At the core of the mission of Grown Zone Relationship Education is not only helping you to recognize and establish healthy, loving relationships, but to recognize and avoid dangerous, unhealthy ones. Helping people to avoid relationships that lead to domestic abuse and intimate partner violence, in particular, is a key priority of the Grown Zone.

Most people think of domestic or intimate partner violence in physical terms. However, there are other recognizable forms of abuse that can be predictors of the potential for physical violence in a relationship. These forms of abuse include verbal, emotional, and financial violence. Recognizing these predictive patterns of behavior early while still getting to know someone is critical in avoiding abusive relationships.

Just as with verbal, physical or emotional abuse, financial violence is about using money to hurt, isolate, punish, demean and/or control the thoughts, movements, associations and esteem of another person. Because a person’s relationship with money is often a reflection of a person’s sense of self-esteem, power, and control, signs of a financial abuser can actually be spotted relatively early on in relationships, long before physical abuse becomes apparent. Unfortunately, because of our reluctance to address financial habits and behaviors in relationships, typically acts of financial violence are overlooked or dismissed.

Protecting your finances—as well as your emotional health and physical safety—means vigilantly watching for signs of financially abusive behaviors in a relationship.

Examples of such abuse include the following:

  1. Your partner attempts to read your mail, go through your wallet or purse, or otherwise gain access to your money and/or personal financial information without your knowledge or consent, or over your objections. In the beginning, he or she may insist that they are “just playing” or doing it to get a rise out of you. Don’t be fooled—they are not playing.
  2. They engage in behaviors that undermine your ability to get a job, start a business, or that put the job or business you have at risk. It could begin with always calling when they know you have an important meeting, or showing up at your job or at a business lunch unannounced. It could escalate to undermining your professional reputation, for example, by publicly and passive-aggressively suggesting that your professional success is due to your willingness to perform sexual favors.
  3. They exhibit “Jekyll and Hyde” personas, demonstrating financial generosity in front of other people, but vindictiveness when the two of you are alone. For example, on a double date at an expensive restaurant, he or she may insist that you order whatever you want on the menu. Then later, while driving you home, they may angrily accuse you of taking advantage of their generosity and insist that you owe them. This usually means you are expected to acquiesce to anything they demand of you, including sex.
  4. They constantly press you to grant financial favors, such as extending loans and paying their bills, and they react angrily or maliciously when you don’t. Punishment for your failure to grant requests could range from withering verbal attacks to destruction of your property.
  5. While they insist on having access to your financial resources and personal financial information, they go out of their way to hide or misrepresent their income, obligations, employment status or other aspects of their financial situations. Pressing too hard for details, exposing their deception or refusing to accept their explanations will result in angry blow-ups that increase in intensity over time.
  6. They’ll attempt to coerce you into making unhealthy financial choices, using anger, guilt or ridicule to get you to make expenditures you haven’t budgeted for, can’t afford or just don’t want to make. All forms of domestic abuse are about control and punishment. To an abuser, your money is their money. You don’t get to say no.

If you see any of these signs of financial violence, do not ignore them. Minimizing or dismissing them could not only put your financial health at risk, it could also literally put your life in danger. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial violence is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships. Whatever you do, don’t assume that your love can “fix” or change them, or that the pattern of abuse will do anything but increase in frequency and intensity over time. If any of these behaviors are exhibited early, when you are just dating, it will only get worse if you continue your involvement and fail to end the relationship.

Recognizing the signs of a financial abuser early in a relationship should prompt you to end it immediately, to minimize damage to your finances and avoid becoming a target of other forms of abuse. When it comes to domestic violence, as with most threats to your health and safety, prevention is far better than the cure of rescue and recovery after damage is done.

The key to avoiding abuse is setting and strictly enforcing standards for your treatment in relationships. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy against any form of abuse, including financial violence. The No. 1 Rule of love and money are the same as for boxing: Protect yourself at all times.

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