My boyfriend and I will have been together five years in June.

It has been a rough and bumpy journey for the two of us. We both have never seen eye to eye with money. He is more frugal and I live like today is my last day.

During the first few years of our relationship, we have fought endlessly about money. He wanted me to be transparent with him about what I am using my money on, but it’s my hard-earned money, so I used it on whatever I want. I also paid half of the bills and contributed to our traveling and entertainment expenses, while he does not contribute a dime.

The first three years of our relationship — we had different banking accounts — I also found out that I was pregnant with our first child together. I also have two children from two different marriages, a teenager and an adult.

‘I spent over $5,000 remodeling his town house so we could sell it to buy a bigger house for our growing family.’

Because we were having so many arguments around money, I also thought things would get better if I caved in and gave him the transparency he so desperately wanted.

He talked me into depositing my paychecks, bonuses and child support into his bank account. My only source of income is a credit card in his name, with me listed as an authorized user.

Any time I spend money on food, pay bills, and/or pay for stuff for the kids, he talks harshly to me and tells me that I am using his money. He would never take into consideration that I also earn $98,000 a year.

He says he has not used any of the money in his account where my money is deposited, and said it’s a form of equity for us.

The first three years that we were together, he financed a brand-new car in his name for me — it cost over $45,000. I made aggressive payments every month and even took money from my 401(k) to pay off the car.

Even though the vehicle has been paid off, he refused to transfer the title into my name. We also bought a house together. He owned a town house when we first met; I spent over $5,000 remodeling it so we could sell it to buy a bigger home for our growing family.

‘Last year, I was introduced by a family member to a gambling website where I lost over $10,000.’

We used the $80,000 from the sale of his home as a down payment on our current home. The home has both of us on the title, even though it’s financed in his name solely.

The majority of purchases I’ve made in this relationship are for practical things to build this family and for my children. I did, however, make a big mistake, and last year I was introduced by a family member to a gambling website where I lost over $10,000.

It was a very low moment for myself, and I have no one other than myself to blame.

When he found out, all hell broke loose — all the name calling and accusations of me using and stealing his money. This had triggered more problems in our relationship, and we ended up seeking therapy that did not result in anything positive.

I don’t know what to do right now to protect myself. I can’t retrieve money from his bank account without him accusing me of stealing.

I have changed my direct deposits and child support to my own bank accounts, but I have deposited money in his account that I can’t touch.

What are my options with the money in his account, and the car that I paid off in his name, and the house? Do I have any rights to any of this?



You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Stuck,

Your boyfriend has used mistakes you have made in the past to exercise coercive control over your finances and, as such, over your life. You need to do three things: No. 1: Collect all paperwork and documents relating to your purchase of this house and the car, plus all of your direct deposits. No. 2: Call an attorney to discuss your options.

And No. 3: Have a bigger conversation with no boyfriend present — ideally, with the help of a counselor — about what kind of life you foresee for yourself and the vulnerabilities your boyfriend appears to have exploited to make you believe that you can’t take care of your own finances while, ironically, using your money to burnish his own.

‘If he were such a financial Svengali, he would not need your help to sell a home and purchase a more valuable one, or buy a car in his name.’

— The Moneyist

If he were such a financial Svengali, he would not need your help to sell a home and purchase a more valuable one, or buy a car in his name. He has one talent: Making your money disappear into his own accounts and assets. Taking money out of your 401(k) to pay for a car in someone else’s name shows that your boyfriend has one person’s finances as his one and only priority: his own.

You need to know the status of the home you are living in, and whether you are on the deed or the mortgage or vice versa, or neither. If the car insurance is in your name, and you are driving the vehicle, there could be a case for you to acquire ownership, if you were to take your boyfriend to small-claims court. Taking back your salary and canceling your other direct deposits is a start.

You are not weak. You are not someone who uses and steals other people’s money. That, by your own account, is behavior your boyfriend has willfully engaged in. He is the one who has plundered your finances. You are not perfect. You make mistakes. But guess what: We all make mistakes. That does not give anyone the right to parachute into our lives and take over.

Whatever strength you mustered to take back your salary, harness that. You will need it. And remember, you are not alone.

Are you experiencing domestic violence or coercive control? Call the National Domestic Violence Hotlineat 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.FreeFrom works to establish financial security for domestic-violence survivors, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence supports efforts to change conditions that lead to domestic violence and coercive control. You can also learn about creating a personalized safety plan here.

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

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