I’m not going to waste your time with another blog post about why it is important to save for a rainy day. Everyone knows it is important to save. I didn’t realize just HOW important it was until in 2014 – it didn’t just rain for me. It POURED.
Within a span of 8 months after I was laid-off from my full-time job, my life fell apart – my pooch of almost 10 years passed away, and my 12-year relationship ended. The relationship did not end well, to say the least.
When emotions are running high during turbulent times, people will find ways to gain some form of control back. Money is just one way for someone to feel in control. It is not uncommon for those who are financially disadvantaged to feel out of control – like things just aren’t going their way.
Money equals power. Or rather, money provides OPTIONS for times when life happens.
The manipulation. The emotional abuse. The verbal abuse. The gaslighting. The anger. The power struggle.
My mind was filled with nothing but fear. So, I acted on fear. When you are in it, it is hard to see the light. At the time, I wished a lot of bad things on myself, and on him. I wished I was the 95 year-old lady in the wheelchair. I wished for him to get hit by a car on the way to work so I never had to see him again. In an attempt to reconcile our differences, we took a trip together (worst trip ever) and I remember texting my sister right before our flight took off.
I said, “I would be okay if this plane never made it home.”
Thinking back, I cringe at how heart-wrenching it must’ve been for my family and friends to see what I was going through, and the things I’ve said to them. I had lost my mind.
I eventually moved back home to my parents, (yes, I am that Millennial statistic), but I was lucky enough to have that option. Not everyone is that lucky. I was unemployed and trying to get out of a toxic relationship – it took 3 months to completely move out, and three more months after that before he completely left me alone.
I had lost my mind
It’s easy to look back in hindsight and say “You should have done this instead, Michelle”, but I was a different person back then and that experience has shaped who I am today. I’m sure women everywhere who’ve gone through relationship trials of their own – however minor or horrendous – would agree that there’s nothing better than having emerged on the other side, stronger and smarter.
It’s hard to fathom how one can stay in abusive relationships – this topic is a difficult and complicated one but a common (practical) reason is money. Money is one of the biggest factors that prevent women from leaving an abusive relationship; they become financially abused.
Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence. Just because it is not physical, does not mean it’s not abuse. It is 100% NOT OKAY to have someone withhold money from you. It is 100% NOT OKAY to be threatened.
“You will be homeless.”
“You can’t afford a lawyer.”
“You can’t live without me. You will never have a better life.”
“The grass is NOT greener on the other side.”
It is a common tactic used by batterers, and they use it to control their partners, to make their partners feel alone, as defined by the Purple Purse All State Foundation.
When a power struggle ensues in a relationship, and the dominant person feels they are losing control of their partner, they will try to regain their own power by reducing the other’s. They usually do find a way – money is the easiest target when one is financially dependent on the other.
My advice: Have your own bank account, in your name only. This goes for EVERYONE. No exceptions.
I’m not saying to not have a joint account; this makes sense when you share bills. But you MUST have something for yourself, because you will never know what could happen five, ten, twenty years down the road. I stress financial independence because it provides options.
I had options because I was sitting on a six-figure investment portfolio that I built for myself. This portfolio was under my name, and my name only. He couldn’t touch me on that front and he knew that. He tried, though, by reassuring me that if I stayed with him, I would never have to work again in my life.
While that may be music to some ears, I knew that for myself, it was a VERY HIGH PRICE to pay.
He tried to dangle the carrot in front of me, but it didn’t work, because I was financially independent. His proposition also would not have suited my lifestyle either because I’m way too ambitious!
So, he tried to cut off my source of power by threatening my career. Numerous times. He threatened to spread rumours about me to our friends and family. We worked in the same industry and he made me believe he controlled Bay Street (for my non-Torontonian friends – Bay Street is the Toronto equivalent of Wall Street). His threats are extremely laughable now, but at the time, I believed it. I was scared. He said that I would never get a job there again.
Even though I had the means to walk away, I was still afraid to leave. While I’m no psychologist or human behaviour expert, I learned a great deal about it and how it affects relationships. It doesn’t matter how fabulous, intelligent or achieved you are – anyone can fall victim to financial abuse. Male or female, it consumes you slowly. So long as there is fear, you cannot help but to feel stuck, no matter what your friends & family try to tell you.
The fear that consumed me was beyond money. Was he crazy enough to come to my family’s house and go postal on us? I wanted to leave the country, but the thought of abandoning my pooch was a non-starter. And would I never return and see my family and friends again? How is that fair? Had I just dropped everything and left, I would have until this day, been continuing to look over my shoulder everywhere I went. Is this living?
The fear that consumed me was beyond money.
Unfortunately, there are men (and women) who are capable of hurting their (ex) partners – and this fear should not be underestimated. No amount of money can buy their way out of this fear. BUT, having money and financial independence to start a new life, is key.
Particularly for those who are in a financially-abused relationship, it is the light at the end of the tunnel. Money is freedom. Money provides you with options. I had the option to take a breather and build myself back up again. To take care of my ill dog before he succumbed to cancer. During that time, I was in no way shape or form to start a new job or go through the interviewing process. Even though I did – suffice to say, I didn’t do well.
My heart aches for all the stuck women out there. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or financial abuse (or all three), the ugly reality is, it happens. For this, I am so glad organizations such as Purple Purse exist, to provide financial resources and help for those trying to escape abusive relationships.
And this is why I started my business – to promote and spread awareness on why financial independence is SO IMPORTANT, especially for women. I want to teach women – young and old – how to become financially independent. Wherever you are in life, it is never too late to start planning. It is better to start now before you hit crisis mode.
Reach out to Michelle Hung
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