These days, there’s a lot of attention being focused on the subject of bullying. This emphasis is well justified. The whole bullying experience tends to be destructive and wreak long-term consequences. As one who was, at times, both bullied and a bully as a kid, I can testify that while I have almost repressed the former experience, I’ll never be able to live down the latter. I join the chorus of those arguing the more we can reduce bullying, the better off society will be.
It’s fitting, too, that we are finally getting around to acknowledging there is such a thing as financial bullying, just a couple eons after the first spouse was castigated for shelling out too many beaver pelts for a bushel of corn.
The typical financial bully, it seems to me, falls into a particular subcategory of humankind: the garden variety control freak. Financial bullies closely monitor credit cards, seize their significant others’ paychecks, and dictate the budgetary terms by which their partners will abide, among other controlling acts. If that’s not a perfect descriptor of Joe or Jane Control Meister, what is?
To the list of signs that you are the victim of financial bullying, I will add another. It is one with which I’m woefully familiar. Yes, I too was the target of a financial bully. Actually, I was the victim of — not one, but several — big bad bullies who liked nothing more than pushing me around. I’ll get into that tawdry tale later.
First, let’s examine some of the telltale signs of financial bullying.
You’re a bully if . . .
Start the laundry list of financial bullying with the issue of allowances. The act of putting someone on an allowance is fine if you are a parent, but can’t be justified if you are a spouse. What’s next, promising an offending bed partner a visit by the Tooth Fairy if he shows responsibility? It is far better, say experts, to ensure that both spouses are on allowances. That’s called living within a budget.
Speaking of budgets, another act of bullying occurs when the bully freaks over his or her significant other slipping up and going over budget on occasion. A simple reminder that both partners are expected to live up to the terms of the agreed-to budget is sufficient, the experts report. There is no need to scream that the other party ought to be caged in the same cell with Bernie Madoff.
There are few more obvious scarlet letters attesting to a bully’s true nature than the act of trying to remove credit cards from a spouse’s possession. If too many purchases are going to plastic, it’s time to set boundaries on what purchases should or shouldn’t be put on credit cards. Taking away plastic could be the bully’s gateway to seizing the spouse’s car keys, denying him or her TV privileges and eventually sending the other to bed without supper.
Dividing spare cash inequitably is yet one more sign of a bullying individual. If there is a little extra money at the end of a month, each spouse should claim half. No one spouse should abscond with the lion’s share of the dough. For instance, it’s a clear sign of bullying if a husband takes sufficient amounts of the extra cash to buy himself a Rolex watch while allowing his wife just enough for a PEZ dispenser.
One more sign
I’ve scoured the lists of bullying monetary behaviors but have not found one list that cites what I believe to be an obvious signpost of a dictatorial bully. And this particular action is one I’d like to add to the list.
The action is bullying your partner by calling him a miserly, penny-pinching cheapskate.
It is this bullying act of which I’ve been victim. Just because I purchased the relationship’s first 15 dinners out on two-for-one coupons, insisted on entering movie theaters through fire escapes, forgot to remove price tags from holiday gifts bought at Bubba’s Bargain Basement and spent entire romantic getaways searching the Web for zero percent APR credit cards, there’s no excuse for me to come under a barrage of bullying bombast.
As bruised and battered as I have been by the bullying, I take pride in the fact that I placed the money saved in the best savings account I could find. With interest, I now have enough to graciously treat my date to movies, as long as they aren’t at theaters showing first-run films.
If your partner is a pushy, browbeating bruiser on money matters, try getting him or her to resolve money issues by talking them out sensibly and calmly.
If you can pull that off, you will have earned from friends a complimentary exhortation: “Bully for you!”