Love & Money

Financial Violence: 4 Signs to Watch for in a New Relationship

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financial violence (Image: iStock.com/PeopleImages)

Most people think of domestic or intimate partner violence in physical terms, however there are other recognizable forms of abuse that can be predictors of the potential for physical violence in a relationship. These forms of abuse include verbal, emotional, and financial violence.

Recognizing these predictive patterns of behavior early while still getting to know someone is critical in avoiding abusive relationships. As a personal finance journalist, educator, and the co-creator of Grown Zone Relationship Education, I am passionate about teaching people what they need to know to protect themselves, in their pursuit of healthy intimate relationships.

Because a person’s relationship with money is often a reflection of a person’s sense of self-esteem, power, and control, signs of a financial abuser can actually be spotted relatively early on in relationships, long before physical abuse even becomes apparent. Unfortunately, because of our reluctance to address financial habits and behaviors in relationships, typically acts of financial violence are overlooked or dismissed.

Protecting your finances—as well as your emotional health and physical safety—means vigilantly watching for signs of financially abusive behaviors in a relationship.

Examples of such abuse include the following:

  1. Your partner attempts to read your mail, go through your purse, or otherwise gain access to your money and/or personal financial information without your knowledge or consent, or over your objections. In the beginning, they may insist that they are “just playing” or that they are doing it to get a rise out of you. Don’t be fooled—they are not playing.
  2. They engage in behaviors that undermine your ability to get a job, start a business, or that put the job or business you have at risk. It could begin with always calling when they know you have an important meeting, or showing up at your job or at a business lunch unannounced.
  3. They exhibit “Jekyll and Hyde” personas, demonstrating financial generosity in front of other people, but vindictiveness when the two of you are alone. For example, on a double date at an expensive restaurant, he or she may insist that you may order whatever you want on the menu. Then later, while driving you home, they may angrily accuse you of taking advantage of their generosity and insist that you owe them. This usually means you are expected to acquiesce to anything they demands of you, including sex.
  4. They constantly press you to grant financial favors, such as extending loans and paying their bills, and they react angrily or maliciously when you don’t. Punishment for your failure to grant requests could range from withering verbal attacks to destruction of your property.

If you see any of these signs of financial violence, do not ignore them. Minimizing or dismissing them could not only put your financial health at risk, it could also literally put your life in danger. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial violence is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships.

Recognizing the signs of a financial abuser early in a relationship should prompt you to end it immediately, to minimize damage to your finances and avoid becoming a target of other forms of abuse. When it comes to domestic violence, as with most threats to your health and safety, prevention is far better than the cure of rescue and recovery after damage is done.

The key to avoiding abuse is setting and strictly enforcing standards for your treatment in relationships. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy against any form of abuse, including financial violence. As we say in the Grown Zone, the rules of love and money are the same as for boxing: protect yourself at all times.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-at-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a relationship education initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.