As I mentioned in Abusers Are Weird About Food, the common denominator of abuse is control. Abusers will use anything within reach to control their victims, so the most common, everyday resources are typically the ones most used. Money is no exception. I can’t think of a single case of abuse I know in which money wasn’t used against a victim in some form.

In my house, my narcissistic father often bragged about how he made three times more than my mother. We lived in a big (empty) house that they couldn’t afford. He had lots of toys- a motorhome, ski boat, houseboat, new cars, etc. He surrounded himself with expensive hobbies. He had an expensive pool table in the game room and a dedicated dark room, but he spent much of his time in “his” brown La-Z-Boy watching “his” shows in the “family” room. Every area of the house was his, down to the grass we weren’t allowed to walk on in the back yard. In spite of his “very important” jobs, he was often laid off and unemployed, and over time, contributed less to the bills than my mother.

My mother, by contrast, held on so tightly to every coin, it could not be pried out of her cold hands for any reason or purpose. She was charged with anything having to do with my brother and I, so we were her audience for her passive-aggressive lament about how much money our father spent. It never occurred to her that maybe she should talk to him about it. Instead, she managed money by denying my brother and I of basic needs. We often went without new clothes and were required to make our one pair of shoes stretch for the year, regardless of whether they fit or fell apart. We were not ever bought toys or treats. We did not have lunch money. I cleaned the entire 3,000 sq. ft. house by myself for a couple dollars allowance, which usually went toward getting myself to school. Because my mother fretted about money so much, I absorbed her message that I had to do everything I could to pull my weight. She was masterful at manipulation and self-pity. It was no secret my father bought anything he wanted, but it was taboo to mention the obvious that maybe he shouldn’t.

When I was in college, my parents divorced, and it was agreed that my father would pay for my brother’s education, and my mother would pay for mine. My mother quickly informed me she couldn’t do that, so I applied for student loans. My mother decided she would rather save up to buy her own house, so she kept my student loans for herself. I was homeless for a few months my senior year in school, sleeping on friend’s couches, because she thought for some reason that she was more entitled to my loan money. Because my mother was so covert, I actually felt sorry for her at the time.

These are, of course, just a few of many stories about the ways money was used to deny, control, and abuse in my family. Abusers are notorious for freezing or draining joint accounts or using all kinds of fear and manipulation tactics to ruin their victims financially. Usually money issues come up pretty quick in a relationship, and are often a red flag for future abuse. If you are in a relationship in which someone is weird about money, whether it is excessive spending or excessive thrift, get out while you can.

 

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