Today, I’m having a very candid conversation with Lauren Gruetman, a survivor of domestic abuse that cost her HUGE losses both emotionally and financially. She is passionate about having shame-free conversations about money and is using her story to help others recover from financial shame, trauma, and abuse. She is a former drug counselor turned finance expert, the host of the Hard Money Talks podcast, and the author of the number one best selling book, The Recovering Spender

In this episode, we discuss: 

  • Types and signs of financial abuse
  • Financial red flags in relationships
  • How to protect yourself from financial abuse 
  • How to get out of a financially abusive relationship 
  • How to have shame-free conversations about money 

Before we dive in to the episode, I want to share a very important resource: If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, free help is available! Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 

Even financial experts can go through money hardships

It’s very easy to assume that our financial journeys should look like a linear path to success. It’s easy to believe that once you succeed and reach financial goals or milestones, that you should never fail or make any decision that would compromise further success or financial growth.

The problem with this assumption is that we are human. We are emotional beings. We are capable of blindspots when it comes to our financial future. We sometimes will make choices that don’t fully align with what we actually want or need out of life.

a chart showing that success is not linear

My guest today wants to break down those assumptions in order to release people from the hold of shame and guilt when it comes to our money. Financial shame from poor money choices can keep us quiet and keep us isolated. By learning how to have shame-free money conversations, we can bring what we’re dealing with to light in order to get help, learn and grow from our mistakes, and help others along the way.

After paying off debt and finding herself thriving financially as a money expert and educator, Lauren found herself in an abusive marriage where she lost thousands of dollars through financial abuse. As she puts it, “I left that marriage in debt. And I teach people how to get out of debt. So it can happen. It can happen to anybody. And I felt ashamed that I was now in debt, again, teaching other people how to get out of debt. I felt like a hypocrite”

She notes that financial abuse can happen to anybody whether it be financial experts, lawyers, psychologists (no really, she’s interviewed these people!). The first step in your healing journey is to not let shame and guilt isolate you and keep you from sharing your story.

Types and signs of financial abuse

Lauren has put so much research and study into financial abuse. Through this, she has discovered that the term “financial abuser” can take on the form of an individual who either does not have any money and are seeking to take advantage of someone else’s financial success; OR, they have tons of money and uses their financial success to isolate you.

In the latter sense of the word, their rhetoric may be, “‘You don’t need a job, I have enough money. I can take care of us. You stay home. You take care of the kids. You go out with the girls. We’ll go travel,’ and they isolate you from making any sort of money prohibiting you from leaving them. They keep you stuck. So in that situation, you need to look for men who are overly generous with their finances overly. Buying you tons of things – you get flowers, you get clothes, you get trips. Their goal is making you more financially dependent on them, which then in turn makes you less independent, and then you have to financially rely on them. And then you get stuck in an abusive relationship.”

Financial red flags in relationships

In our discussion, Lauren points our several red flags to look for when dating that could point to a financial abuse situation:

  • Unsteady or scattered employment history
  • No proof of a stable income
  • Not contributing to bills, outings, or future endeavors
  • Overly generous for the sake of control (see above: types and signs of financial abuse)
  • Lying about finances or employment
  • Love bombing
  • You’re finding yourself extremely confused; stories don’t add up
  • Your partner constantly refers to all previous partners as “crazy”

How to protect yourself from financial abuse 

Lauren is passionate about protecting others from financial abuse. Here are a few key points she made about how to protect yourself from potential financial abuse:

  • Never sign over things that YOU own yourself
  • Consider signing a prenup before marriage
  • See a therapist and be open & honest about all aspects of your relationship; ask for feedback!
  • Listen to your gut!
  • Consider what those close to you/your loved ones think of the individual you are dating

How to get out of a financially abusive relationship

Often times, financial abuse can go hand in hand with emotional, verbal, and/or physical abuse. Getting out of individual situations can be very nuanced, however there are a few key steps that you can and should take once you someone you love is ready to leave the relationship for good:

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. They can put you in touch with someone locally who can offer help in the form of counseling, shelter, and legal action
  • Consider filing a restraining order if necessary
  • Seek out help in the form of therapy and community (check out Lauren’s support group here)

How to have shame-free conversations about money 

As discussed earlier, shame seeks to keep us quiet, to keep us isolated. However, if you’ve experienced financial abuse, if you’re in debt, if you’ve made poor money choices, you are not alone! Find a safe community of people who are vulnerable and open with one another. Ask vulnerable questions like: “How are you doing today? Where’d you screw up? Where’s the shame? Anybody feeling like crap this week? Anybody feeling overwhelmed?” These are the types of conversations Lauren has with her community on a weekly basis.

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