How To Know If It’s Financial Abuse Or Control Issues With Money In Your Relationship

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Shocked woman with husband wondering about financial abuse

When you're married, you're tied financially to each other. Every decision and transaction affects the other, whether you like it or not.

That is why control of finances and money is a big area of conflict in family relationships and marriage. But this also means that there's a ripe ground for financial abuse, which you may not even realize is happening.

When it comes to money, do you feel like you're being controlled in your relationship?

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You will never agree on everything in deciding what to spend money on and when to save. However, disagreeing is very different from someone holding all the financial power in a relationship.

Many women who give up work and careers to have children may feel a huge lack of financial control and independence. 

Even if a husband is generous when they're out together and tells them they can have what they need, having to ask all the time can often lead some women to feel controlled over finances, even oppressed.

For example, Michelle couldn’t stand having to always ask her husband for money for a haircut, or to buy a friend a birthday present, or even to get herself a coffee and magazine.

She also hated the way she had to report on every single purchase she made in order for her husband to make comments about it. He was always so negative and thought everything was expensive.

So, she began fearing to ask him for money, and instead of asking for things, she held resentment against him instead, presuming he would react badly.

Resentment builds when financial abuse and control issues are present.

When this occurs, you need to devise a plan to structure your finances that works for both people to clear past resentments on both sides. Resentment needs to be let go of, as it kills passion and closeness in relationships.

One of the biggest areas of resentment and conflict is how much one person is spending on their family. Couples fall out over money sent home to pay for a brother or sister's education, family medical bills, or paying for their parents' home and expenses.

When there are stepchildren involved, it can get even more complicated and tense.

Some couples believe the money they earn as a unit needs to stay within and be spent on their family unit only. Others feel obligated to help their family, and want to treat them and look after them.

These issues have to be worked through and agreed upon, because if they are not, anger, jealousy and negativity will implode the relationship. Ideally, these are the kinds of things that need to be addressed before marriage.

The key to manage finances lies in transparency and financial education.

Are finances causing conflict in your relationship? Do you feel resentful about the financial choices your partner makes? 

Do you feel controlled or free financially? Is it time to change the way your finances are working in your relationship? 

Is there respect and appreciation when it comes to how money is managed?

The more both partners in the relationship take an interest in the finances and work as a team, the better equipped they are to deal with life and its unexpected costs.

When a couple feels happy about the way finances are being controlled and organized in the relationship, they feel more peace.

A financial agreement is key, because not having enough money and financial insecurity causes fear and stress.

Humans are the only species that have to pay to survive; no other species does. That is why it's critical to have enough money to live.

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Your childhood either positively or negatively impacted your attitude about money.

You probably had ideas and dreams about what you wanted to achieve and have, or for what you didn't want.  

This includes how you saw money being managed growing up, how much money you had, and what beliefs were passed on to you about having or not having money.

I grew up in a household where we didn’t have much money. I saw my mum working nights when my dad got in from work because we were struggling as a family. We had very little, and it was a stressful time for my parents. They fought over money a lot.

As a child, you remember the small things; I resented what we had to do to survive as a result.

So, for me personally, extreme tightness is very unattractive. At the same time, too much extravagant spending concerns me, especially if done on credit.

I want to make sure that I'm never in a situation that I don’t have enough money. That’s why if I was in a relationship where my partner was not transparent about money or did not see the value in saving, it would be a challenge for me to have peace.

This isn’t about me not trusting a partner. It's because of years of living through financial pain and stress and seeing my parents fight over it.

Financial abuse and control has nothing to do with love.

You can love someone, but if you're polar opposites financially, you have a high likelihood of conflict causing tension between you.

What are your rules around money and saving? Are you a "fake it 'til you make it" kind of person, or do you try and live within your means?

What about your financial dreams? Do you have any? Is your partner aware of them — are you aligned? Are there things that currently frustrate you about the way finances are run in your family?

Some people hate the thought of budgeting and want to be free to spend everything they get. They see something they want and get it, even if it’s on credit. They're not worried about the future or saving; they feel confident they'll get by.

You have your own relationship to money. 

That's why sharing financial concerns and dreams early on benefits couples.

All money issues are control issues. Even if it appears there is no control.

In another example, Tony wanted to change a few things in his relationship. He wanted to know what to say to his wife, because her spending was dwindling all of their savings. She loved to shop and go on holiday, and he wanted to please her.

Tony didn’t know how to bring it up and feared her reaction. He also felt, as the provider and man of the household, that his wife and children should have whatever they wanted.

For years, there was no financial control on his part. She had the power to buy whatever she wanted. But when he was out of work for a year, it was no longer sustainable.

Tony had to learn how to give her a budget and responsibility to pay things out of it. She could keep what she saved, which incentivized her to cut back on the things she wasn’t bothered about and prioritize what was important to her.

He also gave her access to see the savings grow and discussed the pension and his retirement dreams.

Even if you're "money opposites," there is a way to work things out without financial abuse being involved.

Even if only one spouse is earning the money. In order to have financial peace, you must both have an agreement for how to spend and save it.

As with all things, the key to connection and commitment is involvement. The more you involve your spouse in your financial decisions and make them together, the closer you will be.

It doesn’t matter what the financial conflicts are about. You need to listen to each other wholeheartedly without judgment, be honest about what you can and cannot afford, and find a middle way.

While that might seem obvious, it may not translate when it comes down to speaking with your spouse about finances. Protect your relationship from financial abuse, resentment, and constant fighting about money.

Finances should be a partnership; no one person should have the final say-so without their spouse's input.

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Nicola Beer is a marriage transformation specialist and founder of the Save My Marriage Program. To book one of her free ultimate connector consultations, e-mail her or read the 7 Secrets to Saving Your Marriage, get your Free Report, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Nicola Beer. Reprinted with permission from the author.