Are You in a Financially Abusive Relationship?

He (or she) who controls the purse strings has the power.

Financial abuse is one of the most powerful tools for keeping someone trapped in an abusive relationship. It occurs when an abuser uses coercive tactics to take control of a victim’s finances, such as restricting access to bank accounts or dictating how all money is spent. An abuser may gain control by making it difficult, or refusing to allow their partner to work.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial abuse is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships and crosses all socio-economic, educational, ethnic and racial groups. Here’s what you need to know about why financial abuse occurs, what the warnings signs are and how to get help.

The Abuser’s Mindset

Sometimes financial abuse doesn’t occur until a partner decides to leave a relationship while other times it occurs throughout a relationship. No matter when it happens, the reason is always the same, power and control.

“Money is about having power, and there’s always a power and control aspect in abusive relationships,” says Susan Feingold, a licensed clinical psychologist based in the Chicago area who specializes in women’s issues and couple relationship issues.

Many abusers are hiding their own shortcomings by bullying their partner.

“As in other abusive relationships, it’s a facade for a seriously insecure person who feels inadequate and uses another person to feel better about themselves,” Feingold says. “It can also be a sign of an individual with character problems like explosive personality, or perhaps a personality disorder.”

The Warning Signs