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Financial Gaslighting

Financial abuse is a nightmare. Gaslighting is a nightmare.

Combine the two and you may just start to feel more than a little crazy and completely freaked out. 

Financial Gaslighting – Financial abuse often undermines your self-confidence regarding handling finances.  It can make you question whether you know how to manage your money. It can make you feel insecure about finances in general.  There are any number of ways you may be impacted by financial abuse beyond the obvious ones: ending up broke, in debt, with damaged credit, etc.  It’s likely you will have psychological scars as well as financial scars.  

If someone is gaslighting you, they manipulate and control you in a way that makes you question reality.  They may confuse you and make you feel like you are the problem.  What an awful feeling this can be.  If you are the victim of gaslighting and your perpetrator applies this technique to your financial situation, then you are being subjected to financial gaslighting.

Wow, double nightmare if ever there was one!

Let’s walk it back a bit and look at what this combination could look or feel like.

Suppose your partner goes out and spends money without your knowledge or approval. This could be financial abuse. Then suppose you find out, confront him, and he denies it. Then he manipulates you into believing he didn’t do it.  He might claim it didn’t happen at all. Or he may say that you were the one that spent the money or told him to spend it.  

Remember, emotionally abusive people are masters of manipulation.  It may seem impossible that a person could twist the story to the point that you think you were the one who spent the money, but when a gaslighter is at work that’s exactly the type of thing they do.

They make you question yourself, your reality, everything you know to be true.

They make you feel crazy, like you’re losing your mind. And they convince you that you caused the problem. That’s gaslighting.  

Financial abuse is sometimes hard to detect. Combine it with gaslighting and the twists and turns of the abuser could make it almost impossible to figure out what is really happening.

If you find yourself questioning what happened or how it could have happened and your abuser is telling you different stories at different times, then it might be time to stand up and start to push back.  It would be wise to start tracking all your own spending. Then you can see when other charges appear on your credit card or bank account.

Having hard proof of your reality will help you to determine what is not your responsibility or fault.  It will make it easier to defend yourself and to understand what is going on.  This doesn’t mean a gaslighter won’t still try to turn it around and make it your fault.  It simply means you’ll be able to understand when it happens.

Financial Gaslighting
Financial Gaslighting

Learning to unravel the trail of lies will help you to figure out how to move forward and how to address the behavior as well as the abuse.

Every situation is unique, so it’s difficult to say what will be the best way to handle any given scenario.  I encourage you to start writing down every time you are told a story.  Keep track of everything your abuser tells you, so you have a record of what he said and when.  This will help you to stay clear on the truth.  Remember, his goal is to throw you off and make you think the financial disaster he’s created is your fault.  It’s not.

If he tries to undermine your confidence by telling you that you don’t understand how money works, then fight back.  Find out how money works!  Read up on whatever it is that is the issue.  Perhaps he’s investing in the stock market and losing money but blaming it on the market and saying you just don’t understand.  Then find a good resource, whether it’s a book, an expert you can talk to, a video, whatever works for you. Learn how the market works.  

Also, dig into what he’s doing and ask him to explain it.  Don’t be shy, get curious.  Best not to blame or shame him.  That will likely bring out more narcissistic abusive characteristics.  But you can act interested.  See if he can show you step by step what he’s done.  You will likely get the brush off.  Don’t let that deter you.  Ask for the paperwork; ask to see the site he’s using and look at his history.

Remember, knowledge is power.

Do yourself a favor and get knowledgeable on whatever area of finance he’s using to target you.  Don’t let him get the upper hand and try to convince you that you don’t need to know or couldn’t possibly understand.  

The only way to overcome any type of abuse is to have the courage to outgrow the situation and decide to change it.

Challenge yourself to figure this out and then do it.  Take it one piece at a time.  If he pushes back and threatens you, find a way to go around him to learn how to handle the financial situation that he’s gaslighting you about.  Understand that this is happening to you.  You are not the problem.

He will try to twist things around and get into your head. Once you are clear what’s happening, then you can step back and figure out what he’s doing and how he’s manipulating the truth.  Keep a clear focus on facts and remember that the rest is his manipulation of the truth.   

Find a way to ground yourself and stay clear of his manipulation. This will help you to identify what’s really going on and what you can do about it.

Chances are you won’t be able to change his behavior, but you can change your own reaction to his behavior.  Once you identify the gaslighting and understand that he’s doing it to confuse you, then you can focus on changing your behavior. Without reacting you can just rationally reply that what he is saying isn’t true. Having whatever proof you can find will help make you stronger in your conviction that the problem isn’t you.

Then you can choose what you do next. Untangling yourself from an abuser, no matter what kind, is tricky and should be done with caution and support. I encourage you to reach out to an abuse support service if you are at all concerned about your safety. Whether you choose to leave is a very personal choice.  Either way, figuring out how to handle the financial gaslighting you’re experiencing is a step to moving forward and extricating yourself from this manipulative, crazy-making situation.  It is paramount to your own sanity and financial well-being.

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 hello@strongwomenthriving.com. Join our FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/womensurivingfinancialabuse

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