"I wish he never saw how much I made": Warning signs of economic and emotional abuse

"My significant other is constantly telling me how to live my life." A reader asks Arielle for advice

By Arielle Egozi
May 30, 2019 8:00PM (UTC)
main article image

Best Sex Ever is Salon's advice column on sex, love and relationships. Questions? Send them to Arielle@Salon.com

Dear Arielle,

My significant other is constantly telling me how to live my life. We live together and I help take care of his daughter. He wants me to work more. (I’m a stripper.) I'm pregnant right now. We made the decision to get pregnant, and now he wants me to get an abortion, but I am not mentally prepared to do that.


Men in all of my relationships have upped their budgets when we date. They want to go half on everything, then buy stuff that’s excessive — furniture, a lease that is more expensive than their budget, a new car — and expect me to keep up with what they think they need. He thinks me working every day is the answer, even though my work is an hour and a half away, instead of five minutes, now that we live together. He thinks it’s fine for me to work all night and drive. I'm drained and haven't worked in a week, and he is freaking out on me and won't talk about it. Just gives me the silent treatment and plays video games.

We signed a lease together a few months ago and we move in next month. The rent is within my budget but not his. He doesn't understand the mechanics of my work, and that I work when I feel I am most capable. I wish he never saw how much I made. I feel heavily responsible for the situation I'm in, and he's trying to get everything right now. I don’t know what the question even is. How do I become patient with him?

* * *

Dear Make Money Moves,

The only thing in this situation you’re responsible for is that you haven’t believed yourself worthy enough of a partner that respects you, your work, and your boundaries.

Close your eyes and put your hands on your belly. Feel your body expand and contract as you breathe. Notice what sensations are happening, what feelings are coming up, how you feel being in your body. Become aware of your skin, and the place where your body ends and space begins. What does your body want? What is it telling you?


Think about your partner. How do you feel being with him, being in this situation? Does your body feel safe to express itself or does it feel trapped, scared?

You talk about all the things your current and past partners have wanted from you. What do you want? If you could architect your life and your relationship (psst, you can), what would it look like?


“Give yourself permission, just for a moment, to put aside any guilt about what your partner would think about your response,” Louise Head, Ceritfied Sex Educator, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, and Relationship Coach, says. “Give yourself permission to answer this question without pressuring yourself to act on your response. My sense is that the answer will hold some information for you about what you value in a partnership, what you want to experience in a partnership, and also what you know you deserve in a partnership.”

She recommends looking at the ways in which you’ve already taken significant steps to get this ideal relationship, and acknowledging the steps you’d still need to take in order to obtain it.

“Do you currently know any difficult truths about your relationship that you are not allowing yourself to acknowledge?” asks Head. “What is keeping you from acknowledging those truths? (I bet, in all seriousness, that you have some pretty good reasons).”


Without knowing any other specifics about your relationship, what you’re describing to me is an abusive relationship, and Head agrees. “A lot of your partner’s actions are emotionally and financially abusive,” she says. “One in four women at least experience abuse in their relationships. Anyone can experience abuse — no matter how strong, successful, or powerful they are. The word abuse might not even necessarily feel like it fits for you and it doesn’t have to; however, as your journey in this particular relationship evolves, remember that even in the moments that it does not feel like it, you do have options.”

You have options, and before we explore those, let’s explore how he’s been emotionally manipulating you and exercising control over your body, your finances, and your emotional labor. Many of the behaviors you describe can be found in this Power & Control Wheel created by the Domestic Violence Intervention Project. He’s been playing into economic and emotional abuse, he’s exerting his male privilege in a very toxic way, and it seems that he uses his daughter as a way to guilt you into doing what he wants as well.

You wrote in asking how you can be more “patient” for your partner. Why do you want to be patient for him? What are you getting out of this relationship?


Let me tell you something — you are lovable. Say it to yourself out loud now. “I am lovable.” Write it down on a piece of paper and stick it to the mirror, or if you don’t feel safe to do that, keep it in your wallet or in your pocket. Repeat this to yourself every day, multiple times a day, until you believe it. Then keep saying it. You are lovable, and you deserve to be loved.

There is a wildly dangerous and age-old stigma against sex workers. I know you know this, but I want to remind you, and anyone else reading this, that sex work is work. You work hard and make good money because you’ve earned it. There isn’t a single ounce of shame your profession deserves. It’s an exhausting career, and it doesn’t end when you leave the club. Many strippers share that they feel perfectly safe when they’re working, and it’s only when they leave the club that they deal with the difficulties of their profession. It’s most often not patrons, but everyone else, that judges them, wants to “save” them, rejects them, projects laziness onto them, or treats them as easy targets for abuse. In a society like this, it makes it pretty easy to internalize that your worth is less because you do what you do; that you’re lucky that anyone wants to be with you; that you should take what you can get from a partner.

Honey, absolutely not.

You are a professional, and you know your career better than anyone. You know when it feels good for you to work and when it doesn’t, and you have the receipts to prove it. You make more money than your partner does, you know how to budget, and you know how not to burn yourself out. You’re responsible and accountable. Now, let’s look at him. He’s living beyond his means and making it difficult, inconvenient, and ultimately dangerous for you to work, as well as expecting you to pick up the slack that he’s leaving behind.


You say he wants you to work more— why doesn’t he work more instead?

He’s trying to control you and gives you instructions, and when you don’t do what he says, he gets upset and doesn’t communicate with you, manipulating you with silence as he plays video games. That’s not a partner, that’s an abuser. He’s consistently showing you that he not only doesn’t want the best for you, but that he has no problem putting your physical and emotional being in danger if it conveniences him and allows him to feel powerful. You’re pregnant and your body is shifting dramatically. Right now, your health needs to be the priority in this relationship, and being pushed and manipulated into working more hours at your extremely physically demanding job is not something that’s okay for a partner to ever insist on, even more so when he’s not pulling his own weight.

You both made the decision to get pregnant, and now he wants you to get an abortion. I don’t know where you live, but with the shit storm that is currently the news and the government’s war against non cis-male bodies, it’s vital to remember that your body and the decisions you make with it are yours. If you want to use it to strip and make money, that’s your decision. If you want to work more or less, that’s your decision. If you want to get pregnant, that’s your decision. If you want to get an abortion, that’s also your decision. No one gets to tell you what to do with your body but you, and anyone that tries is exercising abusive control — institutions included.

Ask yourself what’s really going on beneath all these layers of your relationship with him, and your relationship to yourself. You’re spending so much energy thinking about his needs — but what about yours? Who’s taking care of you? He certainly isn’t, and in your pursuit to please him, you aren’t either.


You wrote in because you know things are not OK. They aren’t. The dynamic you’ve described to me is a dangerous one, and one I would advise you to get out of as soon as you can. I imagine there are details to the story that you haven’t shared, and if you feel that you are threatened or in any kind of danger by standing up to him or leaving, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for advice on making a safety plan. Should you decide to stay pregnant, being a single mom is safer and more advisable than staying in an abusive relationship, raising your child with someone that isn’t going to put either of you first.

“If you come to a point where you feel that ending this relationship would give you more safety, peace, and freedom to live your life the way you want to live it, you’ll probably want to have a developed plan already in place to minimize any conflict or consequences as you transition out of the relationship,” says Head. “You can always begin developing that plan now, even if you don’t currently intend to leave your partner. If it is possible for you to do so, it can be a good idea to build up a personal stash of money, keep all your identity documents together in a private place, and know which local domestic violence organizations can help you out with legal advice, housing, and child care should you need it in the future. Additionally, it can be helpful to choose a trusted friend and keep some spare clothes, copies of your ID documents, and some money at that person’s house in case you find yourself in an escalated situation and need access to your own resources.”

You are smart, you are capable, you are so resilient. It will ultimately be your decision to make a choice about continuing to live with this man who clearly doesn’t care about your well-being, or leaving. The only responsibility you have in this situation is to yourself, your life, and potentially, your future child. Be compassionate with yourself. There isn’t anything to be patient for here.

Arielle Egozi

Arielle Egozi is a writer, speaker, and Instagrammer (@ladysavaj) who gets asked a lot about sex, periods and social justice. She's the co-founder of Bread, a data-fueled creative lab bringing diverse representation to advertising.

MORE FROM Arielle Egozi