How to escape financial abuse in a relationship

How to escape financial abuse in a relationship

This is a topic that is mostly hushed especially in our communities. Yet it is one of the fundamental reasons for domestic violence.  This article is focused on financial abuse with women as victims as this is a common occurrence these days.

Financial abuse usually starts gently and may even seem like a good idea. The abusive spouse ‘volunteers’ to keep your money because he is better at saving, then makes all your financial decisions for you because he is better at Maths, then he locks you at home because ‘Lagos is not safe’… From there, it gets more controlling and gets out of your control.jetmag

Financial abuse is a common strategy that abusive spouses use to gain control and negative power in their relationship. A spouse is financially abuse if he does one or more of the below:

  1. Prevents the other from the assets of the family: In this case, all family assets are in the name of the husband alone even if the wife contributes to the capital.
  2. Limits accessibility of family finances: the women doesn’t not have right to withdraw or spend family funds without approval from husband.
  3. Forced jobs/career options: This means making the wife do a job that she necessarily doesn’t want to do, makes her do only a job with low returns, gives ultimatums that affects wife’s performance on the job and prevents her progress.
  4. Strict finance tracking: It is normal for both parties in a relationship to be financially disciplined. However, abuse sets in when one spouse deliberately gives funds lower than needed to the other. It is done to put the wife in a constant state of lack or shortage. The wife feels like she is living on stipends and is reminded how financially useless she is and she must account for every naira spent.
  5. No other source of income: A financial abusive man ensures the man relies on him for her very existence. She has only his stipends as her ONLY source of income. This means she has no accounts, no savings, and no choices.
  6. ‘I will leave you’ threat: Since the man knows the woman relies on him for everything, he takes it further by threatening to cut off any form of financial support to her. This leaves the woman helpless emotionally and mentally. Some people go into deep depression from financial abuse so this is not a joke!
  7. Steals your money: Some husbands forcefully seize the wife’s income. She cannot even spend her income herself as she has no access to it.
  8. Prevents the wife from improving her skills on the job or getting an education
  9. Forces you to work in a ‘family business’ for almost no pay.
  10. Forces you to take loans/debts on behalf of the family and leaves you to face the consequences. In many of these cases, these loans are invested by him in businesses that never materialize.

If you answered yes to more than 1 of the above, these tips will help you to get out of the financial slavery.

  1. Open personal bank accounts: Get a savings account with a good bank. Ensure you are the sole custodian of the account details, passwords, cards and so on. If you feel these are not safe at home, store these financial documents with a custodian.
  2. Start saving: No matter how little you may have, set aside 20%-30% of it. You need to build a cash reserve for yourself.
  3. Earn extra money: Find a way to earn some income by yourself and store it away. It is important to let your abusive believe that what you are doing is not a threat so he allows you to do it. So be diplomatic. If you are not allowed to leave the house frequently, you can buy and sell online. You can teach online, do surveys online and get paid for it. You can learn about social media and be a social media admin or virtual assistant. You can also transact in the places in allows you to go. E.g church/mosque, childrens’ school and neighborhood.
  4. Improve yourself: If you are not educated, you can take some courses online to improve your profile.
  5. Make alternative accommodation plans: Most financial abusive relationships end up in domestic violence so it is wise to identify alternative accommodation options. Examples: family, church/mosque, shelters/NGOs for female humane rights. Be open to leave the city too.
  6. Get on family planning: When in a financially abusive relationship, the last thing you need to be is a baby machine so you may want to slow down on birthing whilst the financial abuse is resolved.

When you are financially stable, you should discuss with the spouse that you want to do more with your life. Let him realize that you have other options and will survive with or without his stipends. This may weaken his hold over you. After this discussion, the below can happen:

  1. He agrees to let you live your life and everything returns to normal. In this case, he doesn’t demand for your money. This is the true sign of repentance.
  2. He pretends to be ok with it , BUT wants to trick you to surrender your money to him. DO NOT do it. Ensure your funds do not get into this hands even if he professes his undying love and repentance.
  3. He gets upset, aggressive and gets violent. In case of violence, please leave and get trusted counsellors to mediate. You may also get lawyers involved.


Are you experiencing any of these? Have you survived a financially abusive relationship? Please drop a comment and let others learn.


Picture credit: jetmag, peedeecoalition

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