When I was married to my first narcissist ex–“Narc-light,” I remember looking around the house where we lived together, and thinking “every single thing in this house except for my clothes, toiletries and some books is all his. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like an adult and be in control of my own life?” I don’t think I even realized I was being financially abused yet, but I definitely felt like I was an adult who was not free to live as an adult. I was nothing more than someone who lived in my husband’s home, sat on his furniture, ate his food and used his shower. I didn’t have anything to show for my life, or anything that would be mine if I wasn’t with him. Later, when I was free, I remember looking around my apartment at my own belongings–including my dining room and bedroom sets I assembled myself–and thinking, finally, I had something for me. I was an independent adult.
But before I left my husband, I really had no say over anything. In fact, I felt like I owed my husband the best of everything because I didn’t work. He repeatedly reminded me that I didn’t work, and sometimes told me I was worthless because of it…even though it was HIS idea! He reminded me of his girlfriends before me who had good jobs, then compared me to them. It was a no-win situation. I wasn’t allowed to work, (when I tried to get jobs, he raged until I gave up,) but yet he made it clear that he was mad at me for not working.
Before I met and married Narclight, I was in a long co-dependent relationship with another man who frequently quit his jobs and leaned on me to support him. I got tired of that, and just happened to meet the Narc around the same time. The Narc told me he loved the idea of being the breadwinner so his wife could stay home and raise kids. I started working at age 15 and had always been a hard worker–taking lots of hours and overtime, and sometimes two or more jobs at a time. So, when the Narc told me he wanted to support me, it sounded really wonderful. It sounded like a nice break! He had a pretty good job and was very responsible financially, which appealed to me after having supported my ex boyfriend for so long. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and this sounded like a dream come true.
But it came at a high cost. My husband always reminded me that he worked and I didn’t, so I felt obligated to demean myself and let him be the “master” of the house. I always put him first, and I apologized for upsetting him when he kept yelling at me. As time went on, I began to realize he was an abuser, (with the help of my therapist,) but I felt like I didn’t know how to get out. We lived in Los Angeles, so there was no way I could afford to live alone even if I did have a decent job. I started looking for jobs I might be qualified for, and I started looking at apartment costs, and I panicked because I did the math over and over, but I simply could not afford to live on my own.
This is just one example of a way a narcissist can keep you under control with financial abuse. But there are others:
1. The narcissist will tell you if you leave, they will refuse to pay child support
2. The will remind you that if they make more money, they will “beat” you in court
3. They will refuse to pay child-support or alimony which quite often leaves you desperate and hanging
4. If they think you might try to leave, they will close bank accounts and credit cards so you can’t access any money to get away
5. They will remind you of the money they’ve spent on you and make you feel like you owe them
6. They will hide assets, so if you divorce, you are cheated
7. They will keep you dependent on them for the bare necessities
and so many other ways.
For some of us, these are real concerns. You may struggle without the narcissist’s financial “help,” but the freedom is worth it. One day, you can come home and look around and realize your life is under your own control again. No matter how humble it is, that is a great feeling!