The first thing you need to realize is that you are NEVER trapped in a marriage you don't want.
I'll tell you something right now: anything is possible.
As long as you THINK you can’t afford it, you won’t! You must change your mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will figure it out.’ Be open to receiving new ideas, even if they haven’t come to you yet. Trust that they will!
So what's the reason you think you can't afford to leave him?
1. "I can’t afford a lawyer."
Yes, lawyers are expensive and they can rack up more hours against your retainer faster than the Duggar’s having their 30th child.
Consider pre-paid legal or Legal Shield—this is a monthly legal “membership” that gives you access to any attorney with free advice and discounted services (about $20/month and you can cancel anytime). They can tell you what you need to do, and offer you guidance on how to file paperwork yourself.
In fact, you don’t really need a lawyer to file your divorce. You can do it yourself! With a little research on your county’s courthouse website, as well as guidance from Legal Shield, you can get a divorce for very little money.
This takes time and effort on your part (and not recommended if you’re dealing with a full-blown narcissist), but it CAN be done!
2. "I don’t work, I’m a stay at home mother/wife."
If your husband is the breadwinner, then you're owed child support and/or alimony once it is finalized. You will also be awarded half of your marital assets—including his 401K and pension.
This could be a lot of money for you to get you on your feet. But often times this is tricky because if it is a contentious divorce, he will delay the entire divorce process or refuse to leave the marital home, leaving you stuck.
If this is the case, you WILL need money to find temporary housing. If you have no access to your finances, you can request them through your bank. You can also look up his tax record online and get proof of income. There's a chance you will need to find a job to cover expenses until the divorce.
You can also make money online, even part-time! There are two websites—Odesk and E-Lance—where the work is abundant. (They're like Match.com for freelancers.) People are ALWAYS looking for virtual assistants, social media experts, writers, designers, virtual organizers—I’ve hired a number of stay at home moms who have been fabulous.
Dig deep to find that one skill set within you and explore the opportunities. If you have things to sell, go on Ebay and sell them. If you’re an artist, go on Etsy and create a business account and sell your work. There is no such thing as “too little money.”
3. "I am in debt."
The first question is, how did you get in debt?
If your husband is mostly responsible for this debt, you can work with your lawyer to free your responsibility of it. Now is the time to really pull up your britches and SAVE everything you have. This means getting rid of all the things that seem important to you—Internet, cable TV, cell phone, etc..
These things never existed 20 years ago, so you CAN live without them. You can go to the library for free internet, and get a cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone. If you are in debt, you really need to pull yourself out of it, and that means being resourceful.
If you're in debt, you don't have any money, so make sure you’re not pretending you do! Buy your groceries at the Dollar Tree, shop at Goodwill or consignment, cancel all memberships. Don’t worry about your pride during this time. It’s shameful when you spend in denial, not when you’re saving!
Does all this seem a little daunting? There are two ways you can get back on your own two financially-independent feet:
- Open a private bank account as well as a personal credit card. There is nothing illegal about it. If you have your entire finances shared with your husband, it’s time to start creating your own. Choose to receive paperless statements so that they aren’t mailed to your home. If you work, start depositing a small amount of money into your account each pay statement. Should he question the lesser amount of money in your paycheck, you can say you are starting a savings plan. It's YOUR money and you are allowed to do this. If you don’t work, see below, see plan two.
- Move your money out of a checking/savings account and into a high interest or stock account. If this money existed BEFORE your marriage, and you never added marital income to it, then this is not considered a marital asset. When I was considering divorce, I had about $10K saved in an account that was just in my name. This was my “life savings”, and I was able to put a deposit on a rental home and buy new furniture with it. Had I known better, I would have invested that money right away rather than have it sit there in a low-interest account.
Money is a scary thing when you’re divorcing. Don’t let it stare you down! It’s just money, did you know that? When I got divorced I learned to live with nothing for a while. Once I learned that I will not die from being poor, it became less of a fear.
You will find wealth from being free from this relationship.
Now go get rich.
Lindsey Ellison is founder of Start Over. Find Happiness., a coaching practice that helps women navigate through their divorce or break ups. She specializes in narcissistic relationships and offers a free, 3-part video series on how to break free from your narcissist, which is available by clicking here.