How to love your money in a high conflict divorce

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date published

28th February 2022

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Emma Heptonstall

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date published

28th February 2022

What’s your relationship with money? If you’ve been in a high conflict marriage, chances are you and money aren’t best friends. In this blog we’ll take a look at why, and what you can do about it. Read all about how to love your money in a high conflict divorce. 

Why is high conflict bad for your money?

If you know anything about high conflict personalities, or those with narcissistic traits, you’ll know it’s all about control. People with these personality traits can’t:

  • Admit they are wrong
  • Understand they are no more important than others
  • Empathise with others

All of this is a toxic cocktail which means they have to control you, the narrative of your marriage and divorce, and yes, the money.

What did that look like in your marriage? Maybe they were the main breadwinner, and gave you an ‘allowance’. You were never an equal partner in decision making. But what about if you were the main breadwinner? Chances are they still called the shots, and left you feeling guilty if you strayed from their budgeting. 

Think about your relationship with money now. Does the mere thought of financial planning send you into a tailspin? Do you feel guilty if you spend anything on yourself, or even on the children? Do you automatically go for the cheapest option because you were working with such a tiny budget? 

If any of these things are true for you, know that your high conflict marriage is at least partly to blame. And know that you can start to change your perspective. You can start to learn to love your money, and your relationship with it, today. 

Restoring your confidence

In this blog I’ll give you some practical steps to take to have a healthier relationship with money. But first, we need to look at your mindset. The most important first step you can take is to reset your attitude to yourself. If you’re thinking ‘I’m no good with money’ or ‘it’s all too complicated’, then I want you to stop right now.

These are beliefs, not facts. If you’ve conducted yourself as an adult in any way, you will have had to manage money, one way or another. Unless you’ve been in a convent or similar! You do have what it takes to manage your finances. 

If your narcissistic ex has taken control of your marital finances, don’t blame yourself. Narcissists are clever, and their realms of control slowly but surely grow over time. It doesn’t mean you can’t start to get to grips with things now. You absolutely can. And if you’ve been managing on a restricted budget because that’s all you were allowed, you’ve absolutely shown resourcefulness in running your life on limited means. 

Will it be easy getting to grips with your finances? I can’t say, I don’t know your circumstances. I do know that most things are far less scary once you actually look them in the eye.

Make friends with money

If money has been an off-limit topic for the past few years, or decades, then of course it will feel uncomfortable to start thinking and talking about it again. But you need to: there is absolutely no way you can divorce without thinking about your financial situation.

Start as you mean to go on. Make friends with money. People often misquote the phrase ‘money is the root of all evil’. But it’s not the money that’s evil – money can’t do anything by itself. Your money can be your friend: your way into securing a home, healthy food, and a fun and fulfilling life. 

Don’t dwell on mistakes you’ve made with money in the past. Start to think, positively yet realistically, how money can help you live the life you want in the future. Money can be your partner in adventure, freedom and fun. But you need to help it along. 

Know your numbers

The number one (no pun intended) thing to get to grips with is your numbers. What do I mean by this? I mean you need to know what your financial picture is like. Do you know what your monthly mortgage or rental payments are on your home? Your bills? Your weekly food spend? These are all critical pieces of information to help you navigate your divorce settlement, and start managing your money independently. 

Start to gather information. Your high conflict ex is likely to push back as you find your financial feet. But stand firm. It is absolutely your right to have access to any accounts you are named on, jointly or individually. Start to pay attention to weekly and monthly spends. Keep track of the annual payments you are likely to need – even if you can’t trace these exactly you will know that at some point car insurance will need to be paid, for example.

As for your assets, start to create a list of what you own – both jointly and individually. If you were given any gifts in the marriage, especially by your soon-to-be-ex, make sure you keep these safe. Equally, what do you owe? Do you have a mortgage or outstanding debts?

Know your future needs

This is a really important element to loving yourself and your money. What do you need to live your life? If you’ve been in a high conflict relationship, this can be a harder question to answer than you might think. It’s likely your narcissistic ex has conditioned you into feeling guilty about any spending on yourself. Or simply not permitted you the funds to do so. 

I want you to know, right now, that you are worthy of having money. And spending that money. That you are capable of managing your finances, and that you deserve a life led on your terms, not dictated by your ex-spouse.

So really think about this ‘future needs’ question. Many women reduce their needs to be bare minimum:

‘Well, no-one needs a holiday, do they?’

‘I don’t need a haircut every three months.’

‘I don’t need to do that creative writing diploma, it’s just for fun.’

‘If I shop carefully and take advantage of best buys, I can get away with a grocery bill of £20 a week.’

You are entitled to a life beyond the bare minimum. Of course, if funds are stretched and there simply isn’t enough to go around, then you need to strategise about how to budget and work towards bringing in an income and work towards the life you want. There are people who can help with this. Citizens Advice has a useful budgeting tool. 

If there are funds in your marriage to allow you to do some ‘nice to have’ things as well as the bare essentials, then you are just as entitled to these as your soon-to-be-ex.

Be as kind to you as you’d be to your friend

Imagine your best friend is in the position you are now. Would you say to her that she has to keep scrimping and saving for the rest of her life? Or would you encourage her to take this opportunity to imagine the future – realistically and positively – and start investing in the things and activities that bring her meaning and happiness? 

Start to liberate yourself from your conditioning. Treat yourself with kindness. You are allowed to buy yourself new things. 

Some women worry that it will be viewed negatively if they suddenly start spending. This might  be true if you suddenly racked up thousands in debts, or began living a wildly extravagant life in Marbella. But buying yourself a new pair of shoes, or signing up for that course that your ex-spouse always blocked you from? The judge won’t bat an eyelid. 

Freedom can be harder than it looks

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘But I really am no good with money’ or ‘But I don’t even know what I want anymore’ then you’re not alone. Many women who’ve been in high conflict situations are left lost and bewildered. That’s where I come in. Together we can unpack the blocks you have around money, your values and your self worth. 

And once we’ve done that absolutely critical piece of work I can help you make a financial plan that leaves you excited for your future. Ready to start? 

Book in a free consultation with me today. 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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