Sandra Fights Back Against Financial Control

A young brunette woman stands on a dirt road looking at the camera with a small smile.

Sandra’s* story begins when her first husband cheated on her and left the country, leaving her as the guarantor on all his debts and forcing her into bankruptcy. Sandra was left vulnerable with low self-esteem when she met her second husband.

They started a business together but were forced to close for financial reasons within two years. Sandra went back to work for her old boss, which she preferred, but her second husband didn’t like working for someone else and decided to open a second business, which Sandra had to work in. Initially Sandra worked multiple jobs to keep them afloat, before working solely in the business, including working long hours through pregnancy and as a new mum. 

“It wasn’t the picture of motherhood that I had imagined for myself. […] When I was in labour with our second child, he just walked out and went to work only asking ‘how long will you be?’ He didn’t seem to care, and his facial expressions and terse words left me feeling like I was inconveniencing him by giving birth.  I was having a home birth and he never called to check on me and I eventually called him to tell him that his son had been born.”

Sandra’s husband then decided he wanted to purchase another business. She didn’t want to, but he accused her of “holding him back.” He was able to secure a loan after moving their mortgage.

“I’ve found out since we separated, that the money for the business was actually secured against my home. He did the whole process without me, the bank never checked in with me, the broker never spoke to me, he used a lawyer I’d never met before. Then one day I was just told that I had to go in and sign the papers.”

Sandra’s husband made himself sole director, so decisions only required his signature. She was again forced to work for the business. 

“With me working all those jobs for him, as well as essentially being a sole parent to two young children, I was extremely limited in what else I could be doing – everything was revolved around him and his ambition.”

Sandra’s husband eventually walked out on her and their children, but she was still financially liable for the business and had no choice but to keep working in it. In the first months following their separation, he sent many abusive emails including threatening to trespass her for coming into the office if she didn’t reduce his salary; that way he wouldn’t be liable for child support or mortgage contributions. He then sent emails telling her that all the staff hated her and that he was interviewing people for her position even though that is against employment law.

In the days leading up to him walking out on his family, he said some particularly aggressive things to Sandra at work, and she rang a friend in tears. That friend got in touch with Aviva. 

“She told me Aviva was going to ring that day, but when they did, I didn’t answer. I was quite frozen and scared. But then I did get braver, and I made a time to come in.

“[Aviva] has been my one guiding light through it all. It was the most useful thing that I’ve been given.”

Sandra took part in Aviva’s 10-week Adult Education Programme, Courageous Steps. “Sometimes I’d feel like I didn’t belong in the setting because my husband wasn’t physically violent. […] But then there was the sick realisation of sitting in the room and realising ‘I do belong here.’ […] It was incredibly confronting, but incredibly beneficial, because you can’t process and get resolution on things that you haven’t recognised for what they are.”

Sandra’s battle with her ex is still ongoing. Her ex-husband was able to use COVID to make her redundant, and she has been unemployed since July 2020, supporting her children on a sole parent benefit with no contribution from their father.  She is also still financially liable for the business, that she has no input in or control over. She recently discovered he removed her from the company register and took over her shareholding, meaning he could liquidate the company at any time and she’d lose her home.

“He controls every financial aspect of my life, and I can’t untangle myself from it and I seem to have no rights.”

Sandra still has a long battle ahead of her. 

“But I’m so much stronger. […] I’ve grown immensely. I think I’ve pretty much shaken off the cloak that he had me wearing and I’ve uncovered who I was before all this started. He didn’t like me striving or achieving anything for myself – I couldn’t outshine him. […] It takes a long time to re-programme yourself, but I’m getting some self-belief back. I think now I’m a better version of myself; I think if I hadn’t been through all of this, I wouldn’t be driven to do all the things I’m doing now.”


*Not her real name.