Marriage, money, & my mistake

If you read last week’s blog post, you know that I had a deep desire for financial security.  It was a driving factor in my education choice, career path, and in picking a partner.

Despite doing well financially, making sound choices, and being highly capable of managing money, I didn’t want the worry and stress that I thought was part of the mix.

My ex is brilliant with numbers and has an aptitude for finance. I would never deny that it is one of his strengths.  However, he also holds an arrogant, superiority mindset when it comes to financial matters.  He is overconfident in this area of life, won’t hesitate to show you the “right” way, and likes to take control in this area.   

As promised, here is the story of how I gave away my personal power surrounding money in my marriage. 

Remember when you had to write checks to pay your bills?

We were dating before online banking was a thing.  Yes, I’m going to be 40 this year!!  I remember rotary phones as well.   

It was around the holidays and my credit card bill was due.  I have always paid the full amount.  For some reason, I believe I was going to pay the minimum or perhaps my check was going to be a few days late.

From my perspective, this was a one-off thing and not a big deal because it was a rare occurrence.  Also, I am not a big spender.  I like nice things, but it’s not a driving factor for me.   

When this happened I don’t remember my ex being upset.  If anything he came off as protective and concerned for my financial well-being.  I think he even lent me money to pay the bill in full, which I paid back a few weeks later. 

It never happened again, and from my perspective this was just a blip.  An insignificant event. 

However to my ex, this event shaped his view around me and money.  Basically, in his eyes I became incompetent when it came to managing money. 

Fast forward to 2006, we get married and I move across the ocean to be with my husband.

A number of transitions took place in a 2 month time span.  I got married, moved to London, had to find us a new apartment, and then I found out I was pregnant! 

I was going to look for work after I moved (I actually found old emails from recruiters I had contacted), but with a baby coming it didn’t seem like the right decision.  Plus, I saw the hours my ex kept at work and I wanted my child to have an active and present parent.

While I feel truly blessed to have been able to stay home with my children, giving up my career was the beginning of giving away my personal power around money. 

I believe this changed the dynamic of the relationship. 

Since I was not bringing in money, I felt I needed to defer to my ex on every purchase.  It very much became a parent/child relationship around money.  I would always ask if it was ok to buy this or spend that.  I had a fear of confrontation and him saying no. Part of me felt that since he was the one working and earning the family income, I needed to get approval first on all purchases. When he would complain about me spending too much money at the grocery store, this only led me to ask for approval even more.

My behaviors reinforced his need to control the finances and my need to avoid it.

Our patterns and behaviors were established early on and led to an unhealthy dynamic around money in our marriage.

During the years of my marriage I lived all over the world, in London, the US for a bit, then Bermuda, and finally Switzerland. 

The joke was that my daughter had lived in three countries in her three years of life.

Deciding to move to Bermuda happened quite quickly, so much so that we needed to figure out what to do with our home in Hartford.  Therefore, my ex moved to Bermuda and started working before my daughter and I could join him.

Since my ex arrived in Bermuda ahead of us, he set up the banking accounts in his name.  While I remember giving a little push to have my name on the account once there, he thought it was too much work and I didn’t push back. 

I had access to money, use of the atm card, and a credit card so why make a big deal of it?

I let it go.

Since my ex liked controlling the money and I didn’t want to, I also gave him complete control over paying all of the bills.  I never once looked at them, unless he was questioning a purchase I had made that he thought was too much and I had to explain it.

Now, I was not completely in the dark.  I knew his online filing system where he saved statements on the computer. 

I had access to the banking statements, but I chose not to look at them.

For years, I lived in blissful avoidance.

Given that the precedent was already set, when we moved to Switzerland my ex again set up the bank accounts in his name only.  I questioned it, but again didn’t push it much.

Upon reflection, giving up my own source of income and choosing to not be involved in our family’s financial management were mistakes on my part. 

You could call them regrets, but I believe they were on my path so that I can learn from them, become more empowered, and ultimately lose my fear of money.  I choose to share my story so that others can learn from my challenges.

Check in next week, to see how my money choices have impacted my divorce process.

Do you have a “money mistake” that you have made in your past?

Let me know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *