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The way financial control is used to manipulate a partner

By Isabelle Coetzee

There’s nothing wrong with supporting a loved one financially. However, there are abusers who, among other things, use financial control to trap their partner.

So what are the signs you should look out for to make sure you’re not being financially manipulated by your partner? JustMoney decided to find out.

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How does financial manipulation work?

According to Cheryl Benadie, CEO of Whole Person Academy, economic or financial control can be used as a form of abuse.

“Abusers are power hungry. They’re masterful at siphoning control over areas of your life where you used to be able to make independent decisions,” says Benadie.

“Taking over your relationship with money effectively means that they’re blocking off any means of escape. If you have no money, and your confidence in your ability to get work is eroded, how will you survive without them?” she explains.

Benadie suggests thinking about it like bars in a cage – psychological, emotional, financial, physical, and social – which slowly reign you into their circle of control, until one day you realise that you’re trapped and feel like you have no means of escape.

READ MORE: Childhood trauma can ruin your personal finances

The signs of financial abuse

If you’ve wondered whether you might be in a relationship where you’re being financially abused, Benadie points out the signs you should look out for. You should assess your relationship if your partner:

  • Takes control over the financial dashboard: Your partner convinces you that they are better at managing money than you and they take control over the collective income. This entails managing the bank accounts, credit cards, and major purchases.
  • Enforces blatant double standards when it comes to financial aspects of the relationship: Your partner questions and criticises every purchase you make, while making purchases without your input.
  • Is happy for you to work hard while they enjoy the fruit of your labour: Abusers often feel entitled to the money being earned by their partner, even though they might not be equally contributing to the household.
  • Jeopardizes your job: They harass you at work because they are suspicious or jealous of your colleagues. Having to constantly defend yourself eventually places a strain on your productivity and affects the way you work, hampering opportunities for advancement in the long term.
  • Keeps you in the dark and steals your identity to get into debt: This is a dangerous level of manipulation because if you’ve given over control to them, they can use your identity to get into debt (such as through gambling or loans). Many victims won’t realise the extent of the financial risk until they make the decision to remove the blinders.

How to get out of this situation

If you believe the signs of financial manipulation are there, Benadie recommends taking the following three steps to help you move forward:

1. Deal with the enmeshment in the relationship

“Enmeshment between two people happens when there is a dissolution of boundaries between two people – you feel like you’ve lost your sense of self in this relationship,” says Benadie.

She believes that the first step towards breaking free is to acknowledge that you have played a part in the relationship. You might need to seek professional counselling to help you identify unhealthy emotional patterns.

“It’s important to get stronger mentally, so that you are able to take the steps you need to get your power back,” she adds.

2. Decide to take off the blinkers

According to Benadie, financial control is just one indicator of an abusive relationship. It’s often painful to admit that the reality of the relationship is not what you had wanted it to be.

“Start by facing the financial truths in black and white – look at the bank statements, pay more attention to financial purchases, and start recording things for yourself. This can be the wakeup call you need to regain financial control,” says Benadie.

3. Call a credit bureau

Finally, if you suspect that your partner has been using your identity, Benadie recommends you contact a credit bureau to get a comprehensive report.

Find out more about how your credit score works by clicking here.

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