05/03/2013 02:32 pm ET Updated Jul 03, 2013

Financial Abuse

We have all heard the painful stories of spousal abuse. We have a good idea what physical abuse is, and we are also aware of the terrible effects of emotional abuse. There is another type of abuse that is not as well known, but can be equally damaging, and that is financial abuse.

When one person in a relationship is the main breadwinner and/or sole contributor, right away, the relationship is off-balance. What will add to this is when the money maker is using their power as control. This can also be the same situation is the financial contribution is equal. The abuser can look very innocent in the beginning. They are just looking out for the best interest of the partnership and household. Slowly, the abused is beginning to feel emotions of self-doubt and low self-worth. They are starting to feel inadequate.

An example would be where the abused wants to do something to make them feel better such as shopping, beauty appointments etc., and the abuser shows anger and lashes out verbally to them as if to say that they are wasting money. Remember, this is not a situation where money is an issue. The same person who repeatedly bashes their partner for self-indulgence is the same person who will have a wandering eye and compare their visual interest with the inadequacies they see in their partner, which only produces more pain to the abused. There are many other forms of financial abuse such as restricting access to a spouse's credit, or draining assets once a victim attempts to leave.

Usually, the abuser has their own issues of low self-esteem and only sees their worth by the dollars in the bank. They may also feel that with money, they are able to have control and keep someone they care about close to them. What they fail to see is that the abused is suffering. They are kept like children, afraid, carefully figuring out reasons to justify their spending. Fighting with themselves in attempt to control their temptations, justifying their spending as to not feel guilt and shame. This is not freedom, this is living in a controlled situation as a direct result of their partners need for control.

How do we stop this? There are informative resources online such as Women's Law.

If you are not in control over your finances, or if your partner has removed money from your bank account, it can seem very scary to leave an abusive relationship. There are many organizations who can help you "get back on your feet" and get control over your finances -- some even provide short-term loans to cover important expenses as you escape an abusive relationship.

The abused need to reach out to friends, family, coaches and/or counselors to help them understand how this situation has decreased their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem and to empower them to take control of their own lives and finances.