Financial stress is one of the main reasons women feel stuck in unhealthy and abusive relationships. And financial abuse is one of the main tactics an abusive partner will use to control you. He may get credit cards, car loans, or other debt in your name. He may interfere with your career by keeping you up all night fighting, so you’re too tired to concentrate the next day, or by calling and texting you repeatedly while you’re at work. His goal is to take away your power, so that you will need him, and won’t be able to leave. By the time you recognize that your partner is abusive, you may be financially dependent on him, in debt, and under- or un-employed. It may seem impossible to leave in your current financial situation. But, there are ways to reclaim your financial power, and to leave safely. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- First, get a realistic picture of your expenses and income. Write out all of your bills and what you earn, from all sources. You may find that you are in a better position than you thought. Abusive partners often find ways to hide money or to spend on frivolous things. Once you’re solely responsible for your own money, you may find that you have more than you thought – and plenty to survive on your own.
- Start saving, as much and as often as you can. If your partner does not see your pay stubs, set up a separate bank account in only your name and have some of your check automatically deposited into that account. You can tell your partner that you are contributing to a retirement fund through work. If you do not work, or cannot deposit funds into an account, find a safe place to stash away cash. Keep a coffee can somewhere your partner won’t find it – if not at home, then maybe at work or at a friend’s or
neighbor’s house. Put your change from the grocery store or anything left in your wallet at the end of the day in the can. You’ll be surprised how quickly it will add up.
- If you don’t work, explore your options. Work on your resume. Explore classified job ads. Work on building your skills and finding out what jobs may be available in your area. Knowing your options is empowering, and may help you realize that you aren’t really stuck at all.
- Understand your rights. If you are married or have a child in common, you are probably entitled to some financial support when you separate. Schedule a consultation with a family law attorney or book an appointment with your local legal aid office. Consults are often free and can give you an idea of what type of compensation you may have a right to.
- Build your safety net. Often, it’s the fear of financial failure that keeps us stuck. Make a list of everyone you could call if you were really in trouble – not just those you would be comfortable calling, but anyone you could call. Hopefully you will never need to. But, just knowing that you have people who would help you may relieve your fears, and give you the courage to move forward.
Remember, no amount of money is worth living in fear or being disrespected. You deserve to be safe, appreciate, and respected – all the time, and especially by the person you love. If you would like to talk with someone about your options, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).