I have alluded to this in my blog before. But it’s another of those deeply shameful things that I have tried to avoid looking at / dealing with / talking about.
Im currently reading Brene Browns first book about Shame. Its quite tough going in parts so Im interspersing it with a novel given to me by my sober sister last week ! And in the process of examining my own catalogue of things I am ashamed of, that shame me, debt is one of them.
I am an impulsive spender. I am generally a generous person and enjoy giving. I have also been lucky enough to have a career (for which I studied a long time and worked hard) but which now provides a comfortable level of remuneration. As a single parent whose ex husband is not able to contribute a great deal financially (although he does make regular small payments) the financial burden of raising three kids has fallen on me. I grew up in a house where money was tight, and I have wanted them to have things and opportunities that I did not – I like holidays ( not extravagant, but generally end up expensive see impulsive spending) I buy Art, because I love Art. but its not cheap. When I got divorced we hammered out a deal that enabled me to buy my ex husband out of our home. I raised a lump sum and gave it to him so that he could buy a place for him to live.
It should have worked out. I had enough income for me,the kids and the house. I had no debt (except the mortgage)
and then I met exP.
Even though I am very angry with him, I don’t want to out him on the blog. And the ‘blame’ is not 100% his. I allowed this to happen.
My ex is an artist. At one time, in the 1990’s he was reasonably successful. What he does he does well. But he has no business sense and an uncanny ability to sponge off other people. So when I met him, the extent of his issues was not made clear to me. He was living nearby in a flat which appeared to belong to him, he said it did. But in fact it is in trust for his children. He had no job, no income and a ‘stalled’ career for reasons still not entirely clear to me. He made odds and end of money doing odd jobs for people, but once he moved in with me, he became 100% dependent on me financially. Before I became a domestically abused doormat, I did say I was only willing to tolerate this situation for a 6 month – and a maximum of one year before I expected him to be self supporting. I didn’t expect him to support me or my children ( and I actively did not want him to pay the mortgage on MY house in case it later gave him some legal rights) .
So I paid £2000 for his daughter’s 21st birthday present and dinner; £1600 for an event he exhibited at, £800 for his dental bill. All his food, clothes cigarettes, toiletries haircuts petrol insurance for his car, car tax , every single dinner, event or evening out we went on.
I am so ashamed. But I must write this because it is the truth, And I must live in the truth. My brother is an accountant. Over the last years we have become very close ( at least I think so) and today I asked him to help me sort out the mess of my finances. I trust him enough to believe he will not judge me, just help. I dont want money from him, but I trust his judgement and advice, and I need help.
The six months past, and the years deadline. Still no income. And of course he had nowhere to live if I kicked him out. And he was still being nice, and the kids still loved him, as did I (so much) and so we went on. Thousands of pounds for camera equipment, a three week trip round America , nice gifts for his kids and mum at birthdays and Christmas, all paid for by me. ALL of it.
And of course I was not set up for that was I? My divorce settlement was worked out to provide my children with the stability of living in the FMH with me, I took on extra debt so my exH could get himself a place ( he didn’t but that’s another story) And this is where I was stupid. ( Although Brene would say I must not call myself that) I continued to believe that he WOULD sort it out because I could NOT believe that a man who went on so much about respecting others, and his pride, could not see how WRONG this was. ( I now see that of COURSE he knew it was wrong, he just didn’t care) I got into debt. 0% credit cards, that’s ok, I juggled and balanced and stayed within the 0% deal. But ALL the strain of that was on me. By now the bullying and domestic abuse of me and the children had started. When I raised the issue of money with him he would get very angry indeed, scream at me ( hes a big man – a foot taller and about twice my weight) throw things at me, never to hit me ( he said) but to scare me. And it did
so I kept quiet. Let him pay for dinners ( with my card or one he had linked to my account) Let it appear he was solvent. Let it appear normal.
and why ? because I was ashamed. So ashamed. And so afraid. And I had no idea what to do.
The debt mounted (as it does)
At Christmas 2015 I broke down in front of a mutual friend T. I think I have mentioned him before. I went to T because I knew he would not judge, he was neutral enough and not intimately involved, and I knew he could ‘hold’ my emotion. I cried for 2 hours. I told him everything , and being T he listened, offered me tissues coffee and support, did not judge, and tried to help me find my own solutions. I had a debt of eighty thousand pounds. I could see I was one step away from disaster. I could see I would soon struggle to make repayments on the loans. I told T this, and for the first time (and last despite what else I have told him) I could see he was shocked.
I stopped paying the rent on exP’s studio at that point. I stopped paying his car tax. I stopped his credit card linked to mine. I started to take back control. I just did it. I didn’t discuss it with him I just gave him the bald statements ” I can’t afford to do this any longer”.
It took sobriety , March 2016, and a further 8 months before I kicked him out. Its almost a year ago. I am still SO ashamed of myself. I risked my kids security, I have damaged my own security in old age, and I was too ashamed to seek help earlier.
He left me £80K in debt.
At least £60K of that I can attribute directly to spending on HIM.
I chose the image above because I carried that burden alone. he wasnt interested AT all. why would he be. All the debt was in my name. He had a home, food fuel and everything he needed.
I am so ashamed of myself, but I need to put that shame again, where it belongs. Take my part; for naivety, poor boundaries, allowing shame to keep me silent. But the majority of the shame lies with a man who would live off a woman , knowing she is in difficulties and not lift one finger to help.
In reality I expect he has found another mug to pay his bills. Thank God it’s not me.