Couples come to lots of different arrangements over handling the household finances and while these may play to their respective strengths, too often it means one partner is ignorant about what is really going.
My current guest, Tina Swithin was married for about seven and half years and to the outside world had the perfect life … a marriage, two kids, nice car, fancy house. The reality however was quite different. Here’s Tina:
I had been in the dark about our finances. By the time our marriage ended, he had actually put us about $1.7 million in debt. We ended up losing our home, our cars, our businesses, everything.
He had refinanced our home twice without me knowing about it and it was a very nice home. When we moved into that home, I was aware of his spending problem and I made him promise me that if we were to buy this particular house that he would never refinance it. And sure enough, he did twice.
During our marital counseling it was becoming more and more apparent that it wasn’t just small issues with dishonesty. I didn’t even know who I was married to. He was a complete stranger to me.
I discovered that he had stolen about $90,000 from his younger brother who was still in college. It was almost like an identity theft where he used his credit to fund his lifestyle. The counselor suggested a psychiatric evaluation, because he said, “You’re sitting here in front of me and you’re not denying these things, but you show no remorse. You say you’re sorry, but you don’t show that you’re sorry in any form.”
I did end up declaring bankruptcy. My credit has been completely destroyed, but for me it’s been a very empowering experience, because throughout our marriage we had this image to uphold in the public eye which was his driving force—he wanted everyone to see the nice car, see the house, pretend that we had this perfect life. It’s forced me to go to rock bottom.
When my daughters and I moved out of our marital home, we rented a very tiny apartment that was probably intended for college students and I’ve just spent the past four years completely rebuilding my life. I’m very real. I don’t need to use credit cards to buy things I don’t need. It’s been actually a positive experience for me.
I had grown up in a very humble home lifestyle and did not have the extravagant purchases and homes like he was accustomed to, so for me that was a very foreign world. I’m actually in a 1,000 square foot little house and I’m happier than I have ever been in my life.
Money doesn’t buy happiness and I’m living proof of that. I grew up in a single-parent household. My dad was a single working parent and we didn’t have a lot growing. I’m doing very well and I have everything I need. I have a roof over my head, food on my table and I have a car and we’re happy.
If you’re reading this then chances are high that you’re already somewhere in the divorce process and that makes it more imperative than ever that you know the details of your financial situation. Start with pulling a free credit report from Equifax, Western Union or Experian and if you’re not familiar with creating a budget and managing your finances look for an adult education class.
If talking about money is something that makes your stomach turnover and knot, then it’s worth exploring why you feel this way. If you can understand your emotions then you’ll be in a better position for changing your future behavior and that’s important. With divorce on the horizon you need to be working towards your financial independence.
I love Tina’s message here about being happy with much less – there’s always less money after divorce and it’s a common fear that often keeps people in troubled marriages. If that’s one of your fears, then try looking at where your money is going – what is essential spending and what would you call optional? How easy do you think it would be for you to live on less? What impact would it have?
Tina Swithin describes herself as a one-time victim now survivor. She’s spent the past four years in a horrific custody battle with her ex who she believes suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can read about her journey at her blog, One Mom’s Battle and also in her book, Divorcing a Narcissist.
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