Banker’s wife says husband is financially controlling
‘I’m trapped in a gilded cage’: Banker’s wife tells how her husband is so controlling he argues over every penny and won’t even give her the price of a cup of coffee despite earning a six-figure salary
Were you to see me on a typical day, pulling on my designer boots to walk our golden retriever, or dashing off to our children’s private school in our new, gleaming BMW, you’d be forgiven for thinking I lead a highly privileged, contented life.
After all, I’m lucky enough to live in a sprawling, six-bedroom detached house in Warwickshire that boasts a state-of-the-art, open-plan kitchen, large garden and landscaped driveway, with underground heating to keep away the frost. I am well dressed and our four children — two girls aged 17 and 14, and boys, 12 and ten — want for nothing, and we enjoy three foreign holidays a year.
But behind the gilded facade lies an unsettling truth. Something that has caused me as much pain as it has shame for 20 years. I am a victim of financial coercive control, meaning my husband Simon keeps a tight grip on the family pursestrings, to my severe detriment.
A banker’s wife reveals how all of her spending is strictly monitored by her controlling and financially coercive husband (stock photo)
My spending is strictly monitored to the last penny. Despite appearances, I am given £20 cash a day for extras, for which I must produce receipts. It’s a phenomenon that was detailed in an article in the Mail earlier this year, where middle-class wives told of finally escaping husbands who controlled every penny, sometimes leaving them with nothing to buy little emergency supplies, such as a pint of milk or even sanitary products.
The difference for me is that I’m still very much embroiled in this sorry situation.
And, unlike those brave women whose stories I read with awe, I cannot see a way out. Simon, now 65, is an investment banking analyst on a six-figure salary with a portfolio of properties to his name.
He has several private bank accounts, but I only have access to and knowledge of the joint account.
Simon does the food shop and arranges direct debits for the utilities. But, each week, I must produce a spreadsheet detailing — with evidence — how much is required for school fees, after-school activities and basic household bills.
He transfers the funds to the last penny, with nothing left over, lest I spend it on myself — the punishment for which is docking the money from the following week. On one occasion, he cancelled a term’s music lessons because I dared to ‘borrow’ some money for a haircut.
Simon has identified my Achilles heel, you see. The children.
The thought of them suffering in any way because of the problems we, their parents, are experiencing, is abhorrent to me. I cannot allow their lives to be affected.
Not that anyone could guess the twisted dynamic between us. I am articulate, well-turned out and show a gregarious face to the world, chatting away at the school gates, writing jokey posts on the parents’ WhatsApp group. ‘Oh, what a blast life is!’ is the message I convey, no matter how unbearable things are.
And it seems I’m far from alone in this duplicity. So prevalent is this largely silent form of exploitation that the Government has included it in its forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill. The draft bill, published earlier this year, recognises economic abuse as a criminal act.
She reveals how she is given just £20 in spending money and is required to produce receipts for every purchase (stock photo)
So why don’t I leave? I don’t love my husband, and we are bitterly unhappy, so the obvious answer would be to pack my things and go, wouldn’t it? If I were to read this story recounted about someone else, I know I would be pleading with them to leave immediately.
But this sort of coercive control is insidious. I cannot see a way out. My confidence is so low that I am like a cornered animal, too cowed to make a move. And then, of course, there are the children.
So far, we’ve kept the state of our marriage secret from them. They lead a wonderful, privileged life and are so happy. How could I destroy that? Take away the expensive schooling, the beautiful house, the holidays with both Mum and Dad?
And if I did run and plead for help, what could I say? That I don’t have enough money? Look at me, in my designer boots (a gift from the last time Simon took pity on me, or felt guilty) and my nice car. I have no bruises. How pathetic and implausible would that sound?
Simon’s nasty outbursts are never directed at the children, and he pays for their schooling and the trappings of a comfortable, middle-class life. Quite simply, I cannot bear to drag them into poverty.
Yes, I know their safety is the most important thing and that this oppressive atmosphere is hardly the healthiest, but I believe I can shield them from the worst of it.
Equally, I know their big fear is their parents divorcing — so how could I do that to them?
Economic abuse is one of the most powerful ways to dominate and control a partner who, without access to money, effectively becomes a prisoner. You might ask why don’t I get help from family and friends? My parents are in their 80s, so I’ve never wanted to worry them.
I’ve confided in my brother, but he lives abroad, so there’s little he can do in practical terms. And the one time I dared to confide in a friend, Simon found the texts containing her well-meaning advice, and my life was made unbearable.
According to Women’s Aid, lack of access to cash is one of the main reasons many victims stay with an abuser. And even those who have had good careers with sizeable incomes at the start of their marriage can end up victims. Of this, I am a case in point.
She says that she cannot see a way out and is worried about the effect a divorce could have on their children (stock photo)
When I met Simon in 1999, I had a successful PR business, with disposable income, my own flat in London and a wide circle of friends.
He told me he loved me on our second date and, within weeks, was talking marriage and babies. Being an incurable romantic, it seemed like a fairy tale. But I know now that those wild declarations and hurried nuptials — within six months for us — are often the first signs of a controlling partner.
Shortly after our no-expense-spared wedding and honeymoon in the Maldives, Simon wanted to start a family. I was 35 to his 45, and he didn’t want to waste any more time waiting to be a father.
With his usual charm, he talked me into uprooting my London life and living in a commuter village in Warwickshire. He kept his London penthouse, but insisted I sell mine, the proceeds paying the bulk of the deposit on our stunning home.
Things started to turn sour after the birth of our eldest daughter. The moment we brought her home, there was a coldness on his part.
He started going out every night, telling me he hated coming home to a house full of children’s toys. Sometimes he’d stay out all night, but if I quizzed him about other women, he’d deny everything. I was accused of being paranoid and in need of help. His alibis were so plausible and his reactions so angry and upset, I’d end up believing him.
The financial control began in earnest when our daughter turned one. I wanted to return to work part-time. Simon was against it and, when the salary for the nanny I’d hired came to more than my earnings, he refused to pay the difference. I was left with no choice but to give up.
While he could be cruel, he was also capable of apology, lavishing me with roses, an amazing night out, or a piece of jewellery if he realised he’d gone too far.
She said that things started to turn sour after the birth of their eldest daughter. The moment they brought her home, there was a coldness on his part (stock photo)
By the time our fourth child was born, in 2008, I was trapped in my seemingly enviable cage. With the money under his tight control, leaving felt impossible. When the children were little, I would walk them to and from nursery without so much as the price of a coffee. I yearned to join the other mothers at Costa after drop-off, but always came up with an excuse.
On my birthday one year, some school mothers turned up at the door to take me out for lunch. Simon was working from home and told them he needed me to help him draft a letter. I was slowly being isolated — another hallmark of a controlling husband.
CCTV cameras were installed — ostensibly to keep us safe, but, I suspect, mostly to keep track of my comings and goings.
Chillingly, he’d started to access my emails and phone messages remotely. And I was forced to give up my evening run after he began following me, leaving the children on their own. Over the years, my response shifted from ranting and raving at the injustice — to which he’d respond with stony face — to seething in silence.
The worst was his pestering for sex. He was absolutely furious if I declined — which I have done for the past year and a half.
Sometimes, I try to focus on why he might be like this: is he worthy of sympathy in any way? Yes, he had cold, uncaring parents, but is that really a reason to treat another person the way he does me?
Then, last September, on a Sunday night, a monumental row erupted. Simon had been out for dinner and arrived home shortly before midnight. Furious I hadn’t kept supper for him, he proceeded to rage into the early hours.
My second eldest daughter woke and, sadly, witnessed far too much. Never before had he laid a finger on me in anger. But, this time, he grabbed my arm and yanked it behind my back, wrestling my mobile phone away from me.
A neighbour heard the fracas from our open kitchen window and dialled 999. Four police officers turned up at the door and arrested Simon. He was handcuffed and taken away in a police car.
But I refused to press charges for my children’s sake: I didn’t want them dragged into this mess.
I was told he would be released in 48 hours. I foolishly hoped this would be a lesson and the harsh treatment of me would stop.
But it was just the start of an even more harrowing chapter.
I’d always told myself I could put up with anything, as long as the children weren’t affected, but now I realised that was no longer a possibility. The next day, social services phoned to make an appointment to visit urgently.
We would have to move out into a refuge that night, when Simon would be released.
How on earth would I explain this to the children? They weren’t in any danger. This wasn’t their fault. They loved their daddy — and to see them shunted to some boarding house, bedding down like refugees? I couldn’t let this happen.
At the last moment, Simon decided to return to his flat in London, meaning we could stay in the family home. When social services arrived the next day, the intrusive questions began.
Their school was informed, and I found myself in the incongruous situation of having my family placed on an ‘at risk’ register.
I was advised that if I didn’t want my children’s case escalated to the highest level, I had to take out an emergency injunction against my husband, which I did.
Simon knows that he risks never seeing the children again should he break this rule. He has moved back to his London flat and the children and I have the home to ourselves.
Although it’s a lighter, happier place, they miss their father. I have explained that, since the big argument, Dad and I need some time apart. I’d rather they blame me than fully understand.
Such is Simon’s anger at being driven from our home that he has not given me any cash since he left. The joint account has become overdrawn, with debts mounting all the time. While he continues to pay for the house, the children’s activities and school fees, he has made it clear there is nothing for my day-to-day expenses.
Bizarrely, he continues to do the supermarket shop, dropping off the bags and studiously disregarding the list I provide each week.
When I attempted to divorce him earlier this year, Simon’s response was to threaten to cut off all money — even for the children. I halted proceedings when he said he would disappear without trace should I go ahead. I don’t disbelieve him.
Although, in part, I feel like I’ve been rescued, I also felt completely disorientated without the anchor of my husband. For the first few months I felt wobbly and shaky, so reliant was I on my oppressor.
What does the future hold? I know my only option is to rebuild my business, but, without the means to travel into work and pay for petrol and babysitters, I am effectively crippled.
For now, Simon retains control. The school fees are paid, the children remain happily oblivious and I keep my smile painted on.
I still don’t really accept or understand how someone like me ended up allowing myself to be treated like this. But if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
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