Why smart people get financially coerced

 You are smart and fun, sassy and strong, yet when it comes to money do you give it all away, or even control of it away to a partner?

We have all been guilty of the odd bad decision when it comes to money, but this is one we really do not talk about until it blows up and then it’s all too late.

I will give you a few examples:

My friend Alice, co-signed a loan over her home, which was just in her name, to help her husband’s business. You know how the story ends, don’t you?

His business fails, and even though he told her there’d be no risk to the home, but of course there was. That is what a mortgage does, protects the bank’s money. She then had to work her way out of the situation.

I’ve got another friend, Jane, who found out they had $150,000 worth of credit card debt. A huge price to pay for keeping up appearances.

A client of mine lost their deposit because his girlfriend gambled it all away.

The client whose husband kept their divorce proceeding dragged out for years because he had unlimited resources but knew she did not.

These are all trueish stories (names and circumstances changed) and very real examples of

This is all a form of sexually transmitted debt, the kind of debt that we can get into when we are not paying attention or we are being financially coerced or we simply believe we are doing the right thing for our relationship or our family.

I was going out with a guy who changed jobs six times in the four years that we were together. Every time he changed jobs, he also convinced whoever he was changing to give him a new sign-on bonus. He lied to me about the amount of child support he was paying. He let me pay for his car loan while simultaneously he was telling his son 8-year-old son that at 18 that car would be his. I’m sitting in the driver’s seat thinking WTF I am paying for this!!

Yet I said nothing.

Was it because I didn’t want the relationship to fail?

Or was it just fear?

Fear that if I stood up to him or said that I wasn’t happy he would leave.

He did leave anyway.

But was this my fault?

Did I create this situation or was I manipulated into it? I really looked back on it because at the same time, I was watching a whole lot of other friends in similar positions, and it’s something I see all the time.

So my theory is we have this inner programming, our inner child, always making decisions to keep us safe.  We also have the inner critic (mine is my grandmother) always telling us how we are going wrong.

They are not there all the time, but they do pop in when we are stressed, not thinking, going with our gut.

These guys tell us stuff like:

 men run the money and women are no good with money.

Now there’s no evidence for that whatsoever. Money is a construct, so it’s not something that we’re innately born with, a skill everyone needs to learn. Your money does not know your gender.

He won’t cope if you earn more than him, so it’s best to let him control the money.

I have to look after her because women are bad with money.

These voices are really just the cognitive bias that you’ve got around how you think things should happen or how you think life should be. That inner six year old, or that grandma or whoever it is that shows up for you. 

If you want to shut them up (or deal with your cognitive bias) you need an alternative way of talking to yourself.

So instead of judging yourself think of what your personal values are, and how they apply to the way you are showing up in your relationship, and with your money.

To do that look back to a time you felt in control, or happy, and think of a time where you felt undervalued and controlled. What did you value or not value in that situation?

Get more mindful, so that you can observe the negative thoughts rather than get involved with them or mindlessly react to them.

And understand who you are dealing with, are you involved with a narcissist who is out for themselves, or is your partner trying to financially coerce you?

Red flags for this include anyone limiting access to your money, stopping you from working or becoming overly agitated or even violent around money. Even that person that tells you its for your own good may not be acting with best of intentions. This is a form of domestic violence. It’s really hard to admit to yourself because you are actually a sparkly, fun, generous, and normally joyful human, who thinks everyone has best of intentions. If you are in a situation that is really out of your control please seek help. I watched my mother in a relationship like that and although she is out of it now, the financial abuse she suffered has meant she is working well into her 70s.

If you are in control of the situation, even if it comes with a couple of arguments with your significant other, then boundaries and a plan are what you need now. This means returning to your values so that you’re able to align with each other…and don’t be surprised if their inner six-year-old starts showing up too.  See if you can discuss their core beliefs or at least some of the things that hold them back.

And then between the two of you, settle on some short-term next steps because that’s what this is all about. This is about gaining control back of your money, and it is your money. You do need to remind yourself that you’ve gone out and earned it, and there’s no reason for you to be giving it away to someone else at your expense.



Contact Phoebe

Phoebe is available for interviews, guest appearances, article commentary, and talks on a range of topics relating to property, mortgage broking, and personal finance (particularly for women!).