I Was Financially Abused (Part 2)

Continued from this post

In 1994, I moved from Saskatoon to Montreal when DG’s company was sold and his entire work unit was relocated. We suffered no financial setbacks from the move since his employer covered the costs, and we made a modest profit on the sale of our house. We bought a comparable house in a nice suburb, and DG spent his off-work time doing repairs and renovations. My French-language skills were rusty so I readied myself to take a pre-employment French Immersion course. For a few months, we enjoyed visits from all our Halifax relatives. We were now only a 14-hour drive from them, as opposed to the 44 hours between Halifax and Saskatoon!

Meanwhile, DG was in increasingly poor shape. He was always impaired, and performed all our home and yard renos in a stupor (yeah, I know, everyone should be so productive when they are medicated). Just six months after our move, DG’s new employer shut down the operation. As the manager, DG was devastated to see his staff lose their jobs, and he took it very hard. (Footnote: his employees did have to move again, but they all fared very well). DG had to find another job in his industry. He had three options: Massachusetts, North Carolina or Texas. At this point I put my foot down and said I would only go to Massachusetts. I was enjoying living closer to my family again, and I knew I would be dangerously isolated if I moved further away from everyone I knew.

DG received a good job offer there under NAFTA and we moved to a beautiful small town in Central Mass. I did my research and confirmed I would also be able to work in the US under NAFTA, since both engineers and librarians were on the “needed” occupations list.

The move away from Montreal had a huge impact on our now one-income family. The housing market in Montreal had tanked. We had to find a place in Mass before the old house sold. The town was so small that it only had one rental available and two houses for sale. Rather than rent the unheated cabin for the upcoming winter (!), we bought a house and carried two mortgages for a few months. Of course we didn’t know how long it would be, so the whole wait was stressful, and included a bridging loan. Then the old house didn’t fetch a good price despite all the improvements. Our new house was a couple of miles from the business district and I was at home all day with a toddler and no transportation. I pleaded with DG to take on a loan for another vehicle despite all the financial pressure we were facing. I know it must have been crushing for DG but I felt I was in an impossible situation. (I wrote about it here.)

Although all the money situations worked themselves out quickly, DG continued his downward slide into substance abuse. His workplace expressed appreciation for his major contributions, but I didn’t see how he kept it together on the job. Later I learned that everyone at work was aware of his addictions. DG had hoped to recover privately and not publicly admit he’d ever had a problem – too big a task for anyone.

Screamy times

I held down the household for a year with frequent visits to and from my family. Then I went back to work. DG’s response was much the same as before – he would rather I stay home with Link. Once again I paid all the daycare expenses from my new salary. Now there was a new wrinkle. In the US, married couples can file their taxes jointly. When I wasn’t employed, DG got a big tax break. So when I returned to work, DG insisted I compensate him for the loss of this deduction by having extra taxes taken off my pay cheques. It was his way of mathematically proving that it wasn’t “worth it” for me to work. I know he was being punitive because the more financially dependent I was, the less likely I would leave him, he thought.

When we inevitably did split, I went to my payroll office to have the extra deductions stopped, and my weekly cheques immediately increased from $475 to $675 per week.

When we settled our books, he recouped the $3500 he had loaned me when we were engaged.

In the early days of our split, DG was stopped by the police for erratic driving while Link was a passenger, and I had to pick up Link at the police station; he was found wandering lost and drunk in a mall parking lot and sent to the hospital for a check-over; and the daycare called me to pick up Link when he showed up wasted. Without DG’s express permission, I was not legally allowed to leave the country with our child.

We had a horrible two years during which I had to provide visitation despite knowing it was unsafe. He had no criminal record (DUIs etc.) and I wasn’t able to get his health record released to the family court. He was a professional person with a good reputation at work. No one from work or daycare would make a statement against him. The incidents we’d experienced weren’t considered serious enough to bar visitation. (I hope now they would be). A few times I refused to send Link and faced his wrath. I knew I could be held in contempt of court for not complying with our agreement, but I had to take the chance. I despaired.

Based on my salary alone, without declaring child support income, I qualified for a mortgage and bought my own home. DG bristled at paying the mandated level of child support since I had a good income. Enough to buy a house, right? In a burst of good will I agreed to accept a lower amount and have him pay some of Link’s expenses directly. We had very different priorities. I covered my house payments, car, daycare, child activities and college savings; DG kept his living expenses low and spent freely on toys, vacations and entertainment. Toward the end he considered leaving his job for something less demanding with lower pay, partly because of his health problems and partly because he felt trapped by paying child support. I had no opinion because I was self-sufficient either way.

There was an end to it; DG died suddenly of an overdose when we had been separated for two years. Link was six. I was the executor of DG’s estate. He had $8000 in the bank which was used to pay off his bills and funeral expenses. His retirement account was taken as a lump sum and split among extended family members. You would think someone with a professional income would have investments, but an addiction that periodically cost a-hundred-dollars-a-day tends to work against that.

We had agreed to maintain life insurance policies with each other named as the beneficiary. However, I was stonewalled in every dealing with his company’s HR department and insurer. On my last attempt, two years after DG’s death, I reached a new HR Manager who was appalled that my case had not been settled and he immediately set it right.

Link and I stayed in Massachusetts for another six months while Link finished up Grade 3, whereupon we packed our bags and headed back to Nova Scotia to begin a new life.

Looking back, I believe many factors contributed to my financial abuse including my lack of financial education, rigid gender roles, an imbalance of power, denial, shame, unrealistic optimism, and a lack of appropriate boundaries on my part. I will talk more about those things next time.

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

If you’ve ever been in a difficult financial situation because of a partner (or a parent or an adult child), I hope you have the opportunity to talk or write about how you got through it.

24 comments

  1. Can I ask why you didn’t keep his retirement account for Link? I would have thought the company would have settled quickly for the benefit of the child??!!

    Clearly your journey has made you stronger.

    On a frivolous note, I hardly recognise you in the photos!!! You’ve clearly changed – not just in a mental/emotional way.

  2. Glad you came out of all this in one piece – it is so hard for me to identify with any of your story. We have always shared everything since we met at Art college when we pooled our grants and the only accounts we have in our separate names are some ISA (Individual Savings Accounts) which can only be individual names but we split the savings we have equally between mine and his accounts. Everything else is in joint names. I cannot begin to imagine how you got by not knowing what your total income was and spending it together.
    I was looking at the map to see where all the places you lived are in relation to each other and noticed how many British town names there are in Nova Scotia!

    • Over the years I couldn’t identify with couples who shared everything and were completely financially compatible! It seemed impossible to me.

      It’s funny that we are named New Scotland but have many more English place names. We do have a New Glasgow and an Inverness!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, Dar. I admire your fortitude and how you have taken your destiny into your own hands. I realise now where your incredible sense of compassion and serenity and level-headedness comes from. Thinking of you.

  4. Fiona

    It’s heartbreaking reading this, on every level: for you, Link, DG and all associated. Agree so much that financial education (along with relationship education) needs to be pivotal learning for young people. I’m still shocked reading your story though, Dar. You had such a different life to the one we’ve known you in from later years.

  5. Fiona

    I actually read this straight after coming home from Soup Van tonight. I was sitting with a homeless guy on the street. He expressed such remorse and shame over losing his family, children, partner, livelihood and the very roof over his head through drugs and alcohol. It was so incredibly sad listening to his story. So much heartbreak all round.

    Substances of all kinds are having such a profoundly disastrous effect on so many lives.

    • That’s it exactly. The overwhelming self-loathing makes it hard for people with addictions to stay in relationships and “face the music” after they get well. So sometimes they don’t.

  6. Goodness that’s a hard story! Many of your financial stresses were identical to mine,except my ex was a dishonest womaniser who incurred debt in favour of cars and holidays. And geography of course,I live in the UK.My story also had a very happy ending through hard work..
    Thanks for sharing.

    • I really struggled with dishonesty because after a certain point, people with addictions lie to themselves as much as to others. And the more addictions advance, the more lying/cheating/deception increases – it’s an unavoidable part of the progression. I prefer to think that his disease took his true self away, rather than to think the person I first met was “untrue.” Earlier on, before addictions, he was someone’s child, a brother, a friend, a student, a co-worker, etc. – not all of that was a lie.

      • Very charitable Dar! My ex was fully responsible and aware of his actions,just selfish. I’ve taken the view he is the father of my only child. She must and has drawn her own conclusions.
        It’s been helpful revisiting this,if just to acknowledge how hard I’ve worked.

        Best regards
        Ann Marie

  7. agirlushouldknow

    Thank you for sharing this with me. I am horrified at how he behaved and what happened to you but sadly not surprised in general. Addictions strip away so much of the person (and its really hard to see them get it back even if they get sober). You are so very strong and I am glad for that.

  8. It almost seems a blessing to have him die – knowing friends who continue with acrimonious splits for years and years and years. It truly does seem like some people like the fight, just for the sake of it. And it’s horrible. I wish that the recovery, the healing, was able to start sooner.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I like to hope this will never happen to me, and as the years tick by, I’m increasingly sure it won’t due to my independence. And a father who is a banker has certainly helped me have a reasoned idea of what to do with my money.

    Much love to you for this tough time in your life.

  9. Oh wow, what an experience. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this. I am very glad that this is no longer your reality. Thank you for sharing.

  10. After reading this part, I continue to admire your strength, intelligence, and fortitude when faced with difficulties.

  11. PK

    This is a very difficult story to read. You are one of the strongest, most grounded people I know. I am sorry that you had to go through that, so glad that you stood your ground along the way and so so glad that you came out on the other side. I know a lot of people don’t.

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