I was 29 when my ex-husband left me. For years - the entirety of our marriage from the time I was 20 - I was terrified that if he left for good, I wouldn’t make it.
I wanted to learn how to do basic adult things ( pay bills, taxes, help with the family business, etc ) but there was always a reason I couldn’t. I was ‘too stupid’. I needed to ‘just do my job and care for the kids and I wasn't even doing that well’. At one point I wanted my own mail key, and he told me I couldn’t because, “we both know you’re too stupid to check the mail. That or you just won’t. Or you’ll lose it.”
So my husband was responsible for absolutely everything outside of the home for ten years.
I remember feeling like such a child anytime other women would talk about taxes. “I’ve been doing taxes all day, ugh.”
I’d nod my head and pretend to commiserate, “Oh, mmhm.”
But I knew I’d never do taxes. Let alone have access to our bank accounts or know how much money we had ( my husband ran his own company and gave me a monthly allowance ).
When I was in my early 20’s he bought me a brand new truck, that year's model, and we drove it right off the lot together. The other company wives commented on how “lucky” I was.
Except the secret was that when I got “into trouble” my husband, sometimes accompanied by an employee, would confiscate my truck, keys, and sometimes my phone as well, leaving our small children and I stranded for days.
Because I didn't earn money, I owned nothing. Everything was his to take or break.
I was known in our church and business as “spoiled”. Ungrateful for everything I had, ungrateful for how my husband took care of everything and I could just “relax”.
My husband resented me for this, too, and talked about it often to anyone who would listen, including the kids and I. It was always the thing that preceded physical and emotional abuse from him.
His outbursts and assaults were always justified and accompanied by him yelling that ‘nothing he did was enough for me’, or “all you do is want, want, want, and nag, nag, nag”. I truly did begin to believe that I was the cause of him hurting me. That if I was a “real adult” and “pulled my own weight” it would have been different.
I became so depressed that getting out of bed in the morning seemed an insurmountable feat most days, and the house was never clean. I felt deeply ashamed and increasingly incapable of functioning in ordinary life.
I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was financial abuse, as well as physical and emotional, and that I never “made” my husband do anything to me.
We are all only responsible for our own thoughts and actions.
I’m opening up about this because it felt like such a shameful secret for so long - me not knowing how to do literally anything other adults did.
It kept me isolated, embarrassed, and too afraid to leave. Often I hear other abuse survivors tell the opposite story - a story of them taking on all of the responsibility while the abuser sits back and does less and less.
I had absolutely no responsibility outside of raising my kids.
Today I am 31 years old. I am a great and capable mother to my three children and for the past year have been learning how to do things most adults learned when they were 18, 19, or 20.
I pay my own bills, pay quarterly taxes ( I can’t say that without smiling ), and pay rent on my house and place of business. On. My. Own.
At first it was scary, but I take pride in having become my own financial security. No one can take that away from me.
I saw this picture today, and realized that maybe others have had or are having similar experiences to mine.
It would have helped me to know that I wasn’t alone. For someone to tell me that I wasn’t spoiled, and that I wasn’t a child. I might have left years sooner, or at least been less ashamed of myself.
I did marry young, before I knew what red flags were, and right out of my parents house before I learned how to live on my own.
Financial abuse, as with spiritual and psychological abuse, can take on many forms. What it boils down to is this:
Do you feel heard by your partner, or can you never seem to reach resolution?
Does your partner always somehow find a way to shift blame back to you?
If your partner is never capable of being wrong and owning it, that’s a red flag.
Do you feel like an equal to your partner?
Does your partner support and encourage you? Or do they instead belittle, exploit, or manipulate you?
Your partner should be the person who lifts you up and shines light towards your greatest potential. The person who strives daily to meet you in equal partnership.
They should never, ever tear you down or be the reason you struggle to get out of bed.
Please seek help if you need to. Your story is unique, so seek counseling from someone well-versed in all forms of abuse.
I promise you there is a stronger person inside of you, and that no matter your situation, you can certainly do the things you dream of that you’ve not yet done.
And you can rock them.