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Family Ties to Financial Abuse 

by Sherry Lutz Herrington

Once upon a time, or at least that’s how we’re told stories start.  I’m beginning to think maybe it’s true.  For those of us who have endured financial abuse, the question arises, when did it start? 

For me, I have always seen my financial abuse as something that happened during my marriage, and that’s not untrue.  But is that where it began? 

In talking with several other women who’ve endured financial abuse I suddenly noticed a pattern: all our mother’s dealt with financial abuse, at least after their divorces.  I have no idea if my mother was financially abused during her marriage to my father, but I know it was a struggle to get him to pay child support.  I think it was rare, but it happened, and she had to figure out how to feed all 5 of us kids, whether she got money from him or not. 

In listening to the stories these women shared I began to wonder if this is some kind of a repeating pattern.  It’s common knowledge that as humans, we repeat our patterns in an attempt to work through them and learn a new way.  We usually don’t even realize this is what we’re doing, but still it happens. 

This makes me think that perhaps, we as children witnessing our mothers being financially abused, end up choosing partners who financially abuse us.  Thus, giving us the opportunity to work through our issues and try to break the pattern. 

I’m no psychologist but it did astound me when I realized how common it was for women who have been financially abused to have grown up in households where it occurred. 

Remember the phrase “those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it?” 

I wonder if part of our healing needs to be to look back at our childhood experiences and heal those wounds so we can break the pattern of experiencing financial abuse.  If we look at our childhood money memories, we will see what we learned by example.   

Did you witness your parents fighting about money?  A lot of us did.  Do you and your partner fight about money?  If so, is there a connection?  Are the arguments similar?  Is there a pattern that you can recognize? 

Maybe you saw your mother struggle because she had to support you and your siblings alone. Did she work multiple jobs, cut coupons, make you wear hand me downs, or other things that indicate that she was strapped for cash?  If so, then do you see yourself repeating the patterns?  Are you always struggling to make ends meet?   

Dig deeper, do you remember your father withholding money from your mom in any way, either during the marriage or, if they divorced, after the marriage ended?  Is that something that has happened to you?  

As we know, financial abuse can be perpetrated in a variety of ways. You can read further about it in my 9 Key Indicators of Financial Abuse.

If you unpack the types of financial abuse that you endured or are enduring, are they similar to what your mother experienced? 

I don’t have all the answers, I just wanted to raise the question.  I think it’s an interesting potential correlation and wanted to challenge you to examine it in your life.   

Once you dig into these questions and uncover what you witnessed, then it’s time to address how to fix it, or at least break the pattern.  We can’t change the past, but we can learn from our history.   

Again, I’m not a therapist, so you decide whether you need professional help to dig through this.  To start, I’d suggest you write out the money stories from your childhood that stand out.  Next, see if you are repeating any of the patterns that you witnessed.  If you are, focus on those ones first. 

Take each one and write out how you felt as a child witnessing financial abuse.  See if what you feel with your adult corollary experience is similar.   

Sit with the emotional experience long enough to get a sense of what the takeaway was.  It could be anything from shame to anger or anything in between.  

It’s the emotion behind the act that needs to be uprooted. 

Once you understand the emotions you felt as a child and allow yourself to feel the emotions you have as an adult, then you can begin to break the pattern.   

Write a letter to your younger self explaining that she was not to blame for what happened to your mother.  Help her forgive herself.  Show her that she was just a child and that whatever happened was beyond her control.  Ask her to pass that burden over to you as an adult.  You can handle the emotional fallout as your mature self and see rationally that what happened to your mother wasn’t your fault. 

You can then begin to unpack what happened or is happening to you as an adult and step up and deal with it as a capable, mature adult. 

You are likely coming at the issue with the emotional response your child-self carried.  Instead, think about it rationally, logically, and see what needs to be done to repattern yourself and learn to overcome the patterns that you inherited. 

There is nothing keeping you from dealing with your situation head on as an adult but the emotional restraints of your childhood.  Separating the child from the adult is a huge piece of the puzzle.  It’s learning how to stand up for yourself as an adult which you couldn’t do as a child.   

Letting go of the patterns we carry from our childhood will help us to release the old and allow a new way of dealing with financial abuse. 

Be brave, stop laying blame on anyone else and take action to move your financial healing forward.  Money is emotional and we can’t pretend that when things aren’t working that there isn’t a psychological component.  There is. 

Learning from our family history is not only a great way to understand why we’ve endured what we’ve been through as adults but it’s also an opportunity to change how we deal with it.   

Step into your adult power and face your patterns so you can change your future. 

Financial abuse could be a learned pattern.  It’s up to you to determine if you witnessed it happening as a child and adopted the need to repeat that pattern until you can break it and repattern yourself.  Moving forward often means stepping back and looking at your history so that you can change how you live now. 

2 thoughts on “Family Ties to Financial Abuse ”

  1. You’re welcome! I’m glad to hear that you’re open to exploring various topics. If you have any specific questions or areas of interest you’d like to delve into, please feel free to share them. Whether it’s about the latest advancements in technology, recent scientific discoveries, thought-provoking literary works, or any other subject, I’m here to offer insights and assistance. Just let me know how I can help, and I’ll do my best to provide valuable information and engage in meaningful discussions!

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