The Subtleties of Financial Abuse
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
“Babe, would you like to use my credit card for that?”
These were the words that constantly left my mouth during my previous relationship with my abuser. It’s quite interesting the way I first learned about credit cards…actually, my abuser, the person who constantly worried about my financial position, particularly in terms of acquiring debt while I was in college, suggested that I apply for a credit card in order to make a large purchase for him. At the time, I was still relatively naïve, being an older teenager in college, but I knew that his family lacked the financial resources he truly needed to be a successful student. Since I constantly wanted him to be happy, I obliged to his request.
The understanding we had was that he would pay me back immediately after he received his refund check for school in order to pay off the debt, approximately $1500 or so if I remember correctly, which he did. However, in the months and years to come after this initial purchase, I would find myself using my own financial resources to continue keeping him happy, even if he never directly asked me to.
To provide a little more detail, I don’t recall many times after his initial request that my abuser directly asked me to cover various expenses. However, given the power and control dynamics of our relationship, I was constantly striving to keep him happy…whether that was through purchasing gifts for him that I thought he would like, covering meals and trips, paying his cell phone bill, and even making purchases that we discussed he would eventually pay back. I found that I was attempting to please someone that could never be pleased. I remember one specific time where I spent nearly $500 for a special Valentine’s Day outing on a small yacht in the city where I lived at the time towards the end of our relationship. Despite the nearly perfect date and the most romantic time we had shared in a while, the day still resulted in a violent altercation by the end of the night, evidently because I made him “feel stupid” at some point on our way home.
Sometimes I still get angry with myself for all of the things I did for him financially – paying his bills, buying him gifts, and covering larger expenses that I thought he would eventually back me back for. When I think back to my intention in risking my own financial position as a young adult who had just graduated from college at the time, all I can think about is the subtle way that my abuser would manipulate me into financially abusive situations knowing that I could not truly afford to do so. I also believe he consciously knew that he would never repay me or contribute to the relationship financially in any way as long as I “volunteered” to cover everything.
Needless to say, I was never reimbursed for the debt I accumulated through my credit card purchases I made for him either during or after I left the relationship. Ultimately, it took nearly 2 years for me to pay off my outstanding credit card debt, which mostly consisted of larger purchases I had made for him over the years I presumed he would help me pay back. While this was a discouraging process to go through, I have to stop myself sometimes and remember to not blame myself for past actions given the power and control dynamics that were at play.
To current victims and survivors of financial abuse with an intimate partner or other trusted individual – be gentle on yourself and on your heart when thinking about these issues. Remember that no one deserves to be abused in any form or fashion. It is possible to seek help and recover from the aftermath of an abusive relationship from a financial standpoint. Despite the grim outlook at first, with confidence, discipline, support, and self-compassion, one can overcome the aftermath of financial abuse.
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