10 Signs of Financial Abuse in Marriage

Carrie Lowrance

Crosswalk Contributor
Published May 22, 2024
10 Signs of Financial Abuse in Marriage

There are many kinds of abuse that can happen in marriages. We often hear about physical, emotional, verbal, and mental abuse in our society. Still, there is another kind of abuse that’s not talked about as much, which is financial abuse.

What Isn’t Financial Abuse?

Most couples have one person who manages the finances and household, which is normal. This person makes sure bills are paid, groceries are bought, and money is saved. This person takes care of the home like a well-oiled machine.

What Is Financial Abuse in a Marriage?

Financial abuse is control over another person via financial resources. They use tactics to ensure their partner cannot be self-sufficient or independent.

For example, the abuser tracks every purchase like a hawk. When the abuser asks the abused to purchase something, they give them just enough money to cover that expense and no more. They also discourage their partner from purchasing things like health care, clothes, etc, making the person dependent on the abuser. There is always a consequence if the person doesn’t meet their demands.

Financial abuse is a means of making sure the victim will always stay because they don’t have access to funds in order to leave. It does not discriminate and can happen to people who have been married a long time, as well as those in brand new marriages.

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What Are Some Examples?

Restricting access to money

The partner has no access to the bank account. This means they don’t know what’s coming in or going out, which is a major cause of stress.


The abuser makes all the financial decisions, leaving their partner out.

Denying Basic Needs

The abuser won’t give the abused enough money to buy food or clothes.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Woman managing finances; trusting God with your finances.

1. Denial of Access to Funds

One person has no access to funds. This means they don’t know what’s coming in or going out; this is a major cause of concern. Fresh streams of revenue can provide money from various sources, and in a marriage, both parties can use them.

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2. Intense Monitoring of Spending

If your spouse requires you to account for every penny you spend, including what you spent it on and the receipts to go with those purchases, there is a serious problem. That the abuser can monitor every little detail via digital bank accounts can make abuse even worse.

Woman carrying shopping bags

3. Unhappy with Spending That Benefits the Abused

There is nothing wrong with self-care and spending money on yourself for things you need, like clothing, entertainment, and food. However, if your partner goes berserk over this, there is a problem.

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4. Your Partner Gives You an Allowance

Partners in a marriage should have a set amount each month as pocket money. This is money they can spend on whatever they like. What isn’t okay is when your partner treats you like a child by giving you an allowance. This is derogatory and a clear sign of financial abuse.

Husband and wife fighting

5. Demanding Repayment

If your partner treats you like a savings and loan account and asks for repayment after you purchase something with your marital funds, this is a big red flag.

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6. Not Approving of the Spouse Working Outside

If your partner doesn’t let you work outside the home, there are deeper issues here than just money. The abuser doesn’t want their partner to work outside the home because then they will have access to money, which is the last thing the abuser wants. Outside of this red flag, if you cannot leave your home in general, this is a serious issue. No one should shame you for wanting to work outside the home.

married couple managing finances money credit card paying

7. Double Standards

Sometimes, the abuser will make a huge purchase after the abused has bought something small for themselves. This can also sometimes happen after a nasty fight. The point is the abuser can’t stand the thought of their partner doing something good for themselves.

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8. Coerced Debt

The abuser may force the abused to sign for loans and credit cards in order to burden them with financial obligations they didn’t ask for. Sometimes they will also use their partner’s credit to get things.

9. Hiding Financial Information

9. Hiding Financial Information

With financial abuse, hiding information is common. Abusers conceal bank statements, bills, and other financial information. This causes the abused to be kept in the dark about the reality of their financial situation so they can’t make informed decisions.

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10. Gaslighting and Minimizing Financial Concerns

When the abused has legitimate financial concerns, it’s common for abusers to dismiss it or downplay them. Abusers will make them feel ridiculous for asking questions and will use gaslighting tactics. These tactics include denial about financial actions or distorting financial realities in order to manipulate and gain control of the situation.

What to do if you are experiencing financial abuse in your marriage?

people praying for each other to signify reconciliation

Seek Support

Talk to trusted friends, family, and professionals that can offer you emotional support. Contact organizations that specialize in supporting domestic abuse victims, specifically victims of financial abuse. They can help with resources, counseling, and legal advice for your specific situation.

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Find Shelter

Make sure you know where the surrounding shelters are so that you will know where to go if you decide to leave. Rest assured that your basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter will be met.

Asian man on laptop stressed burnt out working remote

Educate Yourself

Take time to research and learn about your rights and the laws that protect you in a financial abuse situation. You may also want to research local laws on divorce, property division, and spousal support. By knowing these things, you will feel empowered and can make smart, educated decisions.

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Safeguard Your Financial Information

Take precautions to safeguard your financial information - create strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication, for example. Monitor your credit report, consider opening a separate bank account in your own name, and redirect important mail to a P.O. box. Also, make sure all your online accounts with stores like Walmart, Amazon, etc., all have two-factor authentication enabled, and if you have passwords saved, make a backup for yourself and then destroy them so your partner can’t have access to them in any form.

Upset angry husband abusive marriage woman crying on couch

Develop a Safety Plan

Talk to friends and family about making a safety plan. Then, gather up important things you will need, like financial information, insurance policies, etc., and put them all in an “emergency kit” to take with you if you feel you need to leave.

You will also want to have an emergency kit for your kids and your pets as well. Things to put in emergency kits for your kids include clothes, extra socks and underwear, one or two favorite toys, a favorite book, snacks, a bottle of water, medications and medical records and insurance information, birth certificate, etc. If you have a baby or an infant, things to add include diapers, diaper rash cream, wipes, extra bottles and pacifiers, formula, one or two favorite toys, medical records, etc.

An emergency kit for your pet will look different. You should include a first aid kit, medical records, leash/harness, extra collar with tags, enough food and water for two weeks for each pet, collapsible bowls, collapsible litter box and litter, medications, current photos, information on their medications, insurance coverage, and feeding schedules, toys, etc. Items with familiar scents will help your pet feel comfortable and secure. You will also want to make sure that you have a sturdy crate or carrier to transport them in. Put everything in a duffle bag ahead of time if possible, so you can grab it and go.

Do your research and see if the shelters in your area allow pets, and if they don’t, plan with family or friends to take them for a while. Our pets are family members and we need to plan for them as well.

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Talk to Professional

Research professionals in your area that specialize in financial abuse and meet to talk to someone. This could be an attorney, counselor, financial advisor, or therapist. They can help educate you on legal topics, financial planning, and how to heal emotionally and mentally.

Stressed overwhelmed mom on laptop and phone with toddler kid

Financially Educate Yourself

Become financially literate by learning how to manage your own finances, giving you the knowledge to rebuild your life after you leave. There are many nonprofit organizations that can help you, like The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead curriculum, which teaches survivors how to budget, manage their debt, and improve their credit. Freeform.org is another organization that provides free online webinars for survivors to help them build wealth and financial security.

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Review or Freeze Your Credit Reports

If your abuser is taking out loans in your name, you can freeze your credit reports, so doing so will block banks and other lenders from pulling your credit reports to approve or deny new loans.

Financial abuse is a very scary thing in a marriage. It can leave the abused feeling like they can never get out and move on with their own lives. Reaching out for help, making plans, and taking action are the first steps to healing. Talking to professionals, learning your rights, educating yourself financially, and taking things one day at a time are sure steps to ensure you thrive in your new life.

Originally published Wednesday, 29 May 2024.