Tenille* was driving in her car on a Saturday afternoon when she heard ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams on the radio.
She really liked that song, and she thought her kids would enjoy it too, so she bought it on Apple Music. It cost her $1.20.
Five minutes later, her phone rang. Her husband’s anger was palpable through the phone line.
“Oh my god, why did you buy that song?” he raised his voice. “I’ve already bought that song. That’s such a waste of money. You’re so stupid.”
The 43-year-old felt her stomach drop. She once again found herself apologising to her husband because she hadn’t forewarned him of her intention to spend money which she had earned. She felt terrible, she recalls.
In their marriage, Tenille’s husband controlled all their finances. He managed their apps, decided their budget and analysed their spending. Every time she used her card, a notification would appear on his phone - supervision she wasn’t aware of at the time.
If she bought a coffee at work, he’d berate her for not using the coffee machine he knew her work had in the kitchen. If she went out to dinner with her friends, she would tell them her husband would transfer them when she got home. If she ever asked for the password to their bank account, he would provide a wrong one, and then call her stupid for not understanding how the apps worked.
The couple were married for ten years, but Tenille never knew her husband’s salary. The only thing she knew was what he told her, which was: “We have no money.”
She found out after their split that they were on a combined yearly income of about $300,000 - above the average household income in Australia.
Throughout their marriage, Tenille was given an allowance of $250 a week. Of that, $100 would go to the cleaners; $100 was for fruit and vegetables; and $50 was for the kids if they wanted a bite to eat after school one day.