Wednesday, 9 May 2012

It started with a kiss.....my descent into debt

Kiss me quick!
Financial independence began, for me, at the age of 18, when I started my first job. Half of me had wanted to go to university but the other half was emotionally fragile and depressed. My ambitions were buried under a suffocating cloak of low self-esteem. I wanted independence and earning was my escape route into the big, wide world. The job wasn’t great but I finally had access to the one thing that seemed to drive everyone else with a passion – money.

Solvent but not safe
Growing up, it’s the one thing that caused arguments between my parents. My father believed that any money he earned was his and he begrudged sharing it with his wife and four children.  My parents were first generation immigrants who came up the hard way and they found life in a developed country a challenging adjustment. They were here for the good life but each of them had very different perceptions of that was.

My mother’s world revolved around activities such as church, part-time work, reading, gardening and children. My father was emotionally distant and usually acknowledged us only if there was a problem – something broken, torn or damaged. Little did he know the havoc he wreaked on four innocent hearts and minds. He was and still is a cantankerous soul who has little idea or remorse for any of his negative actions. Being the only girl, amongst boys, I received a little special treatment but it was not enough to stem the tide of insecurity that engulfed me.

 My mother never had  much of a financial identity though she worked part-time for many years. The money she earned was always spent on the household and she did a fine job of managing the household budget.

Arrested development
Emotional and financial abuse was rife in our household since the mind-set was that there was never enough - love nor money.  I’m not sure if my father had much good financial sense but he never cared to pass anything on to us.  Years of abuse had taken a toll on my mother who only ever sought to keep the peace.  She’s still with my father as she believes that this is her Christian lot.

First home, first debt
This is a snapshot of my early life. You will understand the financial knots I was about to get tied up in. Having little self-esteem made me an easy target for control freaks in members of the opposite sex.

I wanted to be loved and though I considered myself intelligent, I let my heart rule my head - every time. I was a slave to my emotions and felt guilt over wanting anything good for myself. I was a poor judge of character as I had not learnt valuable life skills.

I always felt that I was never good enough. So I attracted what I was – not good enough – and I married someone who didn’t match up either and was perhaps struggling with similar issues.

As the relationship progressed I noticed similarities to my father, the flares of anger and the weakenss of will,  but I felt powerless. I felt a strange comfort as abuse had become so familiar that I couldn’t fight it.  He talked investments, stocks, shares and property portfolios. I thought I’d struck lucky as here was a man with bucketloads of ambition. Still he loved me and I looked forward, like a pioneer, to progress and prosperity.

People close to me expressed their misgivings. There was nothing particularly impressive that they could gauge. Others saw what I couldn’t but since I didn’t trust myself, how could I trust them? I cast aside all aspersions and threw myself headlong into “making it work”.

Our first child was born with special needs. That in itself was a lot to deal with and, just two years into marriage, the relationship was unravelling. We never discussed our financial position as he appeared so astute. Since I was pre-occupied with the needs of a new baby, I allowed him to handle everything.

Seeing the light
I never truly knew how much the repayments on the mortgage were. The bills I paid out of my bank account and I had a savings account that he would put money into from a mysterious source. When I questioned him he brushed my enquiries aside. He was the provider so that’s what he would do. I existed in the delusional state of a “kept” woman who was digging a very deep hole for herself. 

From the age of 18 to 22, I was debt free but from the day the ink dried on the dotted line at 23, I nose-dived and fell into the fire. It was a gradual downward spiral and I ignored all the warning signs – avoiding correspondence inc. bank statements, phone calls from creditors, notices from bailiffs etc.  We were two immature people ignorant with money and hoping that everything would be alright in the end.

We added two more children into the mix…why?....because that’s what people in debt do. They run away from one set of problems by acquiring another. With children to pre-occupy ourselves debt issues were never spoken about but we were up to our necks.

Credit and store payment cards were abused and, as long as we paid the minimum we were happy. That we were paying a ton of interest and charges didn’t seem to bother anyone, let alone the financially astute one! Holidays, new purchases, a loft conversion. were never off budget. He wanted me to be happy…..in debt….up to my eye balls!

My financial adviser
On the occasions I raised the issue of our shaky finances I was told not to worry. He could handle all of it and – stupid me – believed him. After all, this was the same man who told me he loved me….and I was in such a psychologically weakened state that I couldn’t think straight.

Did he care that our credit rating sucked? No, in fact, I think there was glimmer of pride that he’d caused his debtors so much grief. He told me that he was scared of no one and nothing.

That’s when the relationship started to crumble; there was no integrity or transparency in it. The rose coloured spectacles I’d been wearing were smashed. My life, as I knew it, was in ruins.

I had to save myself and it meant a long process in the courts….trying to fathom my cash position and his. The lawyers loved the business that we brought to them and I had a custody battle in hand. It was a last act of spite and revenge.

Adding insult to injury, I was stalked and verbally abused as the ex started to grasp that it was all over – his power, control, false status and lies. We were bankrupt and, after 22 years, it was all there in black and white.

So, at the age of 45, I began life anew. I’m still paying debts but I know I’ll be free of them. I’m happier than I ever thought possible. My self-esteem is healthy; my heart and head in the right places.


Born again solvency seeker

 I look forward to life and find something beautiful in each new day….sunshine, rain, flowers and smiles. I’m thankful and joyful. It’s not perfect and there are areas within myself that need work but I’ve accepted that I’m a work-in progress. Sometimes those close to me have to be a little patient as I become the person I want to be.

 I’ve proved to myself that I can turn it around and so can you?
If you’re struggling with debt or emotional stuff…..leave a comment....and let me know how it all started.








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