At the time of my divorce, as I sat in the mediation room going through why this had to happen, I was introduced to an interesting new phrase: financial abuse.
Ah, that’s what it was called. And all the while, I thought having money withheld from me on an ongoing basis was just another one of the “things” to be laughed at when it came to saying what frustrated me the most in my wedding.
It’s funny when you look back; when my ex-husband and I started dating, we always went “Dutch”. He had this innate fear of being taken advantage of, so I didn’t get to any of the dinners we went to. I was employed — we worked at the same place — and so I could take care of myself.
And it’s not that I mind paying for it, but I kind of missed the whole courtly love tradition of being paid for it.
Yeah, yeah, grow up and pay for your meal, you feminist — Yet the truth is, there was something that screamed “cheap” about this man I fell in love with. Now keep in mind — I have always worked hard. I put my weight on everything. I even bought my own wedding ring, and I’m thinking about it, his too.
I had gotten used to the idea that there was a 50/50 split on all issues and the crazy notion of getting paid occasionally was just, well, somebody’s life. other. And so, the years passed, and shortly after giving birth, I found myself both unemployed and personally broke.
That’s where husbands come to help, isn’t it? After all, there had to be something in our unspoken contract of eternal love that said I might need to be fed.
He had covered the child, which was good and would allow him to know himself as the father of the century, but his wife, me, did not eat. Or buy food. Or supplies. I was taking care of our child and waiting for what we had decided would be my weekly allowance.
The idea of a weekly allowance gave me the security I needed to feel emotionally and mentally. I received money, I bought food, I provided the family with what they needed, and everything would be fine. Gasoline in the tank and food in my belly. Hot dog!
At the beginning of the week, I would ask for my allowance.
All of a sudden, I was ‘that person’, you know, the one you dreaded having to talk to because you knew they were going to ask you for money. It didn’t matter that we were married or that I had a child to take care of or even that I had just carried this child to term and gave birth to it. I went from dating to wife to mother to annoyance in a few years. And my husband never gave me anything.
I’m not a person with low self esteem and I’ve definitely started to blame myself for having to ask for money — especially when my request was always greeted with “Oh yeah. Let me see if I can get you something by Thursday. Monday I was hungry.
Can I hold out until Thursday? But my hunger wasn’t the problem; drive my child here and there was. Having gas in my car so I could buy her food was. Being able to do anything outside of waiting for him to grant me the holy funds was the cursed point. I had a baby to take care of, for Pete’s sake; I couldn’t blink and make the money pour out of the sky.
From time to time, he realized that he had to pay it. But it was never what we agreed on and it was never, never on time. By this point, our marriage had gone so far down the drain that I began to realize what I really meant to him: a full-time babysitter, the one you just had to tip opportunity for his services.
A few years later he asked me for a divorce and left me penniless except for the fact that I had good credit and was able to afford mediation.
Yes, I paid the mediator’s fees.
When it came time to pay child support, again I got the familiar old line: I’ll bring it to you later. Papa Deadbeat was about to create a new restraint model. The only thing that was different this time was that I changed.
Being left on my own with a child in tow woke me up like nobody’s business. It was now or never — and I was faced with a real difficult situation. Either I say “no” and defend myself, or I play the easygoing bitch and “take it”.
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I don’t know where it came from, but I yelled at him when he tried to write down child support. Maybe it was the whole mother bear thing, or maybe it was all that self-esteem that I had to smother into nothingness, just nuke-bombed to get out of my crushed soul.
Anyway, I told him: “Listen to yourself. I don’t care where you get the money from. I don’t care if you have to borrow it from your girlfriend (he cheated on me during the wedding) or if you have to pull it straight out of your ass — If you don’t pay every penny, I’ll have every band of women imaginable on you. I will cause them to manifest in front of your door. I’ll throw the women on you and you’ll gag so hard over your deadbeat words you won’t know what hit you. Babe.”
Guess what? He paid.
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And he never stopped paying. And it made me realize that what he had feared for all those years was being told by a woman.
What I never told him was how (and why) he got away with such financial abuse. The minute I painted this imaginary image of this army of women coming after him (really, I had no idea what these women were going to be, it just sounded menacing and feminine) is the minute he realized he couldn’t get away with it.
I never wanted this title. I just wanted to be my nice idiot, what I learned didn’t really get me anywhere. So even though I’m not yet mature and ready to call myself a super-villain, I’m one hundred percent ready to learn from the super-villains who paved the way before me. Ultimately, it was about the power of “no”. I was reluctant to know myself as a villain, but wow, it definitely gave me and my kid what we needed.
Ahh, heck with that. I am a villain. Now pay me.
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Ruby Miranda is a Yourtango writer on love and relationships who currently writes for a wide range of esoteric publications.