Financial Abuse in Marriage

If a woman is not physically or sexually abused by her husband, people generally conclude there is no abuse. But women should give this question more serious thought.

Abuse need not be verbal, physical or sexual. These types of abuse are sufficient grounds to head straight for the divorce courts because a physically or sexually abusive partner needs professional help.

Abuse is a dangerous element in a marriage. Sometimes, divorce is the only solution because a woman who is consistently abused will have nothing left of her soul. Her self-esteem disappears and she will begin to think that she deserves neither respect nor love from her husband. She will unconsciously heap the blame on herself for the unhappy marriage. Men who consciously or unconsciously verbally abuse their wives are not aware of the consequences of their deeds. Sometimes verbal abuse can be worse than physical abuse.

There is, however, another kind of abuse that can occur in a marriage and is often ignored because no physical harm is involved. We're referring to economic abuse or more commonly known as economic domination. This type of abuse is rarely discussed in therapy circles because it takes a back seat to physical, verbal or sexual abuse.

Suffice it to say that economic domination can be just as emotionally devastating to a woman. Imagine a once vibrant woman who, when single, had a good corporate job, earned an excellent salary and had the respect of her colleagues at work. One day she meets the man of her dreams and falls in love. They get married, but little does she know that he wants her to stay home and be a full-time homemaker. She becomes pregnant even if she isn't ready to be a mother. Deep down, she feels that she is happiest when pursuing her career.

How is a woman like her who thrives in an intellectual milieu going to fare when faced with economic domination by her husband?

Economic abuse in a marriage is evident in these circumstances:

  • Telling his wife to quit her job so she can stay home and take care of the kids.
  • Confiscating his wife's assets and other financial resources and forbidding her from handling money or incurring expenses that he does not allow.
  • Using his wife's financial assets to his advantage and depriving her of her rights to enjoy what is financially and rightfully hers.
  • Taking away his wife's credit cards and providing only a sufficient amount of money to pay for the day-to-day.

A variation of this economic abuse is also apparent in a relationship where the husband allows his wife to work, but regains control of her pay check and does not give her the opportunity to make any financial decisions.

We once knew a woman at work who made good money and who managed to rise up the ranks because she was hardworking and knew how to make herself indispensable to the company. She never joined her co-workers for lunch outings or shopping sprees because she didn't have a single cent on her. We asked her once why she never had any money on her when everyone else was envious of her salary.

Her answer: "My husband controls the purse strings. I don't know what he does with my pay check. I dare not ask."

Are you in a marriage where you suffer from economic abuse?