Financial Dependence: Power, Self-Worth and Self-Care Dynamics
Today’s topic has been on my mind for several days now. I see so many men and women completely financially dependent on their partner. This is never healthy, not in any way, shape, or form. I want to take today to describe why this is unhealthy and to demonstrate the lopsided dynamics (and even abuse) that can occur in a relationship when one partner is totally financially dependent on the other.
A financially dependent partner in a relationship is not only completely dependent on the other partner’s income, they can find themselves in a position of powerlessness – particularly if money is used to manipulate or control them. If they don’t have access to the other partner’s money, buying simple things such as self-care items can be a challenge or even impossible. If they do have access to the money, every penny spent may be questioned and they run the risk of being criticized for not adding to the home finances. This can even occur when a couple has agreed that one person will work and the other will stay home, I have seen it time and time again. A resentment grows in the one doing all the work and making the money toward the one who does not make any money. Yet (and this answer makes me scratch my head), if you ask the partner making money if they want their husband, wife, or partner to go to work, the answer is usually no or they want the person to work only part time. In both of these scenarios, one partner wants to maintain financial power (if not all power) in the relationship at the expense of the other partner. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a bad positions to be in, period. The only person this is good for is the person with all the power and money, regardless of what agreement is in place. I have seen this type of dynamic in place especially in couples who believe in strict gender roles – well at least one member of the couple believes in strict gender roles. Strict gender roles are neither biblical nor practical. Many have used the Bible to try and justify this type of dynamic but God is not the author of this dynamic, mankind is the author. This dynamic is about control, it is not about God, being a Christian, nor the Bible. Do not be deceived.
I have observed many times the person who is financially dependent has a very low sense of self-worth. They feel stuck, not good enough, and do not believe they can be financially independent. They are usually being abused either financially, or in other ways. Both with the power dynamic and the self-worth dynamic, I see many women who get the bad end of the deal over men. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying there aren’t men who are powerless in their relationships as well. I have met men who have been abused both financially and in other ways. This is not just a women’s issue, this is a human issue. Self-worth or lack thereof can also be tied to strict gender roles. Strict gender roles can lead us to believe we aren’t good for anything else other than what our gender beliefs tell us (or in some cases what someone else is telling us). Ladies and gentlemen, you do have the intelligence and the understanding to make money for yourselves. You can feel good about going to work and contributing to a household. You can have interests and investments outside traditional gender roles. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – they are lying. Do not be deceived.
Making your own money and contributing to a household are elements of self-care. For someone to deny you this opportunity, they are denying you the opportunity to take care of yourself. Even if you have agreed to be the one to stay home and you are not being taken advantage of, you also have to ask yourself, “if I remain financially dependent on this person and something happens to them, then what?” Can you balance a check book? Can you track your money? Can you pay bills? Do you know how to set up a bank account, a retirement account, or a savings account? All of these things are not only a part of financial care, they are a part of self-care. If you can’t do them and your financial support leaves or dies, then what? Do you see what I’m getting at? At some point, you will have to know how to take care of your finances. Finances are a part of our self-care. Our self-care is tied to our self-worth. Our self-worth is tied to who we allow into our lives – either protecting us or exposing us to abuse. Do you see how this all connects? Don’t let someone tell you they will “take care of you” if they can’t manage money or they won’t show you how to if they can manage money. They aren’t “taking care of you”, they are taking care of themselves. Do not be deceived.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to be financially independent so you can make the best decisions for yourselves, your children and your partners – including who you choose as a partner. I know there are many stay-at-home moms and dads who have wonderful partnerships where they choose to not work but can still manage money, spend what they want, and are included in all money decisions for the home. I also know many wonderful couples who both work and contribute to the home – some share aspects of their money, some do not, yet they work together to make their money work best for their family. It doesn’t matter which setup your family has as long as both partners are financially independent and teach their children the same principles. Financial independence avoids the many pitfalls of abuse and self-worth and self-care issues. You will also pick the best partner for you when you are financially independent and pick another person who is financially independent as well.
I want you to take away these two facts from today’s blog: 1) financial independence frees us to love ourselves, our partner and our families because we aren’t worried about how we will make it if something happens to the family provider, and 2) financial independence shields us from those who would abuse us for their own gain and power. If you don’t know how to be financially independent, I would suggest author and millionaire Dave Ramsey’s book, Financial Peace to get you started. You can also check with your bank or a credit union. Many banks and credit unions today have financial classes you can take to learn how to manage your money and they are free. Financial independence is one of many keys to your freedom – you don’t have to be a slave any longer. Break free and be free!