Emotional abuse by a partner can take many forms, one of them being financial manipulation. If you identify with any of these behaviour patterns, you are clearly being financially bullied and need to take remedial steps immediately.
1. Doesn’t let you keep your salary
If your partner demands your salary the minute you get it on the pretext of managing household expenses, you are clearly being bullied. You have the first right over your salary and its usage has to be a joint decision by both the partners. The spouses should ideally have a joint bank account, where they can pool in resources for common household expenses. They are, however, entitled to retain their salaries in their individual bank accounts. Any coercion by either husband or wife to commandeer the other’s money amounts to bullying.
2. Tightly monitors all your spending
Do you have to ask or beg the spouse for money to take care of monthly household and personal expenses despite the fact that you are earning? If your spending is completely controlled by your partner to the extent that he gives you only a small, monthly allowance and no credit cards, it’s a serious cause for concern. The other form of bullying is monitoring all your spends. Does your spouse ask you to account for all the purchases? Does he crosscheck all the receipts for every expense and get abusive if you are unable to reconcile the money spent with the things bought? If this behaviour is not checked in the initial stages, it can escalate into more serious physical and emotional abuse.
3. Is abusive if you question the spends
Does your partner grudge giving you money for your personal expenses, but doesn’t think twice about spending freely on himself? Does he give an inadequate amount for your and your children’s basic, regular purchases like clothes, food, books or school fees, but goes ahead and buys expensive gadgets, clothes, even car or bike, for himself without informing you? While this certainly qualifies as financial bullying, it’s worse if the spouse becomes agitated on being questioned about it. If your objection triggers verbal or physical abuse, it is a matter that needs to be dealt with urgently.
4. Keeps all large assets in his name
Your spouse may have seized control of the family finances and investments, but is he also grabbing bigger assets like house and car, as well as investments such as mutual funds and fixed deposits, by claiming sole ownership for these? If this is the case, you will need to be extremely careful because in case of a split, you may be left penniless, with no claim over any asset or even a roof over your head. To ensure your financial security, ensure joint ownership of all assets.
5. Doesn’t allow your career to grow or let you earn more
If both the partners are employed, but one tries to dictate the other’s career trajectory, it amounts to financial bullying. This could be done to wrest financial control by being the higher earner, or could also be triggered by personal insecurities. This could be done by not allowing the partner to travel, criticising their choice of work, preventing move to higher paying jobs, or pressuring to quit work. A more insidious partner could also try to harass you at work by visiting the office or spreading rumours about you.
6. Takes loans in your name
If your spouse has taken large loans for a house or a car in your name by forcing you to sign documents, and then uses your funds without making any contribution himself, it can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. If you are unable to pay the EMIs or repay the loan because it is unfeasible for you to do so at a later date, it could not only leave you without an asset, but also give you a bad credit score. This would mean that if you separate and want to take another loan later on, you will be unable to do so due to the poor credit record.
7. Doesn’t contribute to household
In an ideal partnership, if both the spouses are earning, they should contribute to the household expenses or finance joint assets in the proportion that they earn. If, however, one partner intentionally refuses to offer his share to the household, burdening the other with all the financial responsibilities, it will be construed as bullying. In fact, it would amount to cruelty if the only earning member refuses to pay for the children’s upkeep or fund the other partner’s personal purchases, leaving the latter to fend for themselves.
8. Threatens to stop money if you protest
If the only earning member takes complete control of the finances, leaving the other at his mercy for the smallest of needs, it would be considered bullying in itself. The situation can turn much worse if the non-earning member protests or questions this inappropriate behaviour and is threatened by complete severance of all monetary assistance or contribution to the household. It would not only amount to emotional abuse, but also render the partner financially defenceless and destitute.
9. Withholds all financial information
Another form of financial harassment is not sharing crucial information when it comes to money and assets. This can include investment details, such as avenues selected, amount invested, account numbers or passwords, as well as nomination and ownership details. What this means is that you have no control over or access to wealth or financial assets in case of a split. If you are a non-earning spouse, a separation could render you penniless because you would have no source of income and no asset to fall back on.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO
1. Talk money before marriage
To avoid financial pitfalls stemming from a spouse’s bullying behaviour, it is essential to have the money talk before marriage. As crucial as knowing your partner’s salary is understanding his financial habits and insecurities about money. Don’t get married if you feel the partner is dominating or financially incompatible.
2. Don’t wait. Act immediately
Most couples let issues drag in the hope that if they ignore them long enough, they will go away. However, as with other bullies, the best way to deal with a financial bully is to stand up to him and say ‘no’ in the first instance. Don’t wait because the bully gets bolder with time and it can lead to a complete breakdown of relationship.
3. Ensure equal participation
Make sure you split financial responsibilities right from the start. If both spouses are earning, contribution to household expenses should be in the proportion that they earn. Have a joint account for the household and individual accounts for personal buys. If one member is earning, budgeting and investing can be split between the two.
4. Secure all information
If your partner wants to wrest complete control of finances and withhold information, you will have to register your protest and stop the domineering. Make sure that you are completely in the know about income, investments, loans, accounts and all details to access these. This will ensure your financial security in the future.
5. Seek the help of a counseller
If you encounter bullying, start by talking to the partner about the negative behaviour. If talking doesn’t help, take the advice of a financial expert to know the ramifications of such behaviour. If it stems from financial problems in childhood, suggest behavioural therapy. If nothing helps, you should separate.