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“For 5 years in a row I didn’t need a wallet because I had nothing to put in it.” How to recognize financial abuse in a relationship

“I was happy with him managing the money. Simply because at the beginning I believed that this money was ours and he seemed to be taking care of me, relieving me of the need to control finances. In the beginning, he even managed my own savings.”

R., victim of domestic violence

Financial abuse is considered one of the most difficult types of abuse to define, largely because it is an integral part of a patriarchal society and seems to be the norm for many women.

98% of victims of domestic violence were also subjected to economic control by an abusive partner.

50% of victims lost their jobs due to domestic violence.

And it is economic violence that in most cases prevents a woman from leaving an unhealthy relationship and starting an independent life.

Economic abuse is a form of violence in which one intimate partner controls the other partner's access to economic resources, thereby reducing the victim's ability to provide for herself and forcing her to be financially dependent on the abuser.


People who have been financially abused often face a difficult choice: leave the abusive relationship and lose their livelihood, or continue to endure the abuse. If there are children in the family, the woman finds herself in an almost hopeless situation. This is why it is so important to be able to identify the signs of financial abuse at the very beginning of a relationship.

How to identify economic violence in a relationship

Financial abuse is divided into three main types, which can overlap:

  1. Control. Your partner monitors your income, controls your spending, and can limit or prohibit it.
  2. Manipulation. Your partner uses money to control your behaviour or force you to make certain choices. This is similar to a parent-child relationship, when a child is told: “You will get a toy if you behave well,” only, a similar ultimatum is given to an adult.
  3. Exploitation. Your partner uses your money without permission or steals it. Despite the obviousness of this process, the victim may not even notice what is happening. For example, a partner silently takes money from a joint account to buy an expensive item for himself, and then showers the victim with compliments and devalues the significance of the incident.

It should be remembered that at the beginning of a relationship, the partner will explain all his actions exclusively, openly and with good intentions. That is why it is important to look at his actions outside the context of the explanations received.

“When I met my future husband, he was generous to me and bought expensive dresses. When I moved to another country with him and became pregnant, all the shopping ended. At first, he extracted my own money from me under the pretext that it would be lost in my country, and when my savings ran out, he began to give me 280 euros per month on the card.

He transferred money every 25th, and I had to use it to buy food for the whole family. If the money ran out quickly - and this happened more than once, because he went with me to the supermarket and bought expensive products for himself that I had to pay for - I had to borrow from friends or sell my things on the Internet. It was scary to ask my husband for additional funds.

Somehow the 25th fell on a Monday, and I wanted to go grocery shopping the day before and asked him if I could get the money the day before. He didn’t even look at me, he just asked indifferently, staring at the computer: “Do you have a calendar? Check what the number is.” I didn’t ask any more.”

M., victim of domestic violence


Manifestations of financial abuse can be direct or veiled.

direct signs of economic violence:
  • your partner monitors how much you earn and how you spend your money;
  • your partner, under some pretext, forces you to hand over your salary, and then gives you the money “in portions”;
  • your partner hides both his and your money from you;
  • your partner prohibits you from buying anything without his permission;
  • your partner refuses to maintain a joint budget, hides his money, but at the same time manages your money, knows the passwords for your cards and uses them;
  • your partner forces you to make big purchases, issues loans only in your name;
  • your partner makes important financial decisions without your participation (buying a car, mortgage, pledge of property);
  • your partner refuses you money at every opportunity.

“It was impossible to talk to my husband. To any of my requests he answered something like “I’ll think about it.”

I did not have the opportunity to choose food or clothes for the children. Sometimes I had to ask his parents for money to buy diapers.

I was not allocated any money on a regular basis. He would give 50 euros in a burst of sudden generosity, and if a week later I asked for more, he would say: “Well, I just gave you a lot.”

During the coronavirus, the state paid us one and a half thousand a month, since he is a private entrepreneur. The payment according to the law was intended for him and me, but I did not see this money at all. In the same way, he took all the benefits for our two children.”

R., victim of domestic violence


Veiled signs of economic violence:
  • your partner constantly devalues and criticises your work;
  • your partner asks you to quit your job, while he often manipulates the children;
  • your partner limits your choice of work, prohibits you from choosing certain professions;
  • your partner constantly interrupts you from work and in any way prevents you from performing your work duties;
  • your partner criticises your decisions on how to spend money;
  • your partner convinces you that you are not capable of managing money yourself;
  • your partner requires you to report  every penny spent, checks your receipts and application screenshots;
  • your partner ridicules your spending, criticises your taste, and convinces you that the items you want to buy are unnecessary.

Many of the above signs at the beginning of a relationship are presented in the form of a joke or an innocent remark: “Honey, I can’t believe you spent so much on that purple handbag, it doesn’t suit your style and nothing fits in it” or “You’re so passionate about your career, and who will meet me from work when we have children?” Such remarks probe the boundaries of the partner and the ground for further manipulation.

Was there any abuse?

Emotional or psychological abuse - and economic violence is one type of just such abuse - is always very difficult to recognize.

The abuser gains the victim's trust, showers her with compliments, engages in love bombing - and only then proceeds directly to emotional abuse. Moreover, after each episode of violence, the victim is returned to a safe atmosphere of trust until the next episode.

Gradually, the violence becomes greater and greater and there are fewer and fewer breaks for recovery, but by this time the victim is almost completely exhausted and is not sure of the adequacy of his reaction to what is happening. What if everything is fine and she's just being over dramatic?

“The first calls were when we just started dating. I found myself in a difficult life situation, and he appeared like a beautiful knight on a white horse. He came by car to Ukraine to take me to the Netherlands.

He had already proposed to me, and I quit my job because I was going to go with him. While we were driving, Ukrainian police stopped us and demanded that we pay a fine. And my knight told me: “Come on, you pay, where will I find a money exchange?” The fine was 100 euros - and that was my last money. He never gave it to me, of course.

When we arrived in the Netherlands I had to quit smoking because he wasn't going to pay for cigarettes. Then he refused to pay for the dye for my hair with the argument “it’s better for you.” So I quickly turned from a bright blonde into a plain-looking mouse with dull dark hair.

For 5 years in a row I didn’t need a wallet because I had nothing to put in it. A grown woman who couldn’t pay for herself anywhere—I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

When I got a job, he really didn't like it. He said: “My biggest mistake is that I allowed you to work.” But he quickly understood the situation and for a year borrowed 2,000 euros from me, which he never returned.”

T., victim of domestic violence

Emotional abuse can be recognized by the following signs:

  • Fear of your partner. You are afraid to spend extra money, choose the “wrong” product that your partner will not approve of.
  • Gaslighting. When you try to talk to your partner about missing money, he assures you that you agreed on all the purchases or, on the contrary, pretends that he does not understand what we are talking about.
  • Reports. You are forced to constantly account for your expenses.
  • Offensive jokes. Your purchases are constantly ridiculed.
  • You apologise often. You have to constantly ask for forgiveness for your spending.
  • Your partner punishes you by ignoring you, for example, for “wrong” purchases.
  • Depreciation. Your partner devalues your actions, your spending, your ability to handle money.
  • Limitation. You are limited in money for the purpose of punishment.

How to Avoid Economic Violence

Financial abuse, like any other type of psychological abuse, occurs where the victim has an unprocessed sense of guilt.

It is on this fertile soil that accusations and manipulations from the partner grow. Therefore, the path to liberation from abuse always lies through personal growth.

5 rules for those who want to avoid financial abuse:

  1. Always maintain your own source of income. It may be small, but the money should be enough for at least the essentials.
  2. Create a personal financial cushion - usually this amount is your average expenses for 3-6 months.
  3. Once and for all, give up complete financial dependence on your partner.
  4. Do not lend your last money to your partner, even if you are sure that he will pay it back.
  5. If you notice signs of abuse in your partner's behaviour, take it seriously. Remember that any type of psychological abuse - financial, devaluation, gaslighting, withholding, etc. – leads to serious consequences for your psyche and health. In addition, in more than half of  cases, psychological abuse is followed by physical abuse.

I asked all the girls who shared their stories the same question: “Have you talked to your husband about what is happening? Did you ask him for more money?” Their answer amazed me, because it was always the same: “I was so afraid of him that I could not ask him for anything.”

YANA - You Are Not Alone. A new project to help victims of domestic violence in emigration

By: Irina Iakovleva


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