A Man is Not a Financial Plan: Elizabeth’s Story

TrustOkay – I absolutely never set out to find some wealthy guy to provide for me.  In fact, if you ask my mother, you’ll hear about the tattooed biker, the penniless musician and the art teacher who pretty much lived in his van (did I just admit that??)

Falling head over heels in love with someone famous was never my intention.  When we met, I thought I was madly in love with an art dealer who told me one too many times that “he and his ex were not getting back together” – translation:  they were engaged a week later. So this incredible, super-talented man waved a magic wand and my life became a magnificent first-class dream of adventure, amazing world travel and more laughter than you can imagine. I was 25, he was 51 – I was crazy about him, and life was magical.

I spent the next 14 years of my life loving, trusting and willingly deferring 100% to all of his decisions. He believed he was unstoppable, and I agreed.  Before I knew it, I’d pretty much given up my work as an art dealer, was following him around the world for his various gigs, and was fully raising his son from a past relationship. Years passed and we had our own two beautiful boys. I never questioned our finances; that wasn’t my role in the relationship; in fact, the “rule” was that I didn’t.  I implicitly trusted he would take care of everything – then and forever.  Until the credit cards stopped working, and I couldn’t get gas.

Running out of money can give anyone gas.  And, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t seen the signs – the work slowing down, the TV career not really happening.  He was still so brilliant; I loved him with all my heart, and believed he’d wave the wand again and all would be well – but it wasn’t.

As the financial situation worsened, and I continued to “wake up,” I implored him to work with me and make lifestyle changes that would get us on a better track – budgeting and saving would have been nice as a start, but that just wasn’t in his DNA.  My ex had a saying:  he wanted the doctor and accountant to both tell him he had six months left – at the same time.   He had never been willing to share the financial reins, and he wasn’t about to change.  Clearly, I had changed (two small kids will do that), and basically, my decision to live differently wasn’t going to work within the dynamic of our relationship.

I had no choice but to leave – and, the house of cards didn’t fall, it actually disintegrated. Not only did we have zero assets, we had a ton of debt.  Even facing that debt (and it was a lot), I wanted to reconcile and make my marriage work.  I begged and pleaded to be allowed to help; to contribute financially, to work, to do my share.   I wanted to stay and face it all together. All I asked is that we’d work as a team to create a stable future for ourselves and our sons. But he wouldn’t have it.

And that’s when it sank in:  Just because I didn’t “know” about the debt didn’t mean it wasn’t my responsibility or that I hadn’t contributed.   I had completely contributed by not knowing.

To be continued…………… 

Today’s 5 minute Small Step:  Your self-worth is not dependent on your net worth.”  When you are in the middle of a financial crisis, it’s easy to blame yourself, but try to resist the urge. Always remember, keep your head held high, and your eye to the future. Tell yourself that “this too shall pass and reward yourself in small ways for the progress you make. 

Action:  Right now, list three terrific attributes about yourself that have nothing to do with finances.  Look at all areas of your life – family, work, social, mental, physical and spiritual.  When you’re done, print them out and paste them where you can see them throughout the day.

Examples: I am a wonderful caregiver to my family.  I do my best every day to work through my issues (ok, maybe not every day).  I am a terrific friend, listener, daughter or partner.

This was (and still is) one of the greatest life lessons Candace and Ginita have given me.  Really take this in – you are so much more than your bank account.  EVERYONE makes mistakes – the trick is to face your mistakes straight up, be different going forward, and be grateful for the lesson.  If I can do it, you can too.

Stay tuned for more of my story and more life-changing small steps!

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