With the release of my second book in the Healing from Hidden Abuse series, Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon, I’ve received many questions about what exactly qualifies as economic exploitation and abuse. Little is written and even less is published on the specific topic of financial abuse, so I understand the confusion that currently exists.
Where is the line between normal struggles with money within a marriage or family, and when does it become exploitative and abusive? Why is addressing financial abuse an important topic to highlight? Why haven’t more authors tackled this subject sooner and shed light on behaviors that impact so many people around the world on a daily basis?
Why does there seem to be an almost apathetic attitude about financial abuse, as if it’s just a norm that can’t be fixed within an unhealthy relationship?
These are questions that we need to address head-on so that the individuals and families being harmed by a financial abuser can get the help they need and deserve. A new path is being forged in this area and defining exactly how economic control works is at the heart of why I wrote Exposing Financial Abuse.
It’s very important to remember that there’s a wide range of behaviors that should be considered toxic when it comes to money and how it’s used within relationships. As the understanding around financial abuse increases, so will the conversations about it. For now, I want to highlight three key components of economic harm.
Family Court Fraud
Does your ex-spouse suddenly stop paying child support as a means of furthering their abuse and control over your life? Did your ex-spouse hide his or her income from being included in the calculations for child and/or spousal support? Does your ex-spouse use the family court system as a tool of threats and further harassment?
Within the family court system, lies are being accepted without any consequences. Toxic ex-spouses are able to hide money, lie about their actions related to the couple’s joint money, and use the court system as a means of control against the victim spouse.
Rarely does a financial abuser within the family court system receive legal or economic punishment for not following the Court’s orders related to money. Abusers go on and on with their toxic agendas and drag the victim spouse along for the very expensive ride.
Why is exposing financial abuse important? Ask anyone who has been the target of family court fraud how it impacted not only their financial stability, but their emotional and physical health as well. As a trauma therapist, I can tell you that some of the most devastated clients I’ve worked with have been those who endured an intense legal battle with an economic abuser.
Do you carry the full burden of making enough money for your household because your partner refuses to maintain steady employment? Are you blamed for creating financial stress but are not the one who overspends? Were or are your finances impacted by someone who used hidden ways to sabotage your financial stability?
Covert control is one of the most surprising ways financial exploitation takes place.
Most people who have read Exposing Financial Abuse have shared that they were shocked by how many different ways someone can cause hidden harm to household finances. Passive control looks like someone intentionally causing debt to keep the family budget so tight, the victim partner doesn’t have enough money to leave the toxic relationship. Hidden abuse in the form of economic control happens when a spouse hops from job to job and it’s always someone else’s fault. They take no responsibility for being chronically unemployed or under-employed for what’s needed to meet the family budget. Sabotage is often at the heart of a covert economic abuser. They try to ensure that their victim can’t gain financial stability. Their actions may be hard at first to pinpoint as abusive, but over time, the pattern can clearly be seen and is usually the financial wreckage they leave behind.
Were lines of credit taken out in your name without your consent? Has your partner moved money from your joint account to a secret individual account without your prior knowledge or consent? Were or are you denied access to bank accounts by your abusive partner?
The aggressive financial abuser is what we’ve come to think of as the stereotype – the person who holds all the access to the family money and decides how it’s spent. Overt control can include withholding normal items like clothing for children that fit properly or basic needs even though the family budget is more than enough to cover these things.
Dominance in the form of controlling money creates a very unhappy world for the target, which is precisely the goal of most overt economic abusers.
They want to be the ones who pull the strings as the puppet-master to those closest to them. We don’t have to understand why they find entertainment out of this power, we just have to recognize it to be true. A smirk or an ugly laugh often gives their abusive intentions away.
We’re on the cusp of a breakthrough in knowledge and exposure surrounding the hidden world of economic control and abuse. Please join me in writing about this topic, speaking up if you’ve been a victim of this form of abuse, share quotes on social media, and talk to your co-workers about financial abuse and how it impacts its victims. Do what you can in your circle of influence to expand the awareness of this hidden world and help break down the apathy that currently keeps its victims in the shadows.
Keep dreaming big!
I am very excited to share the second book in the Healing from Hidden Abuse series has been released!
Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon is now available on Amazon (paperback, Kindle, and Audio Book).
Within the pages of Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon, you will be given the opportunity to pull the curtain back and see into the lives of those who have been financially harmed by someone close to them. Being able to take a closer look at this hidden world is a unique gift that cannot be taken lightly or without honor for those who have chosen to allow us to peek into the most personal aspects of their lives.
Test yourself. How would you describe financial abuse? It is quietly happening all around us and is hidden within our neighborhoods and communities. You probably know someone who lives within a financially abusive household and you don’t even know it.
What is financial abuse?
Has your spouse or parent taken out lines of credit in your name without your consent?
Does your ex-spouse suddenly stop paying child support as a means of furthering their abuse and control over your life?
Has your partner moved money from your joint account to a secret individual account without your prior knowledge or consent?
Do your parents use financial gifts as an open door to demand future compliance on your part?
Are you blamed for creating financial stress, but are not the one who overspends?
Did your ex-spouse hide his or her income from being included in the calculations for child and/or spousal support?
Have your religious leaders said that you must give to the church first, even if that means you cannot provide for your household’s basic needs?
Do you carry the full burden of making enough money for your household because your partner refuses to maintain steady employment?
To order: Amazon
“Daily Mom Pressures, It’s Never Too Late & The Power to Change”
I had a fantastic time laughing with It Takes A Village host, Ashley Carroll, about the challenges of motherhood, finding our way through jealousy and becoming comfortable in who we are as women – Shannon
To the show: http://theashcarroll.com/podcasts/065
People are unique and strangely similar all at the same time. By this, I mean that although no two people are identical, the way that individuals handle certain aspects of life are very similar to other people. There seem to be patterns and clusters of ways people respond to life. I especially see this with personal growth.
Having been working with individuals and families since 2000 and in private practice since 2007, I’ve had the opportunity to observe how people respond to and live through life events. I’ve noticed that people are either givers or takers and that people either get better or bitter from significant stress.
It always fascinates me as to why someone can go through horrendous things yet come out of the experience as a vastly improved version of themselves. They shine from having walked through the desert. On the flip side, someone else goes through what would be perceived as less traumatic and they seem to have gained little to no personal growth from the experience. Why do some people pull themselves up by their boot straps and others lay down on the ground in defeat next to their boots? I think it has to do with the four levels of willingness to change that I’ve noticed in all people.
First Level: “Nothing is wrong with me.”
It’s exceptionally hard to change what we don’t see as an issue. People at this first level might come into counseling for just a few sessions because a loved one externally motivated them to or it was court ordered. These types of folks are a counseling nightmare. They have no true interest in changing much, if anything, about themselves. They might throw out a few things they could see that they need to work on but quickly rationalize away any need for personal growth. The extreme end of this level are the psycho/sociopaths and narcissists. They can’t change because they don’t authentically see anything in themselves to change. In their own minds, they are the personification of perfection. I know, it’s startling to think that people actually roam the earth with this much arrogance. But trust me, they are out there. A few have landed in my office, and heads up, I’m kindly blunt. At least with me, first level folks never stay in counseling long. They might stay slightly longer with a counselor who is willing to do their perfection dance with them, but eventually all counselors need to see actual growth. That’s when these first level folks tap out of counseling.
Second Level: “I know I have some issues, but I won’t actually do anything to fix them. Ever.”
These people are not necessarily narcissists, but rather see and talk about areas of change yet won’t actually do any work to change. You’ll hear them say things like, “I need therapy” and “I want to master my thoughts and actions better” but then also say, “I’m exceptionally lazy.” In their laziness or lack of motivation to improve their lives, second level individuals live the same way today as they did 10 years ago. The seasons change, the calendar changes, but second level folks do not. The saddest part is they know they need to improve their lot in life. They’re keenly aware, and at times painfully aware, that healthy steps are needed, but make no physical advancement towards doing anything about it. My heart goes out to the second level folks the most because it’s a lot like being in a cell with the door open. They just won’t stand up and start to walk out.
Third Level: “I’m going to see change in my life and I’m excited! Until it gets hard.”
Third level people are willing to invest their time and resources into counseling and will see aspects of growth, which can be very exciting. Unfortunately, this level is where some people retreat and return to the second level. No one said change was easy. Third level people often get hung up on fears, inconveniences and social pressures that tell them that change will cost them greatly in some area of life. For instance, I see clients who really want to improve their physical health and lose significant amounts of weight, but as they start walking towards their personal goal, people close to them start sabotaging their growth. The client has a dilemma to face and must decide to keep walking towards health or succumb and slip back into old habits. I also see this with those who want healthier relationships. They might be willing to make radical changes if the people around them don’t treat them better or engage in the relationship. Third level people see glimmers of personal growth but it doesn’t last. Weight may be lost but it’s put back on, and relationships don’t improve so they settle for the present or another version of throwing in the towel on reaching their hopes and dreams.
However, don’t lose hope yet. Some third level people do fluctuate from second to third and back to second but sometimes, they jump up to the fourth level!
Fourth Level: Lasting Change!!!
Now, this the level that as a therapist I see as the most rewarding. It’s where people go from the second level to the third, and then ultimately reach the fourth. If we look back on our own personal growth, we can see that we were probably at all the levels at some point, including the dreaded level one. We’ve all been in denial about ourselves and the need for change (first level), we’ve wanted change but didn’t make the effort to make it happen (second level), we’ve tried a few things to change but didn’t see it happen quick enough or gave up at some point (third level), but then we miraculously started over and eventually made it to the fourth level of seeing real, significant personal growth in ourselves. It’s so exciting when that happens! But believe me, it doesn’t come without a cost. All change requires us to give up things. It’s just a fact. Hopefully what we are gaining with reaching level four will be far more valuable than anything we’ve stuck out in the past.
Take some time and reflect on these four levels of personal growth. Be honest with yourself. Today, where are you? Are you happy with your level? If not, what are you planning to do about it? I truly believe in small, incremental steps toward reaching goals. Some of you know that my life story includes overcoming some major obstacles and I promise you that one step at a time truly does work. Today is a great day to get started towards your own hopes and dreams. I know you can do it if you want it bad enough!
In each life, there will be sunshine and rain. In Texas, sometimes these two weather events happen at the exact same moment. I have taken my fair share of pictures with sunshine in the near distance and dark thunderstorm clouds overhead. Life is often like Texas weather; we can be experiencing happiness and pain all at the same time.
As we get ready for Thanksgiving, it seemed like a good time to sit down and send a message to you. In each of our lives, there are bound to be areas of sunshine and rain. The rain, or painful situations, can make showing up emotionally and/or physically for Thanksgiving difficult. The sunshine, or reasons to be grateful, will put a pep in our step for the holiday. Often people will have two parallel tracks going in life. No life is all good or all bad. It is a mixture of both in the same picture.
Regardless of where our lives fall on the spectrum of joyful or difficult, we can enjoy Thanksgiving in our own ways. If it involves a quiet day by yourself or a small group of folks, take in the calm that can be present. Pause and enjoy that you are in control of all your own decisions for the day. Learn to see solitude as a gift and a time to enjoy your own companionship or that of a few other people. As the day goes on, collect five (5) things that happened (or didn’t happen) that you can be grateful for.
If Thanksgiving will have you spending it in a large group, I suggest pausing to take in the five (5) senses. What are you seeing, what are hearing, what are you tasting, what are you smelling and what are you touching? In the blur of a busy holiday crowd, tensions can sometimes come up or we find ourselves drawn in different directions that can be overwhelming. Choosing to be purposeful in staying present in the moment can help us enjoy our surroundings more.
As for me, my day will be on the quieter side spent with my small immediate family. It will include food, football and maybe a mimosa or two. Having a day to relax is a treat and even though life is never “perfect” for anyone, there is so much to be celebrated. Thanksgiving is one day when we can choose to focus on the things in our lives that bring us comfort and the warm fuzzies.
Thank you so much for being a part of the blessings in my life. It has been an incredible year and I am thrilled to get to share the journey with you.
Keep Dreaming Big!