In Control of the Money? Could You be Accused of Abuse?

Handling money in relationships is so tricky – money issues are one of the leading causes of divorces, and yet all too frequently, a completely neglected topic of discussion in relationships until there is a tangible, major problem.  But this post isn’t a soapbox on communicating in relationships about money, it’s about what happens when one side handles it more than the other.  My question is: When one partner in the relationship controls the money, could it be ever be considered abusive?

I know that sounds extreme, so let me break it down.

Most definitions of abuse include some form of financial aspect.  It is not a stretch to see how one partner could control the household’s financials, limiting the other’s ability to leave.  But, in the context of saving and sticking to a budget, is it possible to see a spendthrift as being abusive towards their significant other by restricting the purse strings?  Even if that controlling partner is not the primary breadwinner, could that partner be seen as being abusive just for limiting “fun” money or the amount spent of food, clothing, or consumer items?

Having one partner that focuses more on financials is very natural – one person will always be a bit tighter with money or more interested in managing the money.  As the couple starts sharing or joins their income, that person usually continues to oversee the financials, and eventually, it becomes one of that partner’s “tasks” in the relationship.  In an attempt to make a budget, that person would restrict the other’s spending and possibly, his or her access to money.

But when in the relationship does the control over money become abusive?  Surely, to the restrained partner, it may feel like the other is being controlling, even if the money is going towards shared goals, but where is the line drawn?

There is no black-and-white answer to this question, I think.  There are just too many complicating factors like who is the primary breadwinner, who handles the finances, how much of a say both partners get, what the financial situation of the couple is, etc.  And on the flip side, couldn’t an overzealous spender force a saver to feel trapped in a downward financial situation?

Relationships are based on compromises, but there has to be an understanding between both parties on how the finances are handled and why.  At least in marriage, both parties involved share responsibilities for whatever debt, savings, etc. that are created as a couple, even if there is a divorce.  Thus, both partners should be aware and want to involved.  Even outside of marriages, often times decisions we make in relationships have ramifications that outlast the relationship.  In short, both partners need to willingly work towards shared goals for present and future well-being.  If one party is forced to handle money a certain way, undermining their freedom and abilities for goals that are not shared, whether it’s abuse or not, there are issues.

Where would you cross the line?  When does controlling the money become dangerous and abusive? 

This post was included at:

Carnival of Financial Independence at Carnival of Financial Independence
Yakezie Carnival at Your Money Mentor
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie at One Cent at a Time
Financial Carnival for Young Adults at Degrees and Debt
Carnival of MoneyPros at Money Pros
Lifestyle Carnival at Cough up the Dough

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2 thoughts on “In Control of the Money? Could You be Accused of Abuse?

  1. Well, I would never say my ex- was abusive, because he wasn’t. But he did insist on handling the money (though that included handing me the checkbook and a credit card). When I tried to suggest a budget, he would pat me on my pretty little head and ignore everything I said. I knew nothing about how much we had in the bank, where our money was going, how much he was investing and where, how he was managing to pay the taxes… And by the end of the marriage we were 3/4 of a million dollah in debt. If he’d been willing to include me in our community financial life, the marriage might still be intact.
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    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Funny, I cannot even imagine not being able to know what is going on with the money since I’ve been in charge of it throughout my adult life. I think that would drive me a little batty plus, I cannot imagine having $750,000 worth of debt! How scary! Did he take “custody” of the debt in the divorce?


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