When people think about domestic abuse, most people imagine hitting or slapping.  The infamous video taken of NFL player Ray Rice punching out his fiancé in an elevator and dragging her limp body out of the elevator comes to mind.  However, financial abuse is another very prevalent but less well-known form of domestic abuse. 

Financial abuse is present in approximately 99% of abusive relationships.  https://centerforfinancialsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/adams2011.pdf   It is used by wealthy and not-so-wealthy abusers, rich and poor, professionals and blue-collar workers, black and white and Asian and Hispanic.  Most women who are in abusive marriages with financial abuse don’t even recognize it as financial abuse.  Indeed, many people don’t know that financial abuse exists.  They simply know that their spouse is very controlling of everything, including money.   

Financial abuse is used to control a spouse by making her financially dependent on the abuser because she has no means to support herself and no access to funds.  It also makes it very difficult to leave an abusive relationship.

The following are some of the more common types of financial abuse:

  1. not allowing the wife to have access to any of “his” funds,
  2. not putting the wife’s name on any bank accounts, investment accounts, or other financial assets,
  3. not putting the wife’s name on the deed to the house, the title of the cars, boats, motorcycles, or other assets,
  4. not putting the wife’s name on accounts for utilities, phones, and other family-related matters,
  5. refusing to give the wife money for reasonable requests,
  6. making the wife ask for money every time she needs it and demanding receipts and change,
  7. keeping financial secrets,
  8. putting his wife on an allowance,
  9. forcing his wife to submit expense reports to pay for family necessities,
  10. promising to pay for things, and then not honoring those promises,
  11. refusing to pay for things that would benefit his wife or children when he has wealth and the means to do so,
  12. keeping secret accounts and assets of which the wife has no knowledge,
  13. squandering large amounts of marital funds on risky ventures without agreement or knowledge of spouse,
  14. wasting money on unnecessary things such as sports cars, boats, vacations, motorcycles, etc. which the family cannot afford,
  15. living above his means and going into debt to do so,
  16. sabotaging her education or career (for example, making her late to work/school or miss time from work/school by demanding that she do things for him, refusing to attend her company events, making a scene at her company events, calling her co-workers and accusing her of having an affair with a co-worker, being rude to her boss and co-workers, refusing to attend interviews or meetings that are intended for married couples, telling her clients that she is no longer working, spreading slander to her clients or co-workers)
  17. lying about finances,
  18. refusing to support his family (1 Timothy 5:8) when he has the means to do so,
  19. forcing her to give her paycheck to him or deposit it in his account,
  20. forcing her to pay all household expenses while he hoards money in his accounts to which she has no access,
  21. refusing to consult her or get her agreement for significant financial matters,
  22. forcing her to sign a one-sided prenuptial agreement days before or the day before the wedding,
  23. forcing or coercing her to quit her education, job, or career,
  24. refusing to honor financial agreements (Num. 30:2),
  25. incurring large amounts of debt, destroying her credit (Prov. 22:26),
  26. defaulting on mortgages and debts which are in her name, which harms her credit,
  27. refusing to pay bills, which harms her credit,
  28. Refusing to honor the divorce agreement, refusing to pay maintenance, refusing to pay property divisions, and refusing to pay child support,
  29. using her confidential information to incur debt in her name,
  30. financial deceit and cheating (Prov 22:28; Dt. 19:14),
  31. cheating on taxes,
  32. providing falsified financial information to wife and others,
  33. buying real estate or other property using land trusts or other complicated, sophisticated financial schemes to hide the identity of the owner from the wife or others,
  34. dragging out divorce litigation, taking unreasonable positions, refusing to settle, taking a spouse to trial to financially exhaust the wife,
  35. selling for a greatly reduced price or giving away assets to deplete assets and leave a surviving or divorcing spouse with little or nothing to live on,
  36. buying new, high-quality things for himself, while forcing his wife and/or children to take left-overs, hand-me-downs, or shop at thrift stores,
  37. spending money on steaks, lobster or other expensive, high-quality foods while forcing his wife and/or children to eat cheap, low-quality food like rice and beans,
  38. spending money on country club memberships, dining out, golfing, flying, private planes, horse racing, gambling, drinking, and other expensive personal indulgences while not allowing his wife to do the same and not taking her with him,
  39. Spending money on prostitutes, girlfriends, massage parlors, and other activities that are not in the interest of the marriage (also called dissipation of marital assets),
  40. Wills, trusts, and other estate plans that do not provide adequately for the wife as a life partner.

The list of ways an abuser can financially abuse his spouse are virtually endless, and limited only by his imagination and creativity.  The vast majority of abusers are men with Cluster B personality disorders, usually Narcissists, Sociopaths, or Psychopaths (NSPs).  Abusers value money above people.  Therefore, they don’t care that the way they use money hurts others.  They view money as an extension of themselves, and thus they are loathe to give away “their” money – in their perspective, it would be akin to cutting off their left arm and giving it to someone.  They do not share well or believe that others have assisted them in any way to enable them to make money.  An NSP truly believes he is a “self-made man” and gives no credit to God who has blessed him with the ability to make money or to those who have helped him along the way.  Therefore, abusers view the money made during a marriage as all belonging to themselves.  The idea of a partnership in marriage is completely foreign to them.  A wife exists merely to breed and raise his children, take care of his house, and support him in his efforts to build his career and make his money.

Marriage is built on trust.  It is difficult and unwise to trust someone who has lied, falsified, controlled, and hidden assets from his wife while devaluing her and not recognizing her as a gift made in the image of God.  If you find that one or more of these examples applies to you, you are being financially abused.  It is one of the most effective means of control over another person.  You may wish to dig into the files to see the extent of the financial abuse (it may be quite eye-opening when you find accounts and assets that have been carefully hidden from you for years.)   You may also wish to examine other types of abuse that are being used to exercise control over you. Once you discover the extent of the financial abuse, you will want to keep it to yourself until you have a well-thought out plan.  Confronting an abuser with his secrets and lies will only bring on more abuse.   It is highly unlikely that an abuser will release control once he has it, and therefore, you may wish to consult a financial advisor and a family law attorney about your options.