I Was Financially Abused (Part 1)

I lived through a very tough five-year period in the 1990s before a marriage breakup at age 34. These were the years of my pregnancy and Link’s early childhood. They gave me unparalleled happy parenting memories, along with the worst personal and financial situations I’ve ever faced.

During this time, besides Link arriving in the world, I got to know my ex’s wonderful family whom I still love dearly.

When I met Link’s dad, DG, I was 26 and we were both on the rebound from previous relationships. I lived on my own in Saskatoon, had recently downsized my apartment, and had received my first work promotion at the library. I would be able to pay off a $3500 debt which was quite a burden. I felt I was on a good trajectory.

DG was five years older than me and more advanced in his career, already in management. When we first met, DG’s expenses were low. He splashed a lot of money around on cars, vacations and expensive dates. We didn’t talk salaries, but I speculated he might earn 25% more than I did. We soon settled into a less spendy lifestyle. We both looked forward to marriage and kids.

He volunteered to pay off my credit card debt. I asked if he wanted to be repaid, and he said that as long as our wedding plans proceeded, he did not. It gave a new meaning to the term “marriage contract.”

When we decided to buy a house, some financial strain showed for the first time. I wanted to sit down together and figure out how much mortgage we could afford. He said he would pay the mortgage (including mortgage insurance and property tax) and I could pay all the other household expenses. We would each pay for our own cars and their related expenses. This sounded reasonable to me. Therefore, he decided on his own how much to pay for our first house and how much to mortgage.

In retrospect, I see this allowed him to hide his salary and spending from me. After all, since every bill was covered, why should I worry? Later I discovered he earned three times my salary.

In the year following our marriage, it quickly became apparent that DG had a significant substance abuse problem. I spent several years educating myself and trying to get him well. There were ups and downs, and during better times, we began our family.

When I was pregnant, I experienced further financial stress. I decided to save money for baby things: nursery furniture, a car seat, a stroller, and so on. I needed a few work-worthy maternity outfits. It was the first time I had ever saved over $1000 on my own and I was proud. DG didn’t contribute. A turning point came when I started maternity leave. I had six months off, and during that time, I received 57% of my salary from employment insurance, with no employer top-ups. However, at home, I was expected to keep up my usual share of household bills and car expenses.

DG would have liked me to be a stay-at-home mom. It may have rankled him that he was a high earner, and I insisted on working. To be fair, I know he thought of me as a good mother and he believed I could do a better job of child-rearing than daycare. But because of his addictions, I realized I could end up on my own, and I had better stay current in my career. This was the first of a series of clear-headed decisions on my part, which suddenly emerged now that I had a child.

Early Days

If anything, DG’s addictions became much worse when Link was a baby. You often read now that intimate partner violence increases during the pregnancy-childbirth-infancy period. I never experienced physical abuse, but many of the associated factors were present, such as insecurity, jealousy and controlling behaviour.

When I returned to work, I was required to add childcare to my share of the bills. After all, I didn’t “have” to work, so all resultant work expenses were deemed my responsibility. I was soon unable to go to work functions or go out with friends because it wasn’t safe to leave baby Link at home with him – not because of active abuse, but neglect due to his impairment. I stopped having friends over because I was embarrassed by his behaviour.

When Link was 11 months old, I had to make a life-changing decision. DG’s company was bought out, and his work unit was to move halfway across the country to Montreal. By now I was a manager at the library. My own circle of family and friends had been strong for the past 7 years. Could I give it all up to move across the country with an addict?

Ready to Leave

I knew that if Link and I stayed in Saskatoon (i.e. refused to move), my salary and good childcare and DG’s close-knit family support would make it almost impossible for me to move later. My best friend even offered to share a home and childcare with me. But I knew if I stayed, I would never live near my own family again. Living in Montreal would bring me twice as close to my family on the east coast, so, concealing my terror, I decided to leave it all behind.

To be continued

If you have money concerns in your relationship please read How to Identify Financial Abuse. 

17 comments

  1. Wow. I feel like I’m reading my own story,merely in another country! I’m intrigued to read the next installment.

    • I am sorry you went through this stuff too. I hope you have had a happy other life after all of it, like I have.

      • With a very very lot of hard work and family support I did thankfully.I educated myself and earned a Master’s degree amongst all the professional attainments.
        I called it quits after 20+ plus years only to find the house had minus equity. Live and learn. I’m happy now,lovely home,early retired.
        Love your blog

        Ann Marie

      • Thanks so much, Ann Marie. We are stronger than we know.

  2. You really had a bad time of it and must have wondered how you had ended up in such a situation. At least baby Link has been the silver lining of that very dark cloud.

  3. tess

    Wow, how harrowing. I just finished a fictional book called : You Show Have Known, in which the protagonist is writing a self help book for spotting bad marital candidates while married to someone she has no clue about.
    Sometimes our optimism/fear/wishes outweigh our skills of detection, or in my case, an initial gut feeling that I overruled for 7 and a half years!

    Baby Link is the picture of cuteness.

    • I completely agree, especially about the optimism and if-you-close-your-eyes-and-wish-or-pray-hard-enough attitude. I did override my gut feelings on many occasions but always found a reason to stay: for as long as you did!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I really admire how you have remade your life, and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment of your story.
    My professional life started with 10 years working as a lawyer, mainly for women trying to leave abusive relationships. I know from them and from my academic study just how pervasive financial control and all the stuff that often goes alongside it can be. I also know from the experiences of some women very close to me who went through it.
    It’s so easy to think that this only happens to other people, who aren’t like us. But the truth is that it can happen to anyone, and so often those who are going through it don’t recognise it for what it is and blame themselves.

  5. Fiona

    It is so beneficial to hear stories such as this (difficult as the memories must be.) I think it can often be so hard to recognise an abusive situation while you are in it. So great to read about a situation where you heeded the warning signs early enough to make some protective decisions for the future. But so hard to read…knowing that still, there is such surprising lack of discussion about how to recognise red-flags in relationships…or what to do if there were none, but later the true situation becomes apparent. Such an important discussion…thank you for sharing it, Dar.

    • I wish there was more education, for teens especially, on what constitutes abuse or control. Not just for potential victims, but for potential perpetrators as well (if you constantly check where your bf or gf is and who they text, it’s controlling behaviour, not a sign of passionate love). It’s complicated when adults try to merge finances because some people are inappropriately suspicious and others are an open book!

  6. All the more power to you! The strength to recognise the abuse, to go it alone and to share your story.

  7. Pingback: I Was Financially Abused (Part 2) | An Exacting Life

  8. You have faced some tremendous life burdens and I feel sorry for that. But whether you realize or not, in this first part, I can already see that you are a strong and courageous woman.

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