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Being in a couple can have many monetary advantages.
From sharing rent to each chipping in for groceries, the financial burden of simply Being Alive at the moment may be eased by having someone to lean on. Someone who could help pay for dinner if you were short that month.
While relationships can be a positive for your bank account, if the partnership turns sour or a power imbalance begins to grow, being financially intertwined with the person you share a bed with can quickly become a burden.
Who can afford rent and bills by themselves in this economy? With interest rates not seen in New Zealand since the early nineties, I’d like to see them.
As well as the cost of living forcing people to begrudgingly bunker down with their ex, financial abuse is also a very serious situation and the two can’t really be conflated.
There’s a difference between staying in a rental with a partner because the property market is cooked and you need to save a deposit for a couple of months, versus being cut off from your own money in a relationship.
Counsellor Laressa Donaldson tells VICE that to be financially stuck in a relationship can start out as needing to borrow money to get by here and there, to then being manipulated by an insidious power imbalance.
“Be mindful that people can change, relationships can become unhealthy and therefore it’s important to still have financial independence in case you decide to separate and things get tense,'“ Donaldson said.
Here’s what to do if you feel like you’re financially stuck in a relationship.
Laressa’s first tip is to begin to educate yourself on financial literacy. By understanding how money works you can make informed financial decisions and discover if there are steps to take to gain some financial independence before leaving.
One of these steps is to open up a bank account that is solely for you. If you believe your partner may not be happy about this decision, then receiving your statements online (rather than paper) may be a safe option.
“Financial dependency can elicit other forms of dependency and potential harm to people,” said Donaldson. “By maintaining financial independence it places partners in a position where they can make informed financial decisions and they have protection and control over their money should the relationship become unhealthy or abusive.”
While educating yourself on money, how to manage it and how to keep it safe, Donaldson recommends building a strong support network around you who can help if you decide to leave the relationship.
“They may be able to offer support in the form of accommodation for a while or just listening. Maybe they can help to take care of your children or animals if you have them or support you in setting up bank accounts, or meeting with lawyers.”
On the note of lawyers, Donaldson recommends learning about your rights when it comes to financial dependency and abuse and to connect with your local community law centre to discuss your situation and options.
Other resources for New Zealanders include Shine and the Women’s Refuge if the relationship becomes violent or dangerous.
According to the New Zealand Bank Association, you can protect yourself from financial dependency (which could turn into abuse) by not sharing your personal identification number (PIN) with anyone else, and being careful about setting up joint bank accounts with your significant other, as joint accounts can’t protect you against financial abuse.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a huge difference in not being able to afford to leave a healthy relationship versus being a victim of financial abuse, but it’s important to understand both and to be proactive when it comes to your money because ultimately, money is your independence.
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