real life

'My husband earns $200K a year. My weekly allowance is $200.'

This story details financial abuse. 

As told to Ann DeGrey

Each morning, I wake up in a beautifully decorated house in a posh neighbourhood. Many people look at me and think I must be "living the dream." The floors are lined with beautiful rugs, we have expensive art on our walls and my husband buys every kitchen appliance you can think of. To an outsider, my life might seem fabulous. But I am a victim of financial abuse because, while my husband Joel earns over $200,000 a year, I find myself pleading for $20 to buy new underwear.

I work from home, managing a small online business. Although it's labelled as a 'casual job,' it demands my full attention and energy. I also juggle my work from home with two young kids. However, every dollar I make goes directly into Joel’s bank account. My financial contribution to our household goes straight into his control, never to be acknowledged as mine. I don’t even have a bank account in my own name. Some women joke about being like a "1950s housewife" but I feel that’s a title that truly belongs to me.

Each week, Joel hands me $200. He calls it 'pocket money' — a term I find very demeaning. This is supposed to cover the family grocery bill and my personal expenses, from toiletries to the occasional coffee with friends. It never feels like enough, and it always comes with strings attached. 

When Joel hands me my money, I always say, "thank you" and then he reminds me that I'm lucky to have such a generous husband. Of course, the irony is not lost on me. I'm left feeling like a child receiving a weekly allowance. 

When we're out shopping, I don't have the freedom to make even the smallest purchases without his approval. If I see something I need, whether it’s underwear or a pair of shoes, I must ask him for money. The questions start: "Why do you need it? Didn't you just get one last month?" It’s so humiliating.


Watch: Coercive control. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Recently in a supermarket, I had to debate with him over whether I could buy a small punnet of blueberries for $4.50. He launched into a lecture about the kids not needing blueberries or did I secretly want to eat them all myself? 

Even my access to health care is controlled by Joel; he scrutinises each medical bill, even if it involves one of our children. I recently took one of our girls to a hearing specialist and had to ask Joel to cover that (we don't have health insurance) and he was quite angry. He even queried our daughter, asking her how bad her hearing is and then lectured me once again about "wasting money."

Even simple pleasures like buying a book or a new lip gloss is fraught with tension. I often hide small purchases or absorb the cost with the grocery budget to avoid any arguments. The need to justify every small expense just infuriates me. 

Our social life is also dictated by his financial control. An old school friend of mine asked us to have dinner with her family. Joel spent ages looking at the online menu of the restaurant my friend suggested before deciding that it was too expensive. He said I need to tell them to find a "cheap and cheerful" place or we won’t be available to see them. Yet, when a friend of his invited us somewhere nice, Joel didn’t seem to have a problem with the cost. I've turned down so many invitations, making up excuses because I know asking for extra money will lead to a dispute.


I feel terribly trapped because, while I’m not allowed to spend money outside of my "pocket money", Joel likes to spend money on the house and each luxury item he buys is just another reminder of the control he holds over me. Imagine if I asked him "Do we really need another $500 rug when you won’t let me buy blueberries?" I'm ashamed to say I am too scared to ever say that to him, he would absolutely blow up at me and, lately, I realise I just don’t have the energy to argue with him. 

The emotional toll is very heavy. I feel isolated, and my self-esteem has been chipped away by years of financial dependency on him. I’m at a stage now where I am seeking financial advice and will also try to get free counselling — obviously, I can’t take on any service that would require money. The irony of needing his permission to seek help for the situation he has caused isn't lost on me. 

My dreams are not complex: I'd love a bank account in my name, I dream of shopping without anxiety, of saying "yes" to a dinner invite without a strategic plan to afford it. And, above all, I wish I had a normal relationship where I am not controlled in any way at all. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here

Feature Image: Canva.