and becoming a family. So being in the position of having the only income in the household with no say in what happens with that income made me very uncomfortable. But, because he was abusive, I also felt stuck. Any time I had said anything in the past he would make sure he was abusive enough to discourage me from saying anything again.
So now that you’re fully up to speed what financial abuse looked like for me, I will be sharing another blog post on how I cleared up my finances once I managed to get out of the relationship. I wanted to dedicate my financial recovery to a whole post as I will be sharing the resources that helped me most.
For help with gambling addiction please visit GamCare