I was watching the news at 3:00AM, and I was immediately struck by something. Someone finally understands, I loudly thought to myself because I did not want to wake up everyone in my home. There was a story on the news that caught my eye. Kerry Washington, from TV’s Scandal was discussing her new cause. She is the Ambassador the the Purple Purse Foundation, which focuses on domestic abuse. The focus, in that story, however, was the idea of financial abuse. I have been there… I know. Somehow, the math never works in divorce. Financial Abuse takes place when a woman feels that they do not have the financial power to break free. It is a very hidden form of abuse.
The idea of financial abuse is that there is someone else who is controlling the purse strings at all times. Your thoughts don’t matter; your needs don’t matter. Your desires don’t matter. What does matter, is that you are trapped, by virtue of the decision that you made, to allow another person to control your destiny. That husband whom you trusted, is no longer “in your corner”. You made the decision in love to be the home maker, and the mom, and the care giver. Then things fall apart. Sometimes, there is an affair. Sometimes, there isn’t enough money. Sometimes, things just break. But whether you are on the high income spectrum, as I was, or on the lower end, I can guarantee, that when the dust settles, most divorces will end with the man’s quality of life improving, and the quality of life of the former wife decreasing, sometimes significantly. There is control of the purse strings, denial of the ability to build credit, and often the limit of opportunities to educate or better one’s skill set or education.
Shortly into my divorce, I found myself trying to work with the Utility company to lower my bill, and allow me to pay down the balance I had built up, while I waited for my Support to be finalized by the Court. I had to fill out a degrading form which listed my income. When the Customer Service Agent asked me how I could be unable to pay my bills with such a large income. When I showed her my enormous mortgage bill for the enormous home that I cannot sell due to the state of the housing market, she said, “Oh, that doesn’t leave much.” I was transformed in her eyes, as something to pity.
According to the Courts, my college degree and post graduate degree that had sat dormant, as I raised children, and took care of the home, was equal to his degree which yielded him well into the 6 figures. As a last resort, to avoid Court, I agreed to trade his share of my overly mortgaged home, for my share of his degree and future earnings. Now, ten years later, as my children are growing, and my alimony dwindles, I am supposed to reinvent myself, and start fresh in the career world. What I actually did, was trade the productive years of my life in order for the right to be a stay at home parent. It is only now, that I see the hidden clause that was a part of that agreement.
I am not crying. I am luckier than many women who walk my path. But as I raise my daughter, it is very difficult for me to make her think that I believe in love, and the blind trust that goes along with it on most occasions. I want her to be skeptical in love. I want her to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I want to do for her what my mother did not do for me. I want to set her up for success, in case the man she loves, one day fails her.