Financial Abuse: My Partner Nearly Drained Me Dry

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Note: This post may contain triggers for those who have been in abusive relationships.

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To highlight the issues that victims face physically, emotionally and economically, Femme Frugality will be discussing the issue every Friday. We will do this through a mix of stories, conversations and factual articles. To help raise awareness, please use the hashtag #DVAM when sharing these articles.

Today an anonymous reader joins us to share their story about the other side of financial abuse. While some partners exercise this abuse by limiting the amount of income you are able to bring in, others will go to the opposite end of the spectrum and take advantage of you if you are the sole or primary breadwinner.

Thank you to today’s contributor for having the courage to share their story, and for having the wherewithal to acknowledge that this, too, is financial abuse.

I didn't realize that financial abuse is also when your partner tries to drain you dry...

I don’t like to think that I was in a financially abusive relationship. It’s hard to see it that way. Horrible to think that the person you love would take advantage of you.

But if it had been somebody else’s relationship that I was observing as an outsider, I would have called it financial abuse without hesitation and urged her to call it quits a lot earlier.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when a once functional relationship deteriorated into an unhealthy one. I suspect it was a slow and gradual decay rather than an overnight switch.

All this happened over the course of couple of years. He was in and out of employment during this time, with some temp/contract/casual stints in there too. In the meantime I changed jobs twice, enjoying significant pay rises each time. It hurts to think about how much further ahead I could be by now if we’d both been working that whole time – but there’s no point dwelling on what could have been.

In a way, I think that exacerbated the issue. I was bringing in even more than before, so what was the problem? Numbers-wise, I could support us both, so that gave him some room to figure things out, right? Earning more eased the pressure for sure, but it made me even more resentful, because I wasn’t really able to benefit from the money personally.

At the same time, I was also hustling and freelancing on top of all that. Busting my ass to earn as much as I could so that I could actually save money even while supporting two people on my income.

If I was underemployed or unemployed, you can bet I would be sticking to a budget. Looking for every opportunity to save money. Putting 150% into job hunting. Doing anything I could to earn money wherever I could. And taking care of everything at home.

The same was not true in reverse. Overspending, instead of frugality. Not pulling his weight around the house. What often seemed to be a half-hearted effort at job searching. And most egregiously, lending money to others – small amounts here and there, but still, lending my money, without asking. Nearly every time I logged in to look at our account history I would find unpleasant surprises. After multiple instances of this, I realized I could no longer trust him.

I accept and understand there were almost certainly issues at play on his side – loss of self confidence, maybe even mild depression, etc.

But what it came down to was the fact that the toll of being the sole income earner (while he failed to contribute to the relationship in any significant way) was seriously impacting my well-being – physical, mental, emotional. Stress is a killer. It finds its way out, one way or another.

I stuck in there until I could no longer ignore the ongoing effects on my health. That’s when I knew things had to change.

I felt like I was letting him down. Abandoning him at his lowest. I worried about what he would do and how he would support himself. But I realized that ultimately, I am not responsible for anybody else. I had willingly shouldered that burden for so long, and the only thing stopping me from letting it go was myself.

There’s a great list in this BBC piece on the 10 common signs of financial abuse that I recently came across. In hindsight, I could have ticked off a few more of those than I’d like to admit.

  • takes important financial decisions without you
  • uses your credit/debit card without asking
  • controls your access to money, through credit cards or a bank account
  • takes your benefit payments, or wages
  • refuses to contribute to household bills or children’s expenses
  • puts bills in your name, but does not contribute to them
  • takes out loans in your name – but does not help with repayments
  • takes money from your purse/ bank account
  • stops you working
  • uses you as a free source of labor

In my case, supporting a partner through a rough patch devolved into being taken for granted and taken advantage of, whether or not either of us truly realized it at the time.

I can safely say I’ll never make the same mistake again.



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Financial Abuse: My Partner Nearly Drained Me Dry

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11 thoughts on “Financial Abuse: My Partner Nearly Drained Me Dry

  1. The Green Swan

    Wow, what a tough story, thanks for sharing that. Some valuable lessons learned, hopefully on his side as well. I can totally see how hard it would be to turn it off on him but it definitely had to be done. Good for you for being able to make that tough choice.

  2. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    Thank you for sharing, it can’t have been easy to do. It’s a difficult topic to bring up, and I can see where it might really creep up on you what was happening.. Glad you eventually recognized and addressed your needs.

  3. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    Thank you for telling your story. I think it’s hard to pinpoint when a relationship goes from just being a little unbalanced to when it becomes toxic and that can make it difficult to know when to leave. I’m glad you were able to look out for yourself and put that relationship behind you.

  4. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

    I’m so sorry this happened to you! It’s so hard to cut the cord in any relationship, I can only imagine the stress of getting away from a difficult one where the person is not likely to make wise decisions afterwards. It’s difficult to stop caring about someone, even once it’s become toxic. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go

    When I think about financial abuse, someone controlling a partner through money is what comes to mind. However, I am grateful for your courage to share your story, because I learned that is not always the case.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’m sorry you had this experience, and am glad you were able to walk away before the harm was irrevocable. I remember a family member having a similar experience and having a hard time walking away as well because at first it seemed like they were holding up their end of the “or for worse” bargain until it was clear that the abusive partner was bringing nothing to compensate, or to hold up their side of the partnership. For some reason it seems like we’re being unfair to them to expect them not to use money during periods of unemployment but, in reality, a true partner may not make enough money sometimes but they make sure not to throw away the money that does come home and makes up for it in other household contributions.

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  8. Fruclassity (Ruth)

    When the woman in the relationship is the one earning the main income, I think people suspect financial abuse more readily than when it is the man. I also supported my husband – as well as our 3 children – for a long period of time (6 years) as he (slowly) transitioned to a new career. In our case, he did not lend money or spend money we didn’t have. He was always trying to find a new path – and he eventually did. Still, it was hard. You made the right decision. No question you were being taken advantage of and your partner wasn’t facing what he needed to face. It’s a hard line to identify though, and I understand why it wasn’t at first clear to you. Wishing you the best both in terms of finances and in terms of a significant relationship.

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