One thing that I’ve come to realize, not just as a victim of financial abuse, but also in hearing stories from so many other survivors, is that you must be willing to fight. You must choose your own side. Stand up for yourself and get strong.
Anyone who has been subjected to financial abuse is an underdog.
Abusers are bullies. Some more obviously than others. Whatever it looks like from the outside, don’t let the world tell you otherwise. If you are being financially abused, you are dealing with a bully.
Some situations are more obvious than others. Financial abuse comes in so many forms it’s hard to identify them all. If your partner controls all the money, keeps you on a tight, often unrealistic budget, then it’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows what’s happening. If the situation is less obvious, he runs up credit card debt and blames you. If he’s telling everyone you have a spending problem, it might be hard to convince anyone, even yourself (because he’s gaslighting you), that you’re being financially abused.
However, if you are being financially abused, then it’s time to stand up to the bully and fight for the underdog.
How do you stand up for yourself? It’s not easy, but if you follow the steps below you can do it. It’s time to be brave. It’s time to be strong and fight for yourself. To take back your financial life and get out from under the control and manipulation that is financial abuse.
Step 1: Admit you’re being financially abused.
Whatever the situation, the first thing you must do is recognize and acknowledge that you are being financially abused. (If you’re not sure, download a copy of the 9 Indicators of Financial Abuse from the website www.strongwomenthriving.com.)
Admit you have a problem, as they say. Not that you’re the problem; you’re not. See that you’re being financially abused and bullied. Recognize that you’re the underdog in the relationship.
Step 2: Be ready to make a change.
Once you admit it, then you need to be ready to change the situation. Deciding it’s time to stop the abuse may be the hardest step. Remember, this is eating at the core of your relationship. But being ready to change isn’t easy or simple.
Are you ready to fight for yourself, the underdog?
You must find your strength in order to be ready to change. You are the only one who can change it. An abusive partner is getting what he wants so he is not likely to want to change things. It’s up to you to decide you are done putting up with the bullshit.
Step 3: Make a plan.
Once you’re ready to change the situation then the next step is figuring out what needs to change and how to make it happen. No one knows but you what you need to do. I do suggest you make a plan and get things lined up, because if you are dealing with any other kind of abuse in addition to financial abuse, then you have to be sure you’ll be safe. If you have children to think about, then be sure to take their safety into consideration, too.
Look for resources that can help you out in whatever way you need. If you want to go to counseling first and your spouse is willing, great, then take that route. If you need to get a job so you have some income of your own, then do that first. If you need a place to stay, line it up before you tell your abuser you’re leaving.
This step is critical. You need a plan. You need to have support and safe people you can trust.
Step 4: Implement your plan.
Again, if there are steps that you can take before you leave, if you decide that’s your best option, then take those quietly and safely. Stash your cash, build up a reserve, get your own bank account or credit card. Whatever it is that you need to do in order to have the resources to leave. Take those steps first.
Then leave if that’s what’s best for your situation.
It may not be easy, but in the end, it is often the only way to stop financial abuse. And even leaving doesn’t always stop it, but it will give you more control over your own life and your own finances.
Step 5: Rinse and repeat.
Well, it’s not exactly rinse and repeat because once you’ve left, you’ll never have to leave again. But figuring out what’s next, making a new plan, and implementing the new plan will take you to the next level of recovery.
Recovering from financial abuse is a journey. Leaving the relationship is a start. It’s the most important step, but it’s really the start of the journey. Once you’ve left, you’ll need to keep fighting for yourself over and over again.
Finding the inner strength to fight for yourself against the bully that is financially abusing you is tough, but I know you can do it.
Follow the steps; admit what’s happening, decide it’s time to change things, make a plan, and implement the plan. Then keep going through the steps again and again as you continue to recover from financial abuse. One day you’ll wake up and realize all that is in the past, and you are financially successful and secure.
Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (https://strongwomenthriving.com/), a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join our FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/womensurivingfinancialabuse