Women may think they’re doing the right thing by sharing the responsibility or helping a partner financially, but they may actually be getting financially abused.

Financial abuse is a real thing. Here’s how to tell if you’re being subjected to it

Talking about domestic abuse generally turns people’s faces red with anger, but any mention of financial abuse is greeted with eye rolls, or worse, a completely hollow stare. While it is sad that a sizeable number of women, especially in South Asian countries are subjected to financial abuse, what is even more alarming is that the majority of them aren't aware of such exploits.

We cover this pertinent problem in detail and list signs to help you gauge if you’re being financially abused.

What is financial abuse?

While disputes over finances and casual bickering over expenses is common across households, the problem turns into abuse when one partner commands complete financial control. This knack for control stems from multiple reasons- the need to assert authority, the lack of trust in the partner’s financial expertise, or to prevent the partner from walking out of the relationship/marriage by rendering them incapable of financially providing for themselves.

Are you completely dependent on your husband?

Although this is not a cultural phenomenon, it has been observed that women in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are especially prone to financial abuse. The primary reason for this is that their spouses are the sole bread earners of the family, which puts them in charge of all money-related matters.

While this doesn’t automatically make every single-income spouse an abuser, it might pave the way for it.

Does your husband have the last say in your career-related matters?

Whether you are travelling out of town for a three-months project or taking a break from work to pursue further studies, if your husband has the final say in such matters, then there might be a problem. Potential financial abuse comes to the surface when the act of giving opinions or advice regarding career choices turns into dictating the entire career trajectory.

Does he have more control over your income?

Women are often deterred from participating in the household’s financial matters, especially those related to investments, insurances, and loans. The 2018 World Economic Forum ranks India 139th on the list of 144 countries in terms of women’s economic participation; highlighting a gender gap to the tune of 66%!

Touting financial illiteracy as the cause, some husbands siphon their wives’ money into their own accounts while giving them a monthly allowance. The husbands may even control their wives' debit/credit cards, under the pretext of judicious usage, thereby gaining control over their income and financial freedom.

Does your husband supervise your expenditures?

Even if you have control over your income, a telltale sign of financial abuse is your husband rummaging through your bills and getting mad at certain expenses. While it’s completely okay, and often necessary, for them to raise concerns over unnecessary purchases, governing every little cash outflow is unnecessary.

Do you know about their earnings and expenses in detail?

Couples need to have honest and transparent conversations about finances, with each having clarity about the other’s financial strength. If you don’t know how much your husband makes on a monthly basis, the amount he spends, the debts, as well as the investment vehicles his money is parked into, there may be a problem, especially if the two of you have joint accounts.

Being each other’s financial support is an important pillar for maintaining a harmonious relationship. However, if your partner is financially exploiting your generosity or controlling your money, you should be aware of these developments. You could choose to have an open dialogue about the situation or take stricter steps when required.

Have a look at how financial literacy can empower women to develop a financial identity in order to understand when you are being subjected to financial abuse. This will enable you to take informed corrective measures.

How I did it

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