I've been thinking a lot about financial abuse.
I have spent so much of my time thinking about and healing from the emotional/psychological abuse--and obviously the physical pain and recovery from being shot by someone I once loved and trusted.
But there is a big financial abuse component to my story.
Part I: Showing Me the Good Life
I've mentioned before that I was a single mom with my older son when I met him. I pretty much lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I lived within my means, but with the high standard of living in the DC area, I didn't have a whole lot extra left over each month to go shopping, take vacations, etc. I wasn't strapped but definitely wasn't rolling in it either.
I had what I needed. I shared a townhouse with another single mom friend of mine and her kids. I had a car. I had clothes for myself and my son. We were doing just fine.
The most important thing I DIDN'T have was debt. I'd made mistakes in my 20s with credit card debt and had dug myself out of it, so by my early 30s, I was in good shape again. I didn't have a credit card; I was living off of my salary and the child support I received.
Then I met him.
We went on trips within the first few months. A trip to LA to see his military friends; a trip to Atlanta to see my dear childhood friend; a trip to a resort in Mexico (he bought my wedding ring there, along with tons of other jewelry). I was thrilled! I hadn't been out of town unless it was for work. I hadn't been on vacation in years. And he paid for it all!
I'd hit the jackpot!
The gifts began pouring in quickly. That birthstone bracelet and more jewelry (2-carat diamond earrings!...a 2-carat solitaire pendent!), then name brand shoes, then Coach purses, then entire shopping sprees for new clothes. "Buy anything you want," he'd said at Nordstrom.
So you see what he was doing. He was upgrading my life. He was upgrading ME!
He never outright said that I needed improvement, but judging by how quickly he bought those items, my appearance clearly wasn't up to par. I had a no-name purse, no-name shoes, costume jewelry, a sufficient but not flashy wardrobe. Well and the other thing is, he never asked me my shoe size or whether I wanted new shoes...or new purses or new clothes. He just bought what he liked and presented them to me.
At the time, I was grateful.
But also at the time, I didn't catch the other potential financial pitfalls into which he was leading me in his quest to make upgrades.
I drove an affordable Nissan Versa. I was maybe a year, maybe not even a year, into a three year lease. After a few months of dating, he talked me into upgrading to a sporty 2-door Honda. Turning my lease in early meant a higher monthly payment for the car. He said he'd help me with that. After less than a year in the Honda, he talked me into an Acura MDX. Yeah. That was significantly more expensive than the Honda. He said he'd help me with that.
I mentioned I was debt-free. He talked me into credit cards to buy furniture and other items for our home on the Army base. We needed new bedroom furniture, new couches, a plasma TV, a dinette set, a king-sized mattress. He said my credit was better than his...because of the thousands he owed for putting his education on credit cards. He said he'd help me pay mine off quickly though.
I had no reason to think he wouldn't. He loved me. I trusted him. I wanted to make our life and home better, too.
Do you think those debts were paid off?
Oh. And also? He refused to share a bank account after we were married. Unlike other abusers who control financially by taking over a joint account, mine refused to allow me to share. He wanted our money separate, period. I never knew what was going in or coming out of his account. Not ever. He didn't want me seeing what was happening with his money.
I never understood the secrecy. Until later.