DEAR DR EVE:
I have sold my soul for financial security. I know I am in an abusive
marriage but I stay as I have no income of my own. At his insistence, I
stopped working to be there for him and the children. My doctors all tell
me that my poor physical health is due to my unhappy marriage. I cannot
leave. I would lose everything. Do I stay and just suck this up?
DR EVE REPLIES :
Anonymous, when locked into any form of abuse, one’s vision is narrowed. It is
necessary, clever in fact, as your brain knows that you are in imminent danger so
your nervous system is kept alert – just in case your perpetrator unpredictably
explodes, changes the “rules” under which you live or needs you to flee, fight or
And in this state of ongoing alertness and trauma, it is almost impossible to think and
to know that as an adult, in fact, you have a world, a wide world, of support and
Let’s explore what is happening to you. It’s called “Financial abuse .”
Financial abuse is an aspect of ‘coercive control’ – a pattern of controlling,
threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a victim’s freedom.
Financial abuse does not happen in isolation – as you have experienced your
husband has limited your freedom of choice by making you stop working. This gives
him more financial power and control over you.
I wonder how your husband uses money as another form of financial abuse is when
the perpetrator uses or misuses money which limits or controls your current or future
actions and freedom of choice. For example, a few difficult matters to consider:
Has he placed any contractual obligations on your name; does he use credit cards
liberally with no joint discussion with you; does he gamble with family assets?
Financial abuse is when he leaves you with no money for basic essentials such as
food and clothing, shut down your own bank accounts, leaves you no independent
access to any income, or you have debts against your name. You are not alone
as most survivors experience financial abuse at some point.
And even those who are “allowed” to work, have their salaries controlled. Many
women find that the abuse impacts their ability to work and thus their future work
Recognizing The Signs of Financial Abuse
– Gives you “allowances” or “budgets” without your input.
– Requiring you to account for everything you spend.
– Pressures you to quit your job or sabotage your work responsibilities.
– Feels entitled to your money or assets.
– Spends your money without your knowledge.
– Controls how all of the household finances are spent
– Limits your ability to attend job training, pursue higher education, or otherwise
advance your career.
– Limits your access to your own bank account or mutual bank accounts
– Lives in your home without working or helping with household tasks
– Maxes out credit cards in your name (and then doesn’t make payments on
those credit cards)
– Threatens to cut you off financially when you disagree
– Uses funds from children’s savings accounts without mutual agreement
– Prevents you from working by hiding your keys, or offering to babysit and then
not showing up
– Engages in other forms of abuse like belittling or physical abuse when they
get angry over your spending habits.
As you are experiencing, financial abuse impacts health and well-being. When
worrying about money, about accessing basic necessities for yourself and your
children, you remain in an ongoing state of fear. This gets your brain to release
mostly chemicals and stress hormones, that cause inflammation in the body.
Inflammation in the body looks like anxiety, depression, digestive problems,
reproductive health issues, skin outbreaks, arthritis, fibromyalgia and more
Your husband is smart as lack of access to financial recourses will keep you at home
And feeling that you have no choice but to stay. And perhaps you know, as he has
told you, that if you ever leave he will pay no child maintenance. All of these cruel
actions are controlling, and debilitating to you and thus to your children.
It is NOT easy to leave. Never judge yourself for staying. Leaving can be mortally
dangerous to you and your children.
Just as you reached out to me, reach out to an NGO that can be there for you.
Remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE.