Dear Chump Lady,
Do you have any advice for those of us who feel trapped financially? We know we’re chumps, we see that and we want out and yet the financial nightmare that awaits us seems overwhelming and impossible.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years. I only have a high school education, very little in the way of job skills and am in my 50’s. At this point, college doesn’t seem like an option for me. It seems it would take me so long to obtain a degree and then pay back the college expenses that it simply would not be worth it. I need to think of my child’s college soon, so I feel I am a low priority for college at this point.
I am the poster child for spousal support I suppose, but I have no idea what I would receive or how much it would help. I don’t even have the money for an attorney to find out about my rights and alimony. It’s as if I’m trapped being a chump until I figure out how I’m supposed to make it on my own with so little going for me. I think about rent, utilities, food, car expenses, insurance, clothing, etc etc ETC. What do women like me do in this situation? Any advice?
My cheating husband had a really depraved affair; rather sick stuff. He needs to be single. I need to be free. I do not want to live the life of a chump any longer.
You need to get scrappy. Start thinking in new ways. You know those lines you though you wouldn’t cross? Put it on the table. Cross them. Start breaking this huge, overwhelming challenge into a bunch of smaller overwhelming challenges and attack those. Every small success will lead to larger successes.
First thing you need to do is see a lawyer. Yes, even if you cannot afford it. For many lawyers, the first hour of consultation is free. Find those lawyers. Talk to them. Line a bunch up. Next, check out women’s centers and legal clinics. Explain your situation to them. See what they suggest.
You MUST reach out. You must network, network, network and get outside yourself to solve this.
And you must believe it can be solved, or you will stay stuck. Other women do this — take inspiration from them. Maybe it’s not your exact story, but stories of winning over insurmountable odds are out there. Model some of their moxie. For me, I think used to think a lot about my time in South Africa during apartheid (I lived there for a year in 1988 on a fellowship). I knew people who had been tortured, jailed, exiled, who triumphed. I used to focus on one particular memory that still buoys me. I went a political rally at which Archbishop Tutu was speaking. Very exciting stuff. But the place was surrounded by police with guns and water cannons. The cops sat in the front rows of this church, looking intimidating. Tutu made sport of them. I remember he used the word “incontrovertible” in his speech. Then paused dramatically, looked at the police, and slowly spelled it. (Knowing that he was being recorded.)
Up in the balconies was also a large police presence. A group of boys, probably no more than 12 years old, went to sit next to them as a lark. It was illegal to assemble under the state of emergency. They were laughing and enjoying the rally, sitting right next to these men who could arrest or kill them at any moment. (Plenty of people “disappeared” then.)
Those boys climbed up to that balcony. Sat next to fear. And they laughed. I’ll never forget that.
You need to sit next to your fears OregonRose. Take them apart. Demystify them.
If you cannot find some free or low cost legal advice — sell something, like a piece of jewelry. Borrow money from your family, or a friend, with terms and interest, that you will pay them back with your divorce settlement. This will feel very uncomfortable. You cannot solve this without feeling a LOT of discomfort. Keep going.
You need to end your financial dependency on your husband. That’s a biggie, but it can be done, and it can be done while you’re divorced from him in the form of alimony. Get in a job training program — some sort of trade school. You need to support yourself apart from him. Being a greeter at Walmart living in a studio apartment is still better than staying with someone who is abusing you.
Being able to earn some of your own money will go a long way to bolstering your self esteem and sense of agency. Don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once. Don’t get hung up because everything isn’t falling into place — when you force yourself to ACT, the other pieces will fall together eventually.
Make a budget, gather all your financials, take this to your attorney. You’ll feel a lot better when you know what you’re entitled to by law.
As for financing your children’s college — if you can afford that, you can afford a divorce lawyer. It’s sad, but they’re going to have to do college on their own, and there is help for that in terms of student loans. Older, betrayed wives? Not so much federal aid there — so allocate your resources accordingly and make yourself a priority.
I won’t lie to you, it’s scary as hell. The money is frightening. When it happened to me, I’d quit my job to move to his new one, and put all my cash in our house purchase. I assumed my new husband had my back. He didn’t. I took a job out of my field that paid less than half of my last job. I made it, I was fine eventually.
I had to borrow the money for housing off my friend until my divorce settlement cleared 9 months later. Mortifying as hell, but I paid her back and I’m eternally grateful to her.
My point — step waaaaay outside your comfort zone and figure something out. If you want it bad enough, escape is possible. And it’s way better than living with Mr. Depraved Sick Stuff.