Friday, April 17, 2015

financial abuse, money and bullying, in close personal relationships

name of art: "Financial Abuse"
image is © Lise Winne
india ink and graphics, 2015
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Financial abuse occurs in 98 percent of all abusive relationships. Money is used as a weapon to punish and control victims.

Female victims who leave their abusers most often suffer economically. The costs of court, finding a safe place to live, protection and therapy put a strain on women financially. Abusers sometimes try to sabotage women's jobs and careers too.  

In my own life, I have had two people who used money as a weapon. I was financially dependent on both of them (at different times). Both of them used the withdrawal of money as a form of punishment at the absolute lowest point of my life (a predator-to-prey kind of abuse). Not only that, but both times, I was discarded abruptly in the most hurtful and traumatic way. 

So I am using my own experiences as well as research to explain why you should never be financially dependent on someone who shows any (and I mean ANY) signs of verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical abuse. A link to a list of abuses is HERE.

And, by the way, the predator-to-prey kind of abuse is primarily practiced by people who are cold-hearted: narcissists, sociopaths and addicts/alcoholics with narcissistic tendencies. For further information, go HERE.

A normal person with normal amounts of empathy (i.e. not abusive) who doesn't want you to be financially dependent on them, usually makes an announcement. That announcement might be, "I need you to be financially independent of my money, therefore, I will withdraw money incrementally, by the month, until you can get back on your feet again." This is how you might approach a grown child who has fallen on hard times, or who has graduated from college, for instance. It is a way of saying, "You need to be financially independent of me, to do it through your own work, but if you fall on hard times, I'll try to be there for you, as long as you don't make a habit of it." This is good parenting anyway; it is respecting the adult in the grown child. It shows that you respect the autonomy of the grown child too.

And yet, a normal person with normal amounts of empathy is even capable of withdrawing money abruptly, especially if they have no more money to give. But where it becomes abusive is if it comes as a punishment (i.e. to purposely hurt) or with a punishment (i.e. as part of a way to purposely hurt), or as a way to control, or in a way that uses it as a weapon

Punishments that go with the swift withdrawal of money can be part of the silent treatment, insults, rejection, being ostracized, all as a tactic to keep you dependent and under their control. You aren't doing something for them, or you said something they didn't like that they took offense to, or because they are having a temper tantrum, anything that doesn't respect your autonomy is used as an excuse to hurt you and withdraw money. That is when it gets into the realm of abuse.

Control is another form of abuse with money. The most common form of control with money is a husband who rewards his wife for doing what he wants her to do, and withdrawing money from her if she is not doing as he wants. It can even extend into the welfare of their common children. This keeps her in a tentative position. She is either begging him for money, or grateful for having received money, instead of the money being common property with mutual respect for each other. She is put on an allowance. At the very least, she is walking on eggshells around the issue of money. This kind of relationship quickly becomes fear-based where the wife tiptoes around her husband's alternating rage and reasonableness, sanctions and magnanimity, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This kind of relationship is always written into the typical wheel of abuse that psychologists use to explain victimization. 

But, financial abuse can happen in any close relationship in the family.  

Personality disordered abusers often use the lure/seduction of money to get you dependent on them. Their belief system is that if their targets are financially dependent, it will give the abuser total control over his victim and endless avenues to abuse. 

In my own life, the first abuser said, "You don't need to work. I make plenty of money to support us both. You just need to take care of things around our home." This person left me long lists every day, chores that I was supposed to fulfill. 

This can be a typical domestic partnership or marriage set up. 

But where it went terribly wrong for me is when I discovered that this wasn't a secure position for me at all, and that I would probably be left high and dry. My main purpose in life changed: I had to make money and to be independent. This meant giving up on this person's priorities: our common home and his long lists. He tried to forcefully put me back in a dependent role again by sabotaging the starter in my car, and when my car no longer worked, trying to keep me from having another car. He made scenes at my place of employment and at the school I was attending. He tried to keep me from leaving to go to my classes or job. He used affairs with other women to tell me that if I only did what he wanted, he would stop cheating on me. He lectured and badgered me nearly every evening about how I was supposed to only be thinking of fulfilling his needs, using guilt over what he had previously done for me, using the ungrateful phrase, a common phrase among all abusers. He used any tactic to get total compliance, and escalated abuse when I dared to show independence. 

The second abuser in my life used a similar tactic. This person B constantly told me "You don't need to be successful! You just need to do ---" all the while shaking my forearm with digging fingernails and an insistent look. I saw terror on B's face a couple of times at the prospect that I might be a major success in my field. They would advise me in such a way that would insure (to them) that I would not be successful. There were many conversations about incredible opportunities that had come my way, where person B would tell me all the ways it was dangerous or not worthwhile, where it might be unfulfilling. Person B was a total Debbie Downer. When I would resist and counter back, Person B would say, "Well, you know, you never have to worry about money. You don't really need the success. You don't really need opportunities." 

The thing is, the money wasn't even close enough to pay the bills. It was money quite a bit below the poverty line. Most of us know that even the poverty line is much lower than it should be. Was it enough to warrant being unsuccessful, sitting on my laurels and eating bon-bons all day? Not even a little. Talking about my career with B was like walking on eggshells, so I tried to avoid the subject as much as possible or divert it to some of the projects I was working on that wouldn't be contrived as striving. Since I am an artist, I would steer the conversation towards design and composition instead. I avoided B's extremely long winded doomer advice (hours long, by the way, and sometimes over several days as well) as though I should look at my career as an insurmountable plague of stone walls.

By the way, these are all red flags. Control is absolutely what this is about.

In my case, the control was about trying to make me poor and impoverished enough so that I would be begging for money (and willing to do anything for either of these abusers) if the bottom fell out of my life. It was designed to keep me from being successful, autonomous and independent.

However, at the worst time in my life with too many tragedies to deal with, this is when person B decided to use a flimsy excuse to punish and abuse, and this included a swift withdrawal of money. Was I surprised? A little, but all the signs were there: trying to keep me financially dependent, discouraging success, trying to create an imbalance of power, wanting me to beg for money at the lowest point in my life, wanting me to be complacent so that I would be dependent.  

I have never known abusers to give a lot of money. Only minimal amounts of money are given so that abusers feel in control at all times. They want their victims to suffer if they suddenly withdraw money from them. Financial abuse is often the first step to other abuses. It is designed to get the victim under control again. When financial abuse happens, guilt trips about money are used later on, i.e. "After all I have done for you, and you won't allow me to abuse you! So ungrateful!"  Very few victims find that abuse is a good exchange for money, especially when it becomes obvious that the abuse is escalating.  

By the way, once you are free from abuse, financial abusers also love to show you that they are giving their money to your arch enemies, and living extravagantly, so brace yourself for this.

A word of advice. If you are dealing with an abuser who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder who has discarded you, beware of how the information of your successes and achievements reach them. While it may make you feel great to rub their noses in your great fortune and success (which you achieved without them), if they are in punishing mode they try everything they can to ruin it for you. This includes spreading rumors to your co-workers and boss, trying to seduce you back into their company again (to trip you up again), stalking you, apologies which aren't sincere, indeed anything that they can think of to damage you. Most victims are surprised at how far their perpetrators go to destroy their careers and reputations. Having read many forums on this subject, it is clear that NPDs leave you alone if they think you are leading a life of poverty, full of tragedies and unfulfilled dreams. Many victims pretend that they are living the way their perpetrators wish for them, for safety reasons (having found out the hard way). It is called the grey rock method. 

If you are in the public spotlight, this will be very difficult. My condolences go out to you.

Many victims of abuse use pseudonyms. You might consider this if you are emotionally abused too (since emotional abuse is often a precursor to other types of abuse, including physical abuse).

The following is a story I always remember when I  think of abuse and money (this is a true story, by the way; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent):

A woman, Carrie, in her mid-sixties, fell on hard times. Her mother, Anne, who was in her eighties, told her that she could come back home to live. The exchange for being able to live at home, was that Carrie would have to do the grocery shopping, make the meals, take her mother to doctors' appointments, do the household chores, keep the lawn and garden in shape, indeed, wait on her mother hand and foot. Carrie agreed to it.
Anne gave Carrie complete use of the car, the house, and she gave Carrie enough money to be able to provide for both of their needs. Anne also made Carrie the sole inheritor of Anne's estate, especially since Carrie was an only child.
Everything went well for five years for mother and daughter, until Carrie was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, a rare form where she would have to be treated at a facility far away. She put Anne, her mother, in an assisted living home and told her that she would retrieve her once she was done with her cancer treatments.
Anne did not want to be in the facility. Anne was furious with Carrie that she was breaking the deal between them. Carrie expected her mother to understand the extenuating circumstances and again told her mother it was temporary and to "hold on tight."
Carrie arranged for someone to look after the house and to look in on her mother.
As Carrie was preparing to leave, Anne arranged to block Carrie from all of the finances, took the car keys from her, took Carrie out of the will, and barred her from the house they had shared.
Carrie was left without a home, without money, without the wherewithal to pursue cancer treatments. 
It is obvious that Anne had nothing to gain from this. Without cancer treatments, Carrie cannot live to take care of her mother.

So now Carrie is in a homeless shelter. Her mother is still in a facility.

This is what Narcissistic Personality Disorder looks and acts like. Anne's whole agenda is about herself only, and punishing her daughter, with no empathy, no common sense or rationale behind the decision.

It is always a good story to remember!



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