The Unspoken Violence Of Financial Abuse

By John Loff / Posted: Mar 22, 2018 / 0 Comments / Posted in Finance and Psychology

financial abuse signs

The Power Drive of the Abuser

An abuser’s desire for power and control is what drives the abusive relationship. It’s no surprise that finances will be impacted as well.

Victims of financial abuse try to reason away the abuser’s actions, always making logical (but illogical) excuses. Hopefully, a good example will change his ways.

But it doesn’t work like that. It works like this:

  • Money is a form of power utilized for personal benefit.
  • He doesn’t care how these financial decisions affect others.

Underlying Characteristic of an Abuser

A person constantly looking for stimulus from someone or something and needs money to feed the inner emptiness is rather a Narcissist. That contented glow from a new purchase or some source of pleasure quickly wears off. So another new relationship or another material possession must be pursued to fill the bottomless pit in his heart. Unfortunately, no amount of money will fill that gap.


There are a few scenarios that are common, but they all satisfy the abuser’s desire for power and control.

The Business Owner

He brings home good money and provides the wife with every nicety. But he is not a nice guy. She is not happy even though she drives a nice car and has a diamond ring. She describes her husband as “difficult.”

He limits her freedom.

He has a strict set of rules as to how the household should be run.

He controls her relationships.

He insists that she shows a perfect image to family and guests. If she wants him to be kind, he will remind her of all the material comforts she has because of his hard work and generosity.

Regardless of what material possessions he supplies, there is no compensation for living with an abuser.

The Control Freak

Where the abuser is the sole provider, he thinks it’s his divine right to decide where the money will be spent. He puts her on a tight budget. More power to him if she grovels for any favors. If both partners work, he will assume the role of “man of the house,” and it will be his sole decision on how to spend the money. If he wants something, it will take precedence over necessities such as clothes for the children, food or school items.

The User

The abuser allows the spouse to support him. Even though the abuser is employable, for some reason, he cannot hold down or find a job. These abusers get used to being financially supported and say how lucky she is that he can stay at home and look after the kids and maintain the household. This isn’t about serving, it’s about receiving.

He loves the freedom of not having to work and then makes his priorities while his wife pays his way. Divorce? Sure, but he will make a strong case for compensation due to the sacrifices he made. She will learn that she has no voice in anything.

Hiding Assets

Victims report that their abusers have secret accounts or hidden cash. Victims sometimes feel that the abusers have been preparing for the possibility of a separation or divorce and have set aside a slush fund while depriving their spouses of resources that might have allowed them to escape.

Extravagant and Unnecessary Spending

Spur of the moment purchases feeds the inner appetite. To buy it was never a point of discussion with the spouse. If she doesn’t like the big screen TV he has come home with, he will say that she is selfish, bitter and a killjoy. He will insist that he bought it for the family.

He may also be a big spender to impress friends or relatives. For example, he will buy T-bones for the BBQ then expect his wife to put together all the fixings for an impressive spread.


As well as spending on unnecessary items, the abuser is good at creating debt given the opportunity. Debt serves three purposes:

  1. He gets what he wants and then expects the wife to work out how it will be paid for.
  2. He has used their money which means bad luck if she wanted other things.
  3. Debt keeps his victim financially bound to him. Community property laws generally make both parties equally responsible for debt obligations, which can make it economically difficult for a victim to become independent.

Property Titles in his Name

Often abusers try to claim property as their own possession. Looking at debt and equity – the victim is responsible for the debt, while the ownership is in his name only. Whose interests is he protecting?


It might be extreme, but if an abuser is willing to hoard funds or pilfer a wife’s inheritance, then he would be willing to take advantage of strangers. Embezzling funds, hijacking products from the employer or any other type of shady dealing they think they can get away with. It can even get down to stealing the partner’s jewelry or other valuables. Gambling may also fall into this category.

Questions worth asking:

  • Does it seem that he loves his possessions and his power more than you?
  • Are you powerless in all the household’s financial decisions?
  • Does he blame you for poor financial choices or debt?
  • Do you resent him putting his needs first?
  • Does he ignore your efforts to discuss finance issues?
  • Do you have to crawl to him to get money for basic household items or personal needs?
  • Is he an impulsive buyer?
  • Do you distrust him with money?
  • Doesn’t he realize the financial harm he is causing?
  • How can a Victim protect herself?

How to Address the Problem of Financial Abuse

  • Create separate bank and credit card accounts.
  • Make sure that both of your names are on title documents associated with property with equity or, if the property is yours alone, make sure your name alone is on the title.
  • Insist upon a workable budget based on family priorities and demand that he respect it.
  • Look for evidence of any hidden cash or bank accounts and reclaim them.
  • Refuse to co-sign any guaranteed loans, bad credit loans or any other short or long term loan applications.
  • Consider meeting with a family law attorney to research legal options to protect yourself financially.

The financial abuser who refuses to support a budget that best serves the needs of everyone in the household leaves those who are depending upon him materially unprotected.

Works Cited

1 DivorceMag “Financial Abuse Is a Form of Domestic Violence”

2 Bustle “What Is Financial Abuse? This One Kind Of Domestic Violence Is Far More Common Than Physical Abuse”

3 TheConversation “Money plays a role in family violence across cultures”

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