My ex is a serial financial abuser who grooms women into giving him money
As these things tend to go, it started off with love — or so I thought.
Hilariously, he slid into my DMs on Instagram, which I wouldn’t normally entertain, but he seemed normal, nice and charming.
It was refreshing to meet someone who had no qualms about saying they really liked you, really quickly, and I felt safe and secure within weeks.
He routinely referred to me as his ‘wife’ and said I was ‘the one’, which sounds hollow now, but became my reference point for how good it had been when things got bad.
He stole throughout the relationship, but the first time was when I lent him my credit card to get something he needed for a new job. When checking my statement, I saw that he’d withdrawn £1,000 in cash.
I felt sick. However, my instinct was that he was in trouble. This behaviour was so far removed from the man I’d fallen in love with, that I was concerned as opposed to angry.
He cried, apologised, and paid some of the money back — never all. His vulnerability made me feel responsible for him and, to my mind, love was nothing to do with money.
He was always broke, but claimed he sent anything he had to his child from a previous relationship, which I found admirable. Obviously, that turned out to be a lie.
When I discovered I was pregnant, I felt overwhelmed, but we had each other so I thought it would be OK. The GP even cried when we went for our initial consultation, saying that we seemed to be so in love. The bubble didn’t last long, though.
I began working two jobs to try and save. He, on the other hand, couldn’t hold down one. We had moved in together and I would find cash missing or withdrawn from my credit card again, without my knowledge.
Every time I confronted him, he insisted I was overreacting. I was already exhausted, and terrified at the prospect of having a baby alone, so I numbly went along with it, convinced he was a good person doing bad things, rather than a bad person pretending to do good things.
The paying back gradually stopped. Hiding my wallet became the new normal.
We couldn’t afford our own place in London, so we left and moved near to my parents as something told me I’d need help. Everything had to go in my name as he insisted that he had to live ‘off-grid’. Jobs came and went, and he bought things for himself such as clothes, cannabis or boxing equipment rather than paying the rent or bills.
Where we were living had little to no public transport, but as time went on he told me I was ‘too pregnant’ to drive, and so despite being a 10-minute walk from the job he had at the time, he began to routinely take my car without permission.
Prior to that I had always taken him to wherever he needed to be. After countless arguments I would have to hide my car keys, as he would be furious when I said no to him.
Eventually, he told me he was buying his own car, and that if I didn’t insure it for him — he didn’t even have a full licence — he would kill himself.
He racked up hundreds of pounds worth of parking fines, which I then had to pay as they were in my name, in addition to the running costs of the car itself.
He would continue to ask for money when he ran out of his own, but in a way that was seen to benefit me. For instance, he needed to pay his phone bill to keep in touch, or wanted petrol money in order to work and pay me back.
Once, he said he’d received a bonus and went on a spending spree. I later discovered that he’d been trying to take out payday loans out in my name but it hadn’t worked, so had made his mum get one out for him instead.
When I was readmitted to hospital with a uterus infection post-birth, he headed to London for a night out. I only found out he’d stolen my card when I was checking my balance on the ward, alone. He said he’d taken it as his own wasn’t working, and had transferred some back.
Eventually, he stopped contributing altogether and when I expressed distress at how we couldn’t pay the bills, he told me it was my fault for not fraudulently claiming housing benefits.
The probability that it has, or is, affecting someone you know is high
When my daughter was six months old, I felt strong enough to end it, although I carried on supporting him — desperate for him to have a relationship with her. I would send him screenshots of my bank account with £10 left of my overdraft, and he’d still take it.
The final straw came when he asked for money from her savings account. He has never paid me back, or contributed any kind of child support.
After I pulled back and his efforts to see his daughter ground to a halt, I began to tell friends what had happened, sick of the pretence and the shame.
That was when I first learnt about financial abuse. To my mind, this was a concept that belonged to much older, married couples with joint bank accounts and mortgages — not early thirty-something renters with Monzos.
I looked into it though, and found a report by the charity Surviving Economic Abuse stating that one in five British women have experienced financial abuse in a current or former relationship. One in five.
And given how little women, specifically, talk about money, the probability that it has, or is, affecting someone you know is high.
In recent months I’ve spoken quite a lot to the mother of my ex’s other child — we’re committed to our kids being close — and discovered that his treatment of her was almost identical to his treatment of me. She actually had to pay him off to make him leave when they broke up.
I also became aware of another woman, who he was ‘grooming’ while I was still supporting him. He’d taken over £1,200 from her in four months and had made her the guarantor of his flat which, of course, he hadn’t paid rent on. Now she is liable for that, plus damages.
Sharing my story brings me no pleasure, but I need to try and stop it happening to someone else. I carried the guilt of his actions around as if they were my own. It is only recently that I have realised that they’re not.
And the more that you shine a light on the abusive monsters under the bed, you come to realise they’re actually just broken people, living a lie.
I don’t regret what happened — my daughter is my world and we’re doing better than ever without him. Since contact stopped, I’ve worked flat-out, managed to save, pay off the £8,000 of debt, and I’m now looking to buy our first flat.
Ultimately, my message is this: If something feels wrong, pay attention to it. If you’re unsure what to do, talk to someone. And if you think it’s all your fault, I can promise you it most definitely is not.
There is no shame in having been abused. That title lies firmly at the feet of the one doing the abusing.
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