Power and Control Wheel: Economic Abuse

Preventing her from getting
or keeping a job. Making her
ask for money. Giving her an
allowance. Taking her money.
Not letting her know about or
have access to family income.

Preventing her from getting or keeping a job.  Bubba started complaining about me needing to get a job the first time he got fired.  At that time Shane was only a few months old and Bubba started telling me that I needed to work too so that if he ever lost his job again, we wouldn’t be completely without funds.  What Bubba failed to realize was that I’d been a stay-at-home mom for so long by that point that I would only make minimum wage and that would be eaten by child care costs.  It would actually cost us more to have me work at that point.  

Bubba ended up getting fired from four jobs in the space of seven years.  Each time he would freak out and proclaim that I needed to get a job.  He had been making $100K at two of the jobs.  Yeah, me making minimum wage is really going to help us out there, buddy.

I had wanted to go back to school over the years.  Bubba had gotten his Master’s and I wanted a chance to return to school.  The two years he was in school were sheer hell for me.  He had been working about 60 hours a week plus doing his school work.  If he had any free time, it was spent complaining to me how awful I was at everything.  In all the years we were together, I had written one journal entry.  It was during that time period and it was about Bubba throwing a plate across the kitchen, into the sink, and scaring me and the children enough that it made a lasting impression on Serenity and me.

Bubba could never find time to commit to being home to parent so that I could either work or go back to school.  It was never a priority.  However, he would tell me often that I needed to go back to work but wouldn’t help me figure out any way that it would be feasible for me to do so.  Since he didn’t want to help me figure it out I was in no hurry to go back to work.  He actively prevented me from getting a job or going back to school yet he retained the ability to complain that I was doing neither. 

Making her ask for money. Giving her an allowance. Taking her money.  Bubba didn’t actually do any of these things.  He didn’t have to make me ask for money.  He just spent freely so that I felt I had to run every purchase by him.  I’d thought we’d made an agreement never to spend more than $50 on our own without consulting the other one, but over and over and over he showed that I was the only one willing to stick with this.  And when we had this agreement and he’d come home with a $300 Blu-Ray player, I asked him about every $20 purchase I wanted to make.  The more freely he spent, the more I felt I had to double-check with him before spending anything.  There couldn’t be two free spenders in the family.  

Not letting her know about or have access to family income.  By the time I left Bubba, I had no idea what bills we had, what we owed on credit cards (more accurately – what he owed because I rarely ever used them), what our bank balances were, anything.  I went to our bank and asked them to print out two or three years of statements for me and my friends and I started going through them with a fine-tooth comb.  I was shocked by what we found.  While I was scrimping and saving because I thought we had almost no money, he was eating out all the time.  There were times that there would be a charges for $100-$200 from various restaurants in ONE day!  My big splurge was to take the kids to a fast food restaurant on Fridays and let them order 2 things off the dollar menu as a reward for having gotten through another week of school.  

He squandered our money for years because he felt entitled to spend as he pleased.  I can’t count the numbers of times he told me he could spend what he wanted because he deserved it because he was the one earning the paycheck.  Over and over he made it very clear to me that what I did was worthless.  And somehow, over the years, I started to believe him in so many ways.  



  1. Economic abuse was somewhat different for me. X had that same attitude of feeling entitled to spend it. He did not consider my contribution in staying home with OUR children to be anything. He did not see us as a team contributing to the good of all.

    Anyway, he had no self control at all when it came to finances. So we both agreed for me to look after that side. Which I did successfully. Then he got it in his head that as the man, he should be doing it. So I agreed. He then proceeded to lose nearly our whole savings over a period of about a year. So we agreed tondo it mutually. He would never agree to sit down and discuss it. I would make ut a budget to show him the figures about how careful we needed to be – one income, numerous children, high mortgage payments etc. He would criticize it and say, “that’s ridiculous, we have no money, how can we live, blah blah blah” he would spend money on cigarettes and fast food at work sometimes $250 a week. Which we just didn’t have.

    I was always trying to brainstorm solutions with him. He would agree but then flip out and say he never agreed and I was controlling him. We ended up with setting up a separate account for him with an agreed upon amount of money to go in for him to spend each week. He would ALWAYS spend it in a few days. And then freak out and demand more. I was being a controlling bitch by not giving him more. He would rage and yell and manipulate until I just gave it to him.

    His general pattern of abuse was to make agreements with me and then deny or try to back out of them later. I never knew if I was coming or going, never knew if I could trust what he said because he would always change his mind.

    I never related to the economic abuse situations where the abuser takes total control of the finances until I read a site which mentioned the scenario I experienced.

    So i just wanted to put it out there in case it helps someone identify a different method of abuse.

    • I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

      Yes, this is a good example of economic abuse. I’m speaking from what I experienced personally so it is helpful for readers to see what others have gone through. Thank you for taking time to share your story.

      I also begged Bubba to sit down with me and work on a budget together. He repeatedly refused or would promise to do it on his next day off yet get angry when I reminded him that he said we could do it. It was like banging my head against a wall. I couldn’t figure out how much I had to spend on food and clothes for the kids if I had no idea what our finances looked like. So, I was stuck asking him each time I needed to shop how much I could spend. It was demeaning to have to call him and say, “I need to get the kids shoes today. How much can I spend?” I should’ve had that information accessible so that I could act like the adult I was and make an informed decision.

      Although the tactics are so similar, each abuser has his own details that he throws in to the mix. Although we can all share common themes, the details of our lives will depend on who our abuser is.

    • Cantata

      Oh. Wow.

      I had always been confused about why this aspect of abuse was NOT present in our marriage.

      What you just described is EXACTLY how things played out for me, too. I was in charge, not always able to pay things on time because we didn’t have it. He got mad that things were getting paid late, I turned it over to him. Things didn’t get paid at ALL, he just got more and more annoying with all the drama about how we had no money. I took back over to make him stop. He still bought tobacco, even when he had no job and we were using money from his parents to buy groceries. Somehow, tobacco and beer still made the cut.

      • Yes, economic abuse was very present in your marriage, you were just unable to see it at the time. That is the way of living in the abuse dynamic – you simply cannot see it when you are in it.

      • BlueBiscuit

        I also thought the economic abuse aspect was lacking in my abusive relationship until recently. The way it played out in my marriage was I was responsible for paying all the bills, trying to juggle what got paid when, while my husband buried his head in the sand. He let me deal with all the stress of not having enough money and if I told him I didn’t have enough money he would accuse me of telling him he was a bad provider and a huge argument (with the usual verbal abuse and tantrums) ensuing. So I wouldn’t tell him anything because I knew what he reaction would be. That way he was free to spend money on what he wanted because he “didn’t know” what the financial picture looked like. He knew we were living on credit and food stamps but still spent $100-150 a month on alcohol and tobacco while I’m wearing holey underwear. He of course would say go buy what I needed but I knew we couldn’t afford to spend that money.

      • I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience this too.

        It is just another way to keep us under their thumb and confuse us. The way abusers use money against us is rather varied but it all ends in the same thing – keeping us tied to them. We become fearful that we’ll be unable to support our children on our own.

  2. audreeeeeey

    Hi! New reader here. A friend sent me this link because I also left my husband in late July. I spent the week after I left downloading books onto my Kindle, trying to figure out what I did wrong. Then a friend sent me a PDF about emotional abuse and a lightbulb went off. It’s real! But I don’t feel like a lot of people know what it is or know that they are victims until they’re swimming in it.

    I don’t mean for this to sound like a “bah humbug marriage” reply, I just wanted to say thank you for being open and you’re not alone and I will be following along. I blog vaguely about my life right now at http://www.stuffaudreysays.com and will probably begin opening up a little more about it as I find the words.

    But anyway, thank you!

    • I am very glad you got out and realized that emotional abuse is real. It is horrible that it happened to you but it is good that you can see it now and are safe.

      As you open yourself up and share your story, please be careful. Abusers hide in silence. When we take our stories public, they can escalate because we are shining light onto their horrific behavior. I’m going public only to a certain extent. All names have been changed, hopefully to ensure safety for my children and me. Please be careful. We need to spread the word and educate people about emotional abuse but we also need to guard ourselves. It is a fine line we walk.

      • audreeeeeey

        Not to worry– I told you it would be very vague. I’m also not too ready for the peanut gallery to give opinions yet you know? I need to read some more and educate myself more so I’m glad you gave some book options!

  3. Ingrid T

    I became a victim in 1964 and it lasted for 14 years…actually a bit more till I got some distance and a new wife for him between us. So I have had time to ponder, think, study and learn since I got out of there. One is that I didn’t know how wounded I was so went back into a very negative second marriage. And third. But with each one I grew. I got an education when I was 40 and a career. And then one day I discovered Codependency and what an eye opener that was! Next I became active in an Al-Anon group (because there isn’t a Co-Da group in this community) and I read everything I possibly could on the effects of spousal abuse. I do believe we suffer from PTSD as much as our military personnel do! My healing has been in the Native American family I am now married into. Women are looked at differently in those families who walk the Red Road. They are honored for the power of the feminine in ways other cultures reject. Not all by any means as there was such a push for assimilation into the white society. But this has been a very healing atmosphere for me. Sorry if I ramble at times. It’s still hard for me to discuss some of the things I’ve lived through.

    • I’m so glad you are finding healing in your current relationship! That is very encouraging.

      It is a sad statistic that the majority of women who escape from an abusive marriage will enter another abusive relationship because they never healed and go right back into the pattern that they are accustomed to. I have made it a priority to heal and learn so that I can spot red flags quickly and move on. Again, education is key.

      I think you are right about PTSD. I know, absolutely, that Serenity and I both suffer from it. There are many aspects of the abuse that Serenity simply isn’t ready to face yet so she’s trapped for now. I continue to encourage her toward health while modeling getting healthy myself. I make it a priority so that she will too.

  4. Amanda

    I was a SAHM for most of our marriage and he was so immature with the finanaces we actually had to change banks once due to too many bounced bank card transactions they turned off our debit card. I took over the finances because I am organized but he would guilt me into large purchases on credit like tvs and steroes for his car and a motorcycle, in fact we had 2 motorcycles at one point, he needed 2 of course. It was his money he earned it and could spend it on whatever he wanted. And of course I didnt want him to feel like he was denied anything, that would make me a bad wife. Even when I left him I took nothing with me because I feared he would go rack up more credit buying new things. I took my clothes and my pictures, left everything else. And during our no contest default divorce I also took half the debt even thought he had used it to buy things for himself that he kept. I did not know I was abused then, I was still trying to be a good wife even in divorce so he wouldnt be mad at me and take it out on me. I was also granted $165 a month in child support that I signed a variance to not take. The judge was not happy with me but not getting $165 a month was worth not having to deal with his rage. Again not admitting it was abuse until years later.

    • I was entitled to alimony but he fought it. I wasn’t about to fight with him about it. I just wanted free. Him denying me alimony means that I will remain in poverty until I can scrape the money together to further my education. It makes me angry when I think about it because I gave him all those years and he denied me alimony to punish me for leaving. There were so many things I didn’t fight during the divorce because I simply wanted to be free of him.

      I will be in debt for the rest of my life because of what he did to me during the divorce. It is worth every penny I will ever repay because I live in freedom now. For me, freedom was the most expensive thing in the world I will ever purchase. It is also the most amazing thing!


  1. No Counseling! | Hope Wears Heels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: