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Relationships, debt and domestic abuse

All relationships can sit on a spectrum of healthy to unhealthy. But, some relationships cross the line and become an abusive relationship. We work closely with experts like Refuge, Relate and Broxtowe Women’s Project to make sure we properly understand and can support you with debt, relationships and domestic abuse.

Relationships and debt

Would it surprise you to learn that financial issues are one of the main triggers for arguments in relationships? In fact, debt can result in secrecy in relationships or leave one partner feel like they’ve let the otherdown.

As part of looking after your wellbeing, we want you to understand the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships – and know where to go for help and advice should you need it.

What is a healthy relationship?

Relationships aren’t just dating. You have relationships with your friends, family members and work colleagues – as well as girlfriends, boyfriends, fiancés and partners. While every relationship is completely unique, there are some common themes that make up a healthy relationship.

Healthy relationships are when both people are:

  • Communicating
  • Respectful
  • Trusting
  • Honest
  • Equal
  • Enjoying personal time away from each other
  • Making mutual choices, like financial decisions

When is a relationship unhealthy?

An unhealthy relationship is where one or more person involved shows behaviours that are not founded on mutual respect for the other person.

Not all relationships are perfect, but if a relationship falls into the unhealthy category – then you may benefit from some support from a mental health organisation.

Unhealthy relationships aren’t necessarily abusive, but if you’re unsure then you can contact professionals like the domestic abuse helpline for confidential help and advice.

You may be in an unhealthy relationship is if your partner is:

  • Not communicating
  • Disrespectful
  • Not trusting
  • Dishonest
  • Trying to take control
  • Only spending time together
  • Pressured into activities
  • Unequal economically

Abusive relationships

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour by an abuser to control their partner. It can happen at any point in a relationship, including after a relationship has ended.

We work closely with Refuge, who run the national domestic abuse helpline. At PayPlan, all of our advisers are trained to look out for signs of abuse and are committed to getting everyone the support they need.

Domestic abuse is a crime. It is never the fault of the person who is experiencing it. And, it can happen to anyone.

Abusive relationships can include:

  • Communicating in a hurtful or threatening way
  • Mistreating or controlling 
  • Accusing the other of cheating when it’s untrue
  • Denying their actions are abusive
  • Isolating their partner from others

Spotting the signs of an abusive relationship

If you’re unsure whether you, or someone you love, is in an abusive relationship – Refuge have put together some questions that will help to spot the signs of an abusive relationship:

  • Is your partner jealous and possessive?
  • Are they charming one minute and abusive the next?
  • Are you starting to walk on eggshells to avoid making them angry?

Do they…

  • tell you what to wear, where to go, who to see?
  • constantly put you down?
  • play mind games and make you doubt your judgment?
  • control your money?
  • pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to?
  • monitor or track your movements or messages?
  • use anger and intimidation to frighten and control you?

Debt and domestic abuse

Domestic abuse refers to a pattern of incidents of controlling behaviour, violence and abuse. It can be physical or psychological.

In most cases abuse is by a partner or ex-partner. But it can also be caused by a family member or carer and can happen during a relationship or after it has ended.

Domestic abuse can happen as a result of money problems within a relationship. A lack of money or a debt can cause conflicts, and this can result in one person controlling the other – physically or verbally. However, you may be unaware that you are experiencing domestic abuse.

You may find that finances are restricted, money is taken away from you or you may…

  • not know your household income or bills
  • be forced to work, or not allowed to work 
  • have debts taken out in your name without knowledge

If any of the above apply to you, get in touch with an organisation that can help.

Domestic Violence Disclosure

Are you concerned that yours or a loved-one’s partner has had a history of violence? Clare’s law is the Domestic Violence Disclosure scheme. It allows you to ask your local police force about the information they hold on a person in relation to domestic abuse offences and convictions. Have a look at our resource on Clare’s law for disclosure guidance.

Economic abuse

Economic abuse is a common form of domestic abuse. It involves a current, or former, partner controlling your ability to get, use or save money. It also covers other economic resources like stopping you from going to work, taking your money, preventing you from accessing money, damaging your possessions or putting debts in your name.

The modern world that we live in can make this issue even worse. Technology can give an abuser quick and easy access to online accounts.

Examples of online economic abuse include:

  • Taking out online loans, debts or overdrafts in the person’s name without their consent
  • Tracking or hacking into a person’s online bank accounts to control or monitor their activity
  • Denying access to the victim’s individual or joint online bank account
  • Identity theft which can negatively impact someone’s credit rating
  • Hacking into a person’s online benefit account to make changes to the account and payments
  • Leaving vexatious negative reviews on a someone’s online business profile

Every day, Refuge helps more than 6,600 women and children who have experienced economic abuse. Their tech team can help by:

  • Protecting their location 
  • Securing online accounts
  • Helping secure online financial accounts
  • Reporting online harassment and stalking to tech companies and the police

Where to get help

If you feel you or somebody you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please contact the appropriate organisations immediately for help and advice.

We’d advise getting in touch with:

  • Galop – the national LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline. Call 0800 999 5428 or email help@galop.org.uk
  • Live Fear Free Helpline – Welsh Women’s Aid can support you in Welsh, English and any other languages. Call 0808 80 10 800
  • ManKind – confidential help for male victims of domestic abuse and male victims of domestic violence across the UK. Call 01823 334244
  • National Domestic Abuse Helpline – if you are experiencing domestic abuse, then you are not alone. Contact the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is run by Refuge. Call: 0808 2000 247
  • Scottish Women’s Aid – Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline. Call 24/7 on 0800 027 1234

Frequently asked questions on debt and relationships

1. What should I do if someone confides in me that they’re experiencing domestic abuse?

If someone confides in you that they’re experiencing domestic abuse then there are things you can do to help.

  • Listen, and take care not to blame them.
  • Acknowledge it takes strength to talk to someone about the abuse.
  • Give them time to talk, but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to.
  • Tell them nobody deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what the abuser has said.
  • Support them as a friend – encourage them to express their feelings and allow them to make their own decisions.
  • Don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they’re not ready – that’s their decision and it may put them at more risk.
  • Ask if they have suffered physical harm – if so, offer to go with them to a hospital or GP.
  • Help them report the assault to the police if they choose to be ready to provide information on organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse.

2. Debt is affecting my relationships with family, what can I do?

The emotional impact and stress from debt, redundancies or divorce can put strain on the people closest to you. In fact, that’s why some people think keeping debt a secret is the answer. Have a look into our section on how family is affected by debt.

If you’re worried about how to talk to your family about money, then follow our three tips on how to have a conversation about money:

  1. Prepare the setting and time of your talk – without putting too much pressure on this, have a think about where you would feel comfortable to have the conversation. Would you like to chat face-to-face, video call or phone? Also, who else is likely to be involved in the conversation? Choose your time of day as well – if it’s a more serious conversation then make sure you have enough time to chat through everything you need to.
  2. How to start the conversation – starting a conversation can be hard, especially if it’s important or something you’re worried about. If you’re in a similar situation to something that has happened to a friend, or that you’ve seen on TV – then you can begin by telling that story to get onto the topic. If that doesn’t apply to you, then a few suggestions to start the conversation are: ‘I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?’ or ‘I think we have different ideas about [blank], I’d like to hear your thinking on this.’
  3. Conversational tips – getting emotional is completely valid, but getting really angry or upset might interfere with the outcome you’re seeking. Therefore, this conversation requires your mind to be clear and logical. Also, try not to interrupt the person you’re talking to and avoid being judgemental.

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