Getting Unstuck – Living in a financially abusive situation is tough. No question about it. But there is hope. There is always hope.
Abuse comes in many forms. Usually, if there is one type going on there are probably others happening as well. And every situation is different. There are layers of complexity to any relationship. Add on abuse and it becomes quite a cornucopia of issues.
Figuring out what to do is a personal decision and I don’t presume to know what is best for you. However, I can offer some suggestions that might help you sort out how best to move forward financially.
Generally speaking, if you are being financially abused, then you may lose whatever financial confidence you had before.
Sometimes perpetrators target their victims because of their naivete.
Start by examining what your level of financial confidence was before you found yourself in this relationship. Do you have a pattern of financial missteps? Has someone taken advantage of you previously? Think long and hard about whether this is a new scenario or if you were headed down this road long before you ended up here.
I’m not blaming you for where you are. I’m just suggesting that we tend to attract what we are focused on. If you have a history of poor money decisions or a childhood traumatized by parents with poor money skills, then maybe you were an easy target.
Figure out the history behind the current situation. It may help you untangle the root problem and turn that around.
I find that once I know the cause or the connection to a problem, I am able to address it at its core. For me that might mean therapy, journaling, talking to a friend, or writing out some good affirmations. Try whatever works for you. Break the pattern and release any old trauma that you might be stuck on.
I find that once I get clear on why something has happened, then I start to notice when I fall into the same trap. When awareness happens, it’s easier to pivot quickly to change course. If you are living in a financially abusive relationship, you can start to recognize triggers or situations that cause issues.
The first step is recognizing what is happening.
It might be tough to change how you react, but the second step is changing your behavior. You can’t change the other person, but you can change yourself. That might mean staying calm in the face of rage. If you notice that every time you go shopping he gets angry and accuses you of spending all his hard-earned money and you end up feeling guilty and ashamed, then you have accomplished the first step. Recognizing the trigger.
Next you might be able to figure out a way to not react to his outburst. For example, if he starts getting nasty and accusatory, you could reply calmly instead of getting defensive. Remember, this is his issue. If the agreement between you is that he’s the primary breadwinner and you share resources, then he has already agreed that you can spend the money. You may need to remind him of this.
I encourage you to examine the situation; see if you are passive aggressively trying to get even with him for being so controlling. Again, I’m not blaming you for being the victim, but fighting dirty will not help. If you are angry and resentful, you might react by spending more than you need to in an effort to get back at him. This type of reaction will not serve you.
Be careful to examine your own participation in the drama.
If you want to change things, then start by changing yourself. Staying rational and calm in the face of anger isn’t easy. But it will go a long way to de-escalating the situation. Stepping back instead of engaging will diffuse the energy. When you do not buy into the rising anger, it has nowhere to go.
Letting things wash over you isn’t easy. And I don’t mean passively taking it (and possibly more). What I mean is staying calm and centered. Once you are free of your trigger you can step back and not let the dynamic continue or inflict any more harm on you.
If his antics don’t upset you, then you start holding the power.
This is when you can start to make decisions that help you. If you were being passive aggressive, then stopping will change the energy between you. Rationally and calmly decide that if he gets angry when you go shopping you won’t do the shopping anymore. Then tell him he will need to do it. And stop doing it.
Putting responsibility back on him to address the problem will shift things.
Learning to react in a new way will help you move forward and focus on how to improve your life. If he blames you for things being different, that’s okay as long as they are better for you.
This process may seem daunting at first. Remember, it’s your choice whether to change your life or stay in a financially abusive relationship. I’m not guaranteeing that he will like you changing. He probably won’t. But you have a right to live in financial confidence and undermining you will not help. Take the reins and build your financial savvy little by little to make sure you are getting unstuck.
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