People on being financially bullied, abused in relationships

By Pham Nga   April 18, 2022 | 09:02 pm PT
People on being financially bullied, abused in relationships
An angry couple is having an argument. Photo by Unsplash
Nguyen Minh Thuy, while on training abroad in 2017, had to list her daily needs and prices for her husband in Vietnam to send money.

Her husband, Duc, told her before she left the country: "I will transfer money every day. You just have to list whatever you need to buy and their prices."

The couple had agreed since the beginning that his income would be used for investing and saving while hers would be used to cover all family expenses.

But soon the 35-year-old from Hanoi's Cau Giay District tired of this agreement and complained to him several times and to mutual friends so that they could advise him.

After this he agreed to contribute to household expenses, but she says he only gives her money twice a year.

When her company sent her to a training workshop in the U.K., she had hoped it would make her husband understand and sympathize with her daily struggles with expenses at home.

But he said she could only go on condition she gives him her bank account operation details and lists her daily needs, including for food, for him to send money.

Thuy once had a party with her fellow trainees three months after arriving in the U.K, and asked him to transfer some extra money. But he claimed that since he had to take care of the children his income had decreased, and that instead of saving money she chose to waste it.

So she had to borrow money from her colleagues and promise to pay them back after returning to Vietnam. When he heard this, he scolded and threatened to divorce her.

A week later he stopped sending money.

Thuy looked for a part-time job, but he insulted and criticized her for it. She finally gave in and chose to make peace by obediently returning to being financially dependent on him.

"This is a prime example of financial bullying, a form of domestic abuse," lawyer Nguyen Hong Thai of the Hanoi Bar Association says.

Economic violence is uncommon but that is changing in modern society, she says.

A 2019 United Nations Population Fund survey on violence against women in Vietnam found 21 percent of women had experienced financial abuse by their husbands, including 12 percent at the time of the survey.

A study by the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences found 47.2 percent of women have experienced mental violence, 7.3 percent have experienced physical abuse, 4.2 percent have experienced sexual abuse and 1.8 percent have experienced financial abuse.

Vietnam has laws to penalize spouses who refuse to financially contribute to the family, control the spouse's finances or use financial or non-financial means to control their partners.

However, they entail fines of merely VND300,000-500,000 for refusing to allow family members to use common property without justifiable reasons.

"Unfortunately, this law was scrapped in 2021," Thai says.

HCMC psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam says though there are no official statistics, men can also be victims of financial abuse in the family though admittedly not in the same ratio as women.

In a 2013 poll done by VnExpress of over 1,000 readers, half said they give their entire salary to their wives, only "asking" for expense money.

Tran Trong Hung, 57, of Hai Duong Province gives his salary to his wife and complains that asking for money to spend daily is never easy.

He feels like he has been financially controlled by his wife over their 20 years of marriage since she is in charge of every penny at home.

He earns over VND10 million a month working as a civil servant, and his wife, Tien, runs a small business.

After he got married Hung decided to give his entire salary to his wife, believing he was not a person attached to money. But Tien grumbles when he asks for money, and demands to know why he needs it.

She accumulated enough money to buy land and build rooms for rent. They are all in her name and she keeps the entire income from the rentals.

He only used to be sad, not angry, since he thought she was saving and managing the money for the sake of the entire family.

However, during the last Lunar New Year, he took out more than VND1 million from his salary to buy gifts for his parents. That night she got hopping mad and they got into argument. She even threw an entire food tray away in anger.

Her sister told them then: "From now on each should keep their own money and only put in money in a common pool for food and raising the children".

Hung agreed right away. Tien, on the other hand, listed out all the expenses in the house, from food and children's education to toilet paper and others, and said she needs his entire salary to manage.

He says it is like "hell on earth" when his entire salary goes into his wife’s clutches.

Nguyen Thi Tam, a psychologist, says financial abuse makes victims feel weak, hurt, frustrated, and unappreciated.

Many spouses choose to set up a secret fund to relieve their frustration, in the process engendering doubts and losing trust in each other.

Thuy returned home and quietly opened a bank account and bought another phone, which she left in her personal locker in the office. She transfers outside earnings and unexpected bonuses to the secret account in order to have a little more money for herself.

She also wants to put money aside for herself because her love for her husband has turned into a fear of losing control.

Tran Anh Dung, 37, of Hanoi's Nam Tu Liem District, burst out laughing at a beer pub at hearing all his companions had a secret fund.

"There is no way to live without a black fund," they concluded.

Dung and his wife, Nguyen Bich Thuy, have a joint bank account that she manages. She chooses everything from clothes to shoes, gifts for grandparents and gifts he has to give his customers.

"It's nice to have someone take care of everything, but sometimes I feel like I am my wife's child," he says.

He also notes that she is determined not to give him any money if he goes drinking with his friends more than once a month. He says as a result of this his social relationships and career opportunities have dwindled over time.

After being restrained by his wife for five years, the salesman is down to only one sales channel, social networks.

Thuy believes that the "contract on the drinking table" is nothing more than an excuse for men to drink.

"My monthly sales are the lowest in the department while my wife blames me for not working hard enough to get a raise," he says with a sigh.

Once when his group of old college friends met up and hung out, Dung sat quietly when the bill came. When he returned home he begged his wife to give him some money to transfer to his friend, but she refused.

After a few incidents like that he began to lose contact with friends.

Then, instead of transferring his overtime wages to the joint account, he only gave half.

He says: "My wife makes a fuss, but I just ignore her. I'm not a prisoner to be manipulated by her. If she can't stand it, I don't mind if we get divorced".

Thuy claims she does not seek financial control over her husband. They have had two children during their five years of marriage, but his salary has not risen by a single dong, she says.

"I have to take care of food and our old parents. So why do I have to take care of my husband's drinking money?"

Though illegal, Thai believes financial bullying is alive and thriving behind closed doors in many families but not many are willing to speak up or sue their spouses.

However, this conflict ends many marriages, he says. A fifth of all divorce cases in 2021 were filed due to financially bullying by spouses.

Tam says having one spouse "managing money" in the family is fine as long as they know how to calculate and grow the family's economy.

Nevertheless, as soon as they begin living together, couples should have a candid and open discussion about finances and come to an agreement on income and spending, she says.

When it is necessary to reduce spending for a common goal, it is important to discuss and reach an agreement with the spouse so that the other person does not feel controlled, she points out.

Hung did not have the courage to stand up, but he has not shared a bed with his wife for decades. He recently met a widowed woman while working out and they fell in love. Hung intends to divorce Tien after his children marry so that he can seek his own happiness.

Thuy accepts ceding financial control to her husband for her children's sake but has a secret bank account.

"If we fall out of love, I will not feel sorry for myself, only regret I was unable to provide a happy family for my kids".

go to top