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You May Be in a Relationship With a Financial Bully

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Are you or someone you know the victim of financial bullying?

Theres a one in 10 chance you could be, according to a study from Credit Karma and Harris Interactive.

According to the survey, 10% of Americans tag their spouse or partner as a "financial bully," with men and women seeming to be equal-opportunity budget bullies. The problem is so bad among young Americans that 22% of married couples between the ages of 22 and 34 would get a divorce if "money was no object."

Credit Karma defines a financial bully as "someone who uses his or her influence or strength to intimidate others and force them to do what they want. Financial bullies intimidate and manipulate their partners by controlling all of the household finances."

The consumer credit firm offers the following red flags:

  • Your spouse or partner withholds money from you -- even if it's your money.
  • Your spouse or partner blocks you from a bank account or credit card account.
  • Your spouse or partner will make you explain even minimal purchases, and demand to see receipts.
  • Your spouse or partner threatens to leave the relationship, knowing that it could cause you financial stress.
  • Your spouse or partner makes you feel guilty about your money habits.
  • Your spouse or partner puts you on an allowance and bans you from using a credit card.
  • Your spouse or partner doesn't let you go shopping by yourself.

Credit Karma says financial bullying is about a breakdown in communication between couples, with one spouse prone to lying about money and the other prone to punishing that behavior.

"The survey results are very sad for these couples," says Rachel Sussman, a relationship expert and therapist working with Credit Karma who contributed to the survey. "Financial bullying is an indicator of a lack of trust. Open communication and honesty need to be the foundation of all healthy relationships."

If you believe that youre the victim of a money bully, Credit Karma advises that you confide in a trusted source such as a financial adviser or close family member. If the emotional toll is alarmingly high, seeing a therapist can help too.

As the company puts it, many couples will fight over finances, but financial bullying only escalates the problem.

It wont go away until the bullied party stands up for his or herself, gets help and opens up a healthy line of communication with their bullying spouse.