Understanding Financial Abuse in Relationships

Understanding Financial Abuse in Relationships

financial abuse
When we talk about intimate partner violence, and even toxic family relationships, we talk about physical and emotional abuse.

Often, the financial and economic aspects of this abuse is given as a side note, if at all. Yet, it is finances that often keep us tied to partners and family whom we’d otherwise like to leave.

Financial and economic abuse is fundamentally about “Control the money, control the person.”

Financial abuse can appear obvious, like preventing access to credit and bank accounts or even withholding money needed for essentials like food or gas for the family.

However, preventing partners from engaging in employment, education, or opportunities for advancement that might lead to improved financial independence is a more insidious part of economic abuse.

Financial abuse can also look like a partner gambling away financial resources need for the family. It can look like subtle sabotage or failure to provide meaningfully for the family based on prior agreements.

The domino affect of financial abuse can impact lifetime earnings, savings, and future financial stability.

Finally, even if we leave, years of ongoing abuse can still occur, sustaining financial struggle, stress, mental health impacts, and health.

If this is happening, or has happened to you, you are not alone. Don’t let shame keep you from seeking help and resources.

Abusers seek to isolate their partners. If isolation is the key to abuse, community is the key to recovery.

First, if you can, find a good therapist to help you heal from the trauma and make a path to recovery.

Second, reach out to resources who can help you. Remember to see the situation holistically and know that you deserve holistic support (medical, financial, housing, childcare, job assistance, emotional, etc.).

Third, use your social media in positive ways to help your recovery. Make sure you are following creators who support your empowerment and have real solutions to share. Find online communities that are safe and well-moderated where you can get support and inspiration any time of day or night.

Fourth, don’t think that just because you don’t know a solution that means that there isn’t one. Start where you are and just begin. You can do this. It may be really hard, but you’ve done really hard. With help, you CAN do this.


Financial Wellness Tip:

For these reasons, and more, I encourage women to go into relationships with our financial eyes open.

We can always “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” Even in the healthiest of relationships, we can wisely prepare for a time when we may find ourselves needing to rely on ourselves.

“I’m Too Scared to Find Out What My Financial Situation Really Is!”

“I’m Too Scared to Find Out What My Financial Situation Really Is!”

It is completely normal to be afraid to see what’s in a box when you’re pretty sure it’s going to be a big, scary mess. 

Behind these fears is a belief that it will be so bad that it isn’t fixable. 

Or, that fixing it is going to be a long, arduous process that we won’t even begin to know how to accomplish. 

We may even hold beliefs that we do not deserve financial wellness and that financial stress and discomfort is, actually, our comfort zone. 

Finally, so many of us have been raised with all sorts of shame around money, that we are afraid we will feel worthless if we truly look at our finances.

Yet, we can’t fix what we can’t see.

Taking stock of our entire financial picture is the first, very critical step toward financial wellness. 

Instead of shame, consider that you are courageous for taking this step. You are loving yourself by taking this step. You are empowering yourself by taking this step.

Here are some steps to tackling taking the hard look a the truth of your financial situation: 
  1. Take the time to acknowledge to your fear and decide to treat yourself with compassion. This may mean working through some strategies you’ve had where you beat yourself up to try to make yourself change. This is shame-based, and it doesn’t work. Being kind and gentle creates a safe place where it can be more ok to look at the truth.
  2. Get support for this task from someone who sees you compassionately and will not shame you no matter what decisions you’ve made. This may be a friend, family member, or financial coach. Just make sure they understand the importance of compassion and encouragement over shame.
  3. Depending on your emotional needs, you may take the “rip the band-aid off” route, or a one-step-at-a-time route. This looks like diving in and getting it all done in a day or weekend. Or, making a list of tasks and only focusing on the one task in front of you, one day or one week at a time. It’s important to do what will be tolerable to you and not shut you down with overwhelm.
  4. Join a challenge or community of people who are doing the same thing. Reducing shame, increasing kind accountability, and seeing others succeed will help you make a plan and see it through.
  5. Be flexible. When we set up rigid goals and they don’t happen because life does, we are at risk for giving up and deciding we’ve fail. What we really need is a mindset and strategy that says, “of course I’m going to have good days and bad days, I’m human, and because of this, I just get back at it after getting off-track.” 

Removing the shame-factor around money by acknowledging that we’ve made decisions that may not have been in our best financial interest because, at the time, we held some other value, such as wanting to care for or please others, reward ourselves, or life happened and we felt we had no choice. 

When we truly look honestly at our financial lives, we see that they are quite complex, indeed, and that we can see ourselves and our decisions with kindness and compassion as we prepare to make change.

Financial Wellness Tip: 

Remember, whatever you do, time will continue to pass. Six months from now, we can have had six more months of not-knowing, or six months of planned action in the direction of our Financial Wellness!

Why We Can’t Stick to a Budget

Why We Can’t Stick to a Budget

Do you know you should have a budget, but also know you won’t stick to one?

Do you believe that other people magically manage their money effectively, but there is something wrong with you that you don’t?

Most people know they should live by a budget, but we don’t know how to create a budget that they will actually follow.

Budgets are like diets: we start strong and then “cheat” and then “fail.”

Just like diets, most budgets don’t really work in practice because they assume we only engage in rational behavior.

Just like food, money is not rational.

Money is deeply emotional.

Money is deeply rooted in feelings and beliefs we have about safety, risk, scarcity, and abundance.

When our budgets don’t work with our money emotions, we abandon them quickly.

You are not lazy or irresponsible. You are likely doing the best you can with what you’ve got.

What you’ve got is a culture having the wrong conversations (or no conversation at all) about money, a lack of meaningful education about personal finance, and a misunderstanding about how we relate to money.

If you are longing to follow a budget, but don’t trust yourself to actually do it, start by getting curious about your “money mind.”

What was the money story in your family growing up? Was there never enough?

Was there what you needed, but not what you wanted?

Was there shame or guilt in messages about money?

Was there a lot of money?

How was it talked about, or not?

How do you feel in your body when you think about money? Do you feel tight and anxious? Do you feel suddenly blank and confused? Does your stomach turn a little? Does it feel hard to breathe? These sensations are nervous system responses to the idea of money. You might go into fight/flight/freeze when it comes to money. We rarely make rational decisions from these states.

Are you surprised to find that you have a lot of feelings about money now that you think about it?

You are not alone. We all experience this and that is why we can’t talk solutions without doing the work of getting to know and healing our money emotions.

Financial Wellness Tip: 

Take 15-20 minutes (or 5, if that’s what you’ve got), and write out the answers to the questions above. Take a peak inside your money mind and get to know a little bit about why you do (or don’t do) what you do.

Then, place a hand on your chest and say to yourself, “This is not my fault. I am not bad for feeling these feelings. AND, I can heal and make changes that serve me in my own time.”

What is “Financial Wellness”

What is “Financial Wellness”

There is a lot of talk about budgeting, financial management, and things we should do to be “good, responsible” people with our money.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame built into conversations about money and we know that shame shuts down, it doesn’t motivate.

We can’t learn in shame. We can’t heal in shame. We can’t care for ourselves and our futures in shame.

Shame does not create wellness around anything, especially money.

Wellness is holistic.

Wellness is balance.

Wellness if fluid.

Wellness is responsive.

Financial Wellness is aligned. 

Financial Wellness is holistic. This means that we look at the whole picture (practical, emotional, and systemic) of a person’s financial life and we consider many factors when identifying financial goals and creating financial behaviors.

Financial Wellness is balance. We consider a variety of needs and values when it comes to money management to develop goals and behaviors that are responsive to individual needs and values.

Financial Wellness is fluid. We need to be in relationship with our money in a way that we can shift and change with the events of life. Goals and strategies that do not incorporate unexpected events and expenses or changes in circumstances and values don’t work over time.

Financial Wellness is responsive. We can live with our money so that it works for us rather than us working for it. We can live with our money in this way no matter our circumstances. It is not about wealth, but health when it comes to effective money management.

Financial Wellness is aligned. When we are clear about our true values, we can shift from fear-based behaviors to empowered behaviors that are aligned with our values.

When we stop thinking about money in shame-based ways, we become free to create a relationship with our money that is focused on achieving Financial Wellness.

Financial Wellness Tip: 

Do you have a shame-based inner dialogue about money? What if you shifted your language from “financial responsibility” to “financial wellness?” What happens in your body when you adopt wellness language? What about “aligned,” “fluid,” or “responsive?” How do these words land in your being? Do any of them create more space?

Whatever word feels best, write down what “financial ____________” means to you. Are you surprised by what you wrote?

How to Cope With Weight Gain When You Stop Restricting

How to Cope With Weight Gain When You Stop Restricting

During the 80s and 90s, diets ruled.

Losing weight, no matter how, was considered a good thing. I did my first real diet when I was 18, the summer after high school. I lost 25 lbs, easily, and I finally looked like the dancer I wanted to be. I received all kinds of praise for the changes in my body, especially from the people who loved me. But, the dieting was a full-time job and took center stage in my mental and emotional energy. I didn’t understand why other people weren’t dieting. Afterall, it was easy. If all you did, and all you thought about, was food and exercise, you, too, could be really thin! I knew it was probably weird that I would walk to the grocery store and look at and touch all the food I wasn’t going to eat, but, hey, I looked great, so it must be ok, right?

What I now know is that every subsequent attempt to shrink and control my body shape and size was harder and harder. It was also sending messages to my metabolism. These messages said that there often isn’t enough food. So my body, all on it’s own and without my permission, raised my weight set point and lowered my metabolism, and sent me increasing messages of hunger and decreased messages of satiety.

Turns out, my obsession with food wasn’t some weird thing. It’s what happens when we fight our body’s natural signals for food. It drives us to pursue it all the time. Then we become at war with our selves and our biology. It is a war we will ultimately lose in one way or another.

Intuitive Eating is a well-established and well-researched way of returning to our natural relationship with food. The book, first published in 1994 (the year of my first diet), offers ten principles for intuitive eating. Each principle is designed to bring us back into alignment with a truly healthy  relationship with food.

I had to learn that healthy does not equal thin. We can be Healthy At Every Size and we can be unhealthy at every size. Weight is not a primary determinant of health. For many people, a return to intuitive eating means a change in body size and composition. It can mean a decrease in weight. It can mean an increase. Understandably, given the intractability of diet culture all around us, these changes can be difficult.

Five Tips for Coping with Weight Gain When We Stop Restricting:
  1. Know your Why. The most powerful way we can support ourselves through our intuitive eating healing journey is to know our “Why.” Why are we doing this? For many people, the answers lie in improvements to our mental health, our relationships, our daily living experience, and how we feel holistically. Revisiting this daily will help balance the feelings we may have about changes in our bodies.
  2. Focus on how you feel. Identify all the ways in which you feel better physically and emotionally when you are well-nourished. Are you enjoying going out to eat with friends without worrying about sticking to your diet? Does it feel good to explore foods that used to be off-limits, especially traditional foods for holidays and celebrations? Is it exciting to have mental and emotional energy freed up from obsessing about food and weight? Focus on these benefits.
  3. Buy clothes that fit. It is hard to feel good in our bodies when our clothes do not fit. Today, there are wonderful, stylish clothes available in a wide range of sizes. Enjoy styling yourself in ways that compliment your features that you like best!
  4. Follow creators and influencers that send messages of body positivity and body neutrality. We need to counteract the influence of the bombardment of diet culture messages we receive from media, medical providers, and friends and family. Curating our social media and podcasts to include a healthy dose of body positive and body neutral messaging is a great way to change how we think and feel about our bodies.
  5. Focus on what your body can do. Begin exploring movement that feels good to your body. Think of your body as a vehicle for relationship. What might that mean to you? What if your body belonged to you for your purposes and not for the purpose of being acceptable or consumed by others? How would you see your body differently?

Finally, be kind and gentle with yourself. We didn’t get here overnight and we won’t heal overnight. Find community where people understand what you are doing and why, but also how you feel when it’s hard. You deserve to feel healthy and whole. You deserve to be nourished and take up space. You deserve to belong to yourself.

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