One of the reasons why I am now so passionate about teaching others about money management stems from a time when I didn’t have any control of my own money. I was in a relationship where I allowed my partner at the time to control everything. It was one of the biggest money mistakes I have ever made.
Let me show you why.
Too Much Too Young
I have been engaged in my life already. This was in my second long-term relationship, and the one I consider to be my first “grown up” one. Although, I was only 18 when I met him, so whether you call this grown up is a matter of perspective. I now know how young and naïve I was.
We had a lovely relationship to start with. He couldn’t do enough for me and was extremely generous. His family were too and I loved them.
When I turned 21, he proposed. It was romantic – a still, quiet morning in the Grand Canyon no less. I did what any giddy, excited 21 year old who had watched too many Disney princess films would do – I said yes without contemplating exactly what this meant. Now I can see how young I was, and how SO NOT READY I was to settle down for the rest of my life.
This is when things seemed to go down-hill in our relationship I think. Somewhere inside me I was suppressing a need to be myself, and I took on the role of dutiful fiancée, and he took on the role of over-protective fiancé.
As the years went by, I became more and more depressed and felt trapped. I was scared to be myself or ask for what I wanted for fear of being told what I wanted “was wrong”. I was unable to do anything right, and constantly felt like a failure around him. Everything I seemed to do upset him somehow. At the time, I felt that he was manipulative and controlling, but I see now that this was his way of showing me that he cared, and the more distant I got, the tighter his apparent control did.
The only opportunity I felt I had for self-expression was at work, and I chose probably one of the most adrenaline-fuelled jobs I could have done – in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology. It makes sense to me now why I decided to quit a few years ago – as my social life and self-worth improved, my need for “excitement” at work disappeared.
So how does this relate to money?
One Sided Money Control
Part of the control he had over me was with my money. For some reason, I agreed to put both of our salaries in a joint account in their entirety. Whenever I wanted to spend MY OWN MONEY, it had to go through him. To be fair, I showed a complete lack of interest when it came to money. I found it boring, confusing and felt like he could do it better than me, so why bother trying to learn what to do.
For years I told myself that I “no good with money”, and of course, I treated money, and spent money in a way that lived up to this negative belief to “prove” to myself this was the case.
One of the last straws came when I had to go into my overdraft to be able to pay for a girly weekend away to Paris. It was unfair because after his refusal to let me spend money to do this, he bought a costly (and pointless) purchase for around the house that amounted to the same money I needed, and refused to return it so I could go on my trip. I knew this relationship was stifling me, because I would wake up in cold sweats after dreaming about being a 40-something desperate housewife with two children and no life.
Things simply had to change.
A Bid For Freedom
I made the horrible and gut-wrenching decision to break up with him when I was 26. To say it was stressful would be an understatement. I had been with him for 8 years, pretty much most of my 20s, and I had done very little in my life to that point. It was messy, I did things to hurt him that I wasn’t proud of (but I have forgiven myself now), and I spent a lot of time blaming him for the bad things that had happened in my life, when I can see now that he wasn’t fundamentally a bad person and all he was trying to do was care for me. I have forgiven him, and I hope one day he’ll forgive me too.
Disentangling our finances wasn’t easy. I ended up in debt to him to pay back money for things we had purchased together. Our flat was in his name, so I lost this too – and all the money I put into it over 4 years. You could argue that I owed him nothing, especially as he also got to keep everything inside the flat too, but try saying that to a guilty 26 year old with poor self-esteem. Needless to say, I paid for this break up in blood, sweat, tears and money.
I also got into more debt because I was now free and wanted to do EVERYTHING all at once! I partied, I travelled, I purchased. I wrote a bucket list and ticked off over 50% of it in 4 years. This amounted to a lot of emotional and unconscious overspending, and therefore a lot of debt. The blessing in this is that I have learnt from my mistakes, and they have led to writing to you, so I wouldn’t change a thing.
The Moral Of My Story
Allow NO ONE to take care of your money OTHER THAN YOU. Its absolutely fine to have a joint account with your significant other, but please only put in enough money to cover your bills.
Point #1 If your partner cares about you, they’ll accept that they need to pay more (or spend less)
If one of you earns more, make it a more equitable distribution than 50/50 – the number of stories I have read of people who get into financial difficulty because they are trying to match their other half pound for pound is pretty depressing. I have also made this mistake in a different relationship, so I know from experience how hard it is to keep up with someone who earns more.
Point #2 You BOTH need to take care of your own savings and investments
DO NOT neglect yourself in this. You BOTH need to have your own savings and investment accounts. You BOTH need your own pensions, and you BOTH need your own freedom/play money. I allowed my partner TOTAL control, so it is entirely possible that he used my money to save and invest. If he did I didn’t know about it.
Point #3 Don’t live so entangled financially that you have to beg for money to do the things you want to do
Now I’m not saying you have to be totally irresponsible when it comes to money – if you have something big to purchase that you both will have benefit from, then don’t go and blow your half on an all-inclusive holiday with the girls at the last minute to sabotage it (save up more and do both!) because that is just selfish. However don’t live so entangled financially that you have to beg for money to do the things you want to do like I had to.
Point #4 Have a F*** Off Fund
And finally, have a personal F*** Off Fund (aka Emergency Fund). I talked about this in my blog here, but in the sense of being able to say “f*** off” to your boss. You really need a fund of your own, in case you want to say “f*** off” to your partner instead.
It makes me so upset knowing that there are women out there who stay in unhappy relationships BECAUSE of lack of money and fear they won’t survive on their own. Your freedom IS NOT at the expense of your partner or your children.
You owe it to your kids to be independent financially. You should not be stuck in a cycle of having no money to do what you want. It is not “tempting fate” or “disrespecting” your partner. It is respecting yourself.
If you don’t earn any money, siphon it off somehow from the food budget, or sell things. Do whatever it takes to make sure you have savings “just in case”. If you never use it and it becomes a nice little nest-egg to invest, then that’s a fab bonus, but if you need it, you’ll be glad that you have money to pay for your escape to a new home, a new life and a fresh start.
So there you have it, my frankly honest account about one of my relationships and how it affected my money. If you have any worries about a relationship you’re in, and you think your are a victim of abuse (financial restriction IS a form of domestic abuse), then please seek help as soon as it is safe to do so. Don’t stay trapped.
I’d love to know your thoughts – feel free to comment, or come over to my free and private Facebook group.
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2 thoughts on “Relationships And Money – My Biggest Financial Mistake”
Thanks for sharing a very emotionally charged story about a difficult time in your life. As someone who also shared a huge mistake on my blog (my divorce) I know what kind of emotions it stirs up having to relive it again while you create the post.
I think it is a very smart idea to maintain separate finances but also have a joint account for contributing to shared expenses. I agree also that if one partner earns way more than the other, it should be more of a similar ratio for contributions to that joint account.
The successful stories I read about have separate accounts where you don’t have to ask your partner for permission to buy items up to a certain value.
Very true – it does stir up emotions, but also helps process them. Thank you for your comment!