Would you see me on a normal day, put on my designer boots to walk our golden retriever, or run to our children's private school in our new, shiny BMW, you would be forgiven if I think I am a very privileged, satisfied customer lead life.
After all, I am lucky to be able to live in a vast detached six-bedroom house in Warwickshire that has an ultra-modern open-plan kitchen, large garden and landscaped driveway, with underground heating to keep the home away. frost. I am well dressed and our four children – two girls aged 17 and 14 and boys, 12 and 10 – want nothing and we enjoy three foreign holidays a year.
But behind the gilded facade lies a disturbing truth. Something that has caused me so much pain when it is ashamed for 20 years. I am a victim of financial coercion control, which means that my husband Simon is keeping a firm grip on family outings, to my serious disadvantage.
A banker's wife reveals how all her expenses are strictly controlled by her controlling and financially compelling husband (stock photo)
My expenses are strictly controlled until the last cent. Despite the appearance, I get £ 20 cash per day for extra & # 39; s for which I have to make receipts. It is a phenomenon that was elaborated earlier this year in an article in the Mail, where middle class wives said they finally escaped spouses who controlled every penny, sometimes leaving nothing behind to buy small emergency supplies, such as half a liter of milk or even hygienic products.
The difference for me is that I am still very involved in this unfortunate situation.
And unlike those brave women whose stories I read in awe, I see no way out. Simon, now 65, is an investment banking analyst with a six-figure salary holding a portfolio of properties in his name.
He has several private bank accounts, but I only have access to and knowledge of the joint account.
Simon does the grocery store and arranges automatic collection for the utilities. But every week I have to make a spreadsheet with details – with evidence – of how much is needed for school fees, after-school activities and basic household bills.
He transfers the money to the last cent, with nothing left, otherwise I will spend it on myself – the punishment for which the money from the following week is used. On one occasion he canceled the music lessons of a term because I dared to borrow & # 39; & # 39; for a haircut.
Simon has identified my Achilles heel, you see. The kids.
The idea that they are suffering in some way because of the problems that we, their parents, experience is an aversion to me. I cannot allow their lives to be affected.
Not that anyone could guess the twisted dynamics between us. I am outspoken, well challenged and show a cheerful face to the world, talk away at the school gates and write jokey messages in the WhatsApp group of the parents. & # 39; Oh, what an explosion is life! & # 39; Is the message that I convey, however unbearable things are.
And it seems that I am far from alone in this duplicity. This predominantly silent form of exploitation that the government has included in its forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill is so prevalent. The draft bill, published earlier this year, regards economic abuse as a criminal act.
She reveals how she has only given £ 20 in spending money and is obliged to make receipts with 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 leave, wouldn't it? If I read this story about someone else, I know I would beg them to leave immediately.
But this type of forced check is insidious. I see no way out. My self-confidence is so low that I am like a cornered animal, too crazy to make a move. And then of course there are the children.
So far we have kept the state of our marriage a secret from them. They lead a beautiful, privileged life and are so happy. How could I destroy that? Away with the expensive school, the beautiful house, the holiday with both mom and dad?
And if I ran and asked 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 felt sorry for me or felt guilty) and my beautiful car. I have no bruises. How pathetic and unlikely would that sound?
Simon's nasty outbursts are never aimed at the children, and he pays for their school and the attributes of a comfortable life in the middle class. Very simply, I cannot bear to drag them into poverty.
Yes, I know that their safety is the most important and that this oppressive atmosphere is hardly the healthiest, but I believe I can protect them against the worst.
I also know that their great fear is that their parents are divorcing – so how can 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 may wonder why I don't get help from family and friends? My parents are in their 80s, so I never wanted to worry.
I trusted my brother, but he lives abroad, so he can't do much. And the only time I dared to trust it with a friend, Simon found the lyrics with her well-intended advice, and my life was made unbearable.
According to Women & # 39; s Aid, a lack of access to cash is one of the main reasons why many victims stay with an abuser. And even those who have had a good career with substantial incomes at the start of their marriage can become victims. I am a good example of this.
She says she can't see a way out and is worried about the effect that a divorce could have on their children (stock photo)
When I met Simon in 1999, I had a successful PR company, 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 a few weeks he spoke about a marriage and babies. Because it was an incurable romantic, it seemed like a fairy tale. But I now know that those wild declarations and hurried marital conditions – within six months for us – are often the first signs of a controlling partner.
Shortly after our non-cost-saving wedding and honeymoon in the Maldives, Simon wanted to start a family. I was 35 to 45 and did not want to waste any more time waiting to become a father.
With his usual charm, he told me to live my life in London and live in a commuter village in Warwickshire. He kept his penthouse in London, but insisted that I sell mine, the proceeds paid most of the down payment on our beautiful home.
It started to get sour after the birth of our oldest daughter. The moment we brought her home, there was a chill on his side.
He started going out every night and told me that he hated coming home to a house full of children's toys. Sometimes he stayed outside all night, but if I questioned him about other women, he would deny everything. I was accused of being paranoid and in need of help. His alibi & # 39; s were so plausible and his reactions so angry and angry that I would eventually believe him.
The financial audit started in earnest when our daughter became one. I wanted to go back to work part-time. Simon was against it and when the salary for the babysitter I had hired was more than my earnings, he refused to pay the difference. I had no choice but to give up.
Although he could be cruel, he was also able to apologize, spoil me with roses, a great night out, or a piece of jewelry if he realized he had gone too far.
She said things started to get sour after the birth of their oldest daughter. The moment they brought her home, there was a coldness on his side (stock photo)
By the time our fourth child was born, in 2008, I was stuck in my seemingly enviable cage. With the money under his strict control, leaving felt impossible. If the children were small, I would take them to the day care center at no cost without the price of a coffee. I longed for the other mothers at Costa after the drop-off, but always came up with an excuse.
On my one-year birthday, a few mothers from school came to the door to take me out for lunch. Simon worked at home and said he needed me to help him write a letter. I was slowly isolated – another characteristic of a controlling spouse.
CCTV cameras were installed – supposedly to keep us safe, but I suspect it was mainly about following my actions.
Strangely enough, he had been able to access my e-mails and telephone messages remotely. And I had to give up my evening flight after he had followed me, leaving the children alone. Over the years, my reaction changed from furious and furious about the injustice – to which he responded with a stony face – to seething in silence.
The worst thing was his harassment of sex. He was absolutely furious if I refused – what I have done for the past year and a half.
Sometimes I try to focus on why he might be like this: is he in no way worthy of sympathy? Yes, he had cold, indifferent parents, but is that really a reason to treat another person the way he does to me?
Then, last September, on a Sunday evening, a monumental row broke out. Simon had been out to dinner and came home shortly before midnight. I had not eaten furiously for him, he raged until the early hours.
My second oldest daughter woke up and unfortunately saw way too much. Never before had he put a finger on me in anger. But this time he grabbed my arm and pulled it behind my back as he wrestled my cell phone away from me.
A neighbor heard the fracas from our open kitchen window and called 999. Four police officers came to the door and arrested Simon. He was handcuffed and taken into a police car.
But I refused to bring charges against my children: I didn't want them to be dragged into this mess.
I was told that he would be released within 48 hours. I falsely hoped that this would be a lesson and that the harsh treatment of me would stop.
But it was just the beginning of a moving chapter.
I had always told myself that I could tolerate everything as long as the children were not affected by it, but now I realized that that was no longer possible. The following day social services called to make an appointment to visit urgently.
We would have to move to a hiding place that night when Simon was released.
How on earth could I explain this to the children? They were not in danger. This was not their fault. They loved their father – and to see how they were being sent to a boarding house, resigning themselves as refugees? I could not let this happen.
At the last minute, Simon decided to return to his flat in London, which meant that we could stay in the family home. When social services arrived the next day, the intrusive questions started.
Their school was informed and I found myself in the unconventional situation that my family was on a & # 39; risk register & # 39; was placed.
I was advised that if I did not want the case of my children to escalate to the highest level, I had to make an emergency ban against my husband, which I did.
Simon knows that he runs the risk of never seeing the children again if he breaks this rule. He moved back to his flat in London and the children and I have the house to ourselves.
Although it is a lighter, happier place, they miss their father. I explained that, since the big argument, my father and I need some time. I would rather blame them than fully understand them.
That is Simon's anger to be driven out of our house that he has not given me money since he left. The joint account has become exaggerated and the debts are always higher. While he continues to pay for the house, the children's activities and the school fees, he has made it clear that there is nothing for my daily expenses.
Strangely enough, he continues to do the grocery store, drop bags and carefully ignore the list that I deliver every week.
When I tried to divorce him earlier this year, Simon's answer was to threaten to cut off all the money – even for the kids. I stopped the procedure when he said he would disappear without a trace if I continued. I don't believe him.
Although I feel that I have been saved in part, I also felt completely disoriented without the anchor of my husband. The first few months I felt wobbly and shaky, I was so dependent on my oppressor.
What does the future hold? I know my only option is to rebuild my business, but without the resources to go to work and pay for gas and babysitters, I am effectively crippled.
Simon now retains control. The school fees are paid, the children are fortunately not informed and I let my smile light up.
I still do not accept or understand how someone like me ultimately treated myself that way. But if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
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