"When she tells me that her husband decreased her housekeeping payments after she started a part time job, by even more than the amount she was earning, I wanted to scream."
Recently my friend, *Samantha, confided in me that her husband is financially abusive.
"Sometimes it makes me feel so bad, I want to die," she said, lips trembling and eyes hidden by dark sunglasses.
"But of course, I love other things about him so it's OK," she assures me.
Her words haunt me for days because, actually, it is not OK that her husband treats her in a way that makes her feel worthless, stupid and suicidal.
A few years ago he 'made' her cut up her credit card, she tells me.
"I admit, I'm not that good with money. I do like to spend money on myself. I have no savings, but I've hardly earned any money since I had my first child 20 years ago."
What is Gaslighting?
What is Gaslighting?
Herein lies the problem
Samantha, like so many other women, has surrendered her earning power and dedicated the energy that her husband puts into his work, into the children and the family. While he has been working and providing for the family his super has been growing and accruing interest every year. When this 53-year-old woman excitedly told me that she was thrilled to have $15,000 in super I nearly cried. When she disclosed that her husband pays her "housekeeping money" as if she were a fifties housewife, I was similarly dismayed. I can accept the concept as a good idea and a way to keep overspending in check, but it bothers me on a deep, feminist level.
Repeat: I am not a short-order cook. "It's a child's job to learn to eat what the parents eat," says Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian and the author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Instead of the all-or-nothing scenario, offer a variety of foods at mealtime: the main course, plus rice or pasta, a fruit or vegetable, and milk. This way, your child can eat just the pasta and the peas and get protein from the milk. "What a child eats over the course of a day or a week is more important than a balanced meal at one sitting," says Stephen Daniels, the chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in Aurora.
When she tells me that her husband decreased her housekeeping payments after she started a part time job, by even more than the amount she was earning, I wanted to scream. He hadn't given her notice that their housekeeping budget was shrinking. If they, as a couple, had agreed upon how much was needed to raise a family per week and agreed upon who was depositing how much into the account every week, it would be perfectly acceptable, but this man, arbitrarily and quietly, deciding that he would decrease his 'payments' and it just shouts control freak to me.
She was 'made' to cut up her credit cards. Image: iStock.
My friend was horrified
She was also indignant to discover that their mortgage had increased from $200,000 to $600,000 over the past few years. The same guy who has been pointing out her financial weaknesses and calling her "hopeless with money" has been borrowing against their house to fund his new business venture. Without her knowledge.
Not discussing these debts with his wife is a form of financial abuse. Keeping her ignorant means that she has no control over her financial situation. If he were to drop dead tomorrow, she would have no idea how to organise her family’s income streams and no idea how to implement a long-term financial strategy that would ensure her children’s ongoing standard of living or her comfort in old age.
To get little kids to be quiet, lower your voice instead of raising it. This forces kids to focus. Got a whole pack to corral? Whisper, "If you want to hear what we're doing next, hop on one foot." Goofy jumping is bound to be contagious.
Many years ago another woman told me about her financially abusive husband. This husband also gave her an allowance, like she was his child, but he checked up on her spending obsessively. Once she took her watch to be fixed and within moments of paying for the service her husband was on the phone, demanding to know why she had spent $20.
As for my friend *Samantha, I really don't know how to advise her. She's so timid about enraging her husband that she won't express her feelings, intense and extreme as they are, to the man she loves. I suggest counselling as a safe space in which she can have her say, but she counters that she knows he won't do it and that the cost is outside of her budget.
"He makes the money"
Samantha's husband feels entitled to treat her this way because 'he makes the money'. Men who do take the provider role in a family often forget that the role of caregiver is equally valuable, even though society doesn't put a high enough price on this work. As the pressures mount and the shine of family life wears off, he can start to feel that his financial contribution is unappreciated and resent the constant spending of money.
This situation has eventuated because these little acts of financial control occur slowly overtime. One things adds to another and before you know it, your mortgage is triple what you thought it was.
Remember that discipline is not punishment. Enforcing limits is really about teaching kids how to behave in the world and helping them to become competent, caring, and in control.
"I'm teaching my daughters to be smart with their money," says *Samantha. "I don't want them thinking that it's OK for a man to control their money. Sadly, though, they are growing up and learning about money and finances, in their home environment. What they might learn is that this is the way it is."
If your financial situation is causing you emotional distress, please contact one of the services below.