Standing Up For Yourself (and Your Finances) When You’re a Victim of Financial Bullying

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A scary new trend has emerged – or rather, evidence of a scary trend that likely has existed for years. The trend is called “financial bullying”, a term we first saw when Credit Karma published an article about it last month. Now, Credit Karma’s research (facilitated by Harris Interactive) is making waves and has recently been featured on The Today Show and in Reuters.

Financial bullying is scary in that you may not even know if you’re being victimized, especially if certain patterns from your partner have begun to feel “normal.” That’s why it’s so important to continue this discussion. By spreading awareness of this issue, more people can put a name to what’s happening and that’s the first step of empowerment. Read on to find out what this is and how you can help yourself – or others – who are struggling with financial bullying.

What is Financial Bullying?

One of the main problems with financial bullying is that, although there are clear definitions and red flags, there is still quite a bit of grey area in understanding if what you’re dealing with is simply a differing of financial philosophies or true financial bullying.

Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Your partner makes you feel guilty for spending or doesn’t let you shop alone
  • Your partner doesn’t let you have any control in your money together, but rather gives you an allowance
  • Your partner forces you to show receipts for everything

These are just a few of the red flags that Credit Karma uncovered in their research. For a more in-depth examination of whether or not you’re being financially bullied, take this quiz on Credit Karma’s website.

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The Long-Term Impact of Financial Bullying on Your Life

Financial bullying carries with it a long-term impact on every other area of your life. Like all bullying, the behavior can crop up slowly over time, be hard to detect, and cause you to feel insecure about yourself. Here are a few other ways that financial bullying can impact your life…

It goes beyond just an unbalanced budget.
If you’re being financially bullied, the main issue at the end of the day isn’t really about finances. It’s about control and emotional duress. Bullies have a way of making people feel like they’re incapable of doing anything right, which also makes people more willing to do whatever the bully says. Chances are, if your partner is a financial bully, he or she is likely also bullying you in other ways.

It takes away opportunities to learn independent financial management.
Understanding how to manage your finances, even if you’re married or in a relationship, is key to having financial stability. But if a financial bully won’t let you near the books there’s no way for you to grow and learn. If you don’t know how to manage your money, then you’re at the mercy of your partner. No matter who manages the budget in a relationship, everyone needs to at least have a baseline understanding of how to do it.

It can create a feeling of being “trapped”.
Since a victim of financial bullying is at the mercy of their partner, then he or she will inevitably feel trapped. To not have access to – or an understanding of – your money means that you could never take the reins yourself if need be. Best case scenario, your partner could be allowing you to feel trapped in an otherwise great relationship – which doesn’t bode well for the relationship over time. Worst case scenario, you’re left without critical information that would allow you to take the reins.

How Can You Break Free from the Bullying?

If you are being victimized by financial bullying, then the time to take action is now. Here are a few preliminary steps to help:

Talk to your partner about it.
In the best case scenario, you partner may not realize that his or her behavior can be characterized as bullying. Perhaps his or her intentions are merely to maintain financial stability and didn’t realize that it had gone too far.

Trust your gut.
If you talk to your partner about it and he or she doesn’t admit to the bullying behavior, then there is a larger problem at hand. No matter what they say about their intentions, you have to trust your gut. A true bully knows how to control you and it can come across in ways you don’t expect. Someone who truly has good intentions will want to correct their behavior, whereas a bully will deny their behavior, make you feel bad about bringing it up, or blatantly tell you that they need to do this. If your gut says something isn’t right, then listen to it. Do not let yourself into denial about the situation or it will only grow worse over time.

Talk to a professional.
The level of the issue will dictate what kind of professional you need to talk to, but a good start would be a relationship counselor. Money is cause for divorce in the majority of marriages so this will not be unfamiliar terrain for the counselor. And if the root of the issue is bullying, then it probably goes much further than your financial talks. However, if the root of the issue is disagreement on how to handle finances (or lack of trust on handling the finances well), then that can be resolved more directly with the help of the relationship counselor and a financial planner.

Bullying – whether intentional or not – is not okay. Both recognizing and then breaking free from bullying is incredibly difficult to do, but if you arm yourself with knowledge and tools to regain your independence, then you CAN do it. Do it for a more secure financial future, but most importantly, do it for yourself.

Image Credit: LdlHandz

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