Seven out of 10 millennial women say their partner has used money to try to control or manipulate them during the time they have been together, according to a survey by a financial wellness website.

The survey by CentSai focused on women 18 to 35 years old, with 70% saying they experienced financial abuse by their romantic partner. Still, other studies suggest the issue is widespread.

What are the signs?

Financial abuse can take many forms, such as a partner restricting your access to money, or refusing to pay their share of the bills. Some common types are:

  • Failing to pay accounts in your name, ruining your credit
  • Opening credit card accounts in your name without your knowledge
  • Hiding money from you
  • Not allowing you to work
  • Sabotaging your career
  • Forcing you to borrow money from your family and not paying it back

The link between financial and physical abuse

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says one in four women experience intimate partner violence during their lifetime – typically before they reach age 25. The agency says financial abuse exists in nearly all cases where physical violence is present.

However, the CentSai survey concludes that financial mistreatment frequently happens in relationships where no violence exists, and it’s a problem that is not exclusive to women or millennials. The study says 50% of the men who participated also reported some form of financial abuse.

Use caution when confronting your partner

If you believe your partner is taking advantage of you financially, their reaction will usually speak volumes. First, be sure you are not putting yourself in danger. If you avoid these types of conversations out of fear how they will react, that is typically a red flag.

Do they get upset, shift the blame to you or make you feel guilty for bringing it up? Or, do they apologize and genuinely commit to changing their behavior? The One Love Foundation says a good sign is when you can have these conversations and your partner actually listens to your concerns.

Identifying patterns of abuse

Like most forms of mistreatment, financial abuse usually isn’t a one-time event but is part of a trend that develops over time. There are three typical stages in these relationships:

  • Adoration: Your partner caters to your every need in the beginning
  • Isolation: They separate you from your support network and make you depend upon them
  • Abuse: They use emotions to manipulate and control you, frequently resulting in sabotage and verbal abuse

Be aware and protect your future

If you determine your partner has no plans to change their behavior, carefully formulate your exit strategy. Don’t tell them you plan to leave until you take inventory of all your shared and personal assets. An experienced family law attorney can help you devise a plan to protect your future interests.

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