Category Archives: Money

Guest Author Sam Vaknin:
Tips: How to cope with financial abuse.

"The Raven" by Mimi Stuart ©Live the Life you Desire

“The Raven” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Q. Would narcissists often try to restrict their partner’s independence by reducing their access to shared family finances? Why?

A. Narcissists are control freaks, paranoid, jealous, possessive, and envious. They are the sad products of early childhood abandonment by parents, caregivers, role models, and/or peers. Hence their extreme abandonment anxiety and insecure attachment style. Fostering financial dependence in their nearest and dearest is just another way of making sure of their continued presence as sources of narcissistic supply (attention.) He who holds the purse strings holds the heart’s strings.

Reducing other people to begging and cajoling also buttresses the narcissist’s grandiose fantasy of omnipotence and provides him with a somewhat sadistic gratification.

Q. Would it also happen with female narcissists exercising control over men?

A. Yes. There is no major psychodynamic difference between male and female narcissists.

Q. What advice would you give to someone in a relationship with a narcissist? Should they try to keep their finances separate?

A. They should never allow themselves to be irrevocably separated from their family of origin and close friends. They should maintain their support network and refuse to become a part of the narcissist’s cult-like shared psychosis. They should make sure that they have independent sources of wealth (a trust fund; real estate; bank accounts; deposits; securities) and sustainable sources of income (a job; rental income; interest and dividends; royalties). Above all: they should not share with their narcissistic intimate partner the full, unmitigated details of their life and critical bits of information such as banking passwords and safe box access codes.

Q. I understand that narcissists will sometimes sacrifice their finances and get into big trouble financially (even going bankrupt) in order to satisfy other narcissistic desires – so I presume this means that narcissists are also people whose finances can be instable?

A. It is not as simple as that. The classic narcissist maintains an island of stability in his life (e.g.: his job, business, and finances) while the other dimensions of his existence (e.g., interpersonal relations) wallow in chaos and unpredictability. The narcissist may marry, divorce, and remarry with dizzying speed. Everything in his life may be in constant flux: friends, emotions, judgements, values, beliefs, place of residence, affiliations, hobbies. Everything, that is, except his work.

His career is the island of compensating stability in his otherwise mercurial existence. This kind of narcissist is dogged by unmitigated ambition and devotion. He perseveres in one workplace or one job, patiently, persistently and blindly climbing up the corporate ladder and treading the career path. In his pursuit of job fulfilment and achievements, the narcissist is ruthless and unscrupulous ˆ and, very often, successful.

The borderline narcissist reacts to instability in one area of his life by introducing chaos into all the others. Thus, if such a narcissist resigns (or, more likely, is made redundant) ˆ he also relocates to another city or country. If he divorces, he is also likely to resign his job.

This added instability gives this type of narcissist the feeling that all the dimensions of his life are changing simultaneously, that he is being “unshackled”, that a transformation is in progress. This, of course, is an illusion. Those who know the narcissist, no longer trust his frequent “conversions”, “decisions”, “crises”, “transformations”, “developments” and “periods”. They see through his pretensions, protestations, and solemn declarations into the core of his instability. They know that he is not to be relied upon. They know that with narcissists, temporariness is the only permanence.

Narcissists hate routine. When a narcissist finds himself doing the same things over and over again, he gets depressed. He oversleeps, over-eats, over-drinks and, in general, engages in addictive, impulsive, reckless, and compulsive behaviours. This is his way of re-introducing risk and excitement into what he (emotionally) perceives to be a barren life.

The problem is that even the most exciting and varied existence becomes routine after a while. Living in the same country or apartment, meeting the same people, doing essentially the same things (even with changing content) ˆ all “qualify”, in the eyes of the narcissist, as stultifying rote.

The narcissist feels entitled. He feels it is his right, due to his intellectual or physical superiority, to lead a thrilling, rewarding, kaleidoscopic life. He wants to force life itself, or at least people around him, to yield to his wishes and needs, supreme among them the need for stimulating variety.

by Sam Vaknin, Author of the comprehensive book on narcissism “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited.”

Read Codependence by GUEST AUTHOR SAM VAKNIN:”Issues and Goals in the Treatment of Dependent Personality Disorder.”

Read Alison Poulsen’s Marrying into Money:
“He used to take care of me, and now he treats me like a child.”

Read Guest Author SAM VAKNIN’s
“He Abuses Me in So Many Ways. How do I Cope?”

“I want to enjoy life and not just think about money.”

by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

It is a false dichotomy to suggest that a person either enjoys life or thinks about money. It’s true that some people are more the accountant, organizing type, while some are the more romantic, impulsive type. Yet, as counter-intuitive as it seems, the more highly-developed your inner bookkeeper becomes, the more you can truly develop your inner romantic, and vice versa.

The key is to develop both of these parts within yourself—the wise and efficient financial planner and the romantic who knows how to live life to the fullest—and to be able delegate between the two.

Problems generally develop when people identify exclusively with one side or the other.

Visualize the one-sided accountant type with pursed lips and a furrowed brow, who buys a ski lift ticket, and then can’t stop second guessing the purchase and calculating the cost of each ski run rather than enjoying the skiing. The one-sided romantic type, on the other hand, shoves all bills in a drawer and, happy-go-lucky, ignores and forgets them until the day of reckoning. The first cannot enjoy the moment and the second is headed for a financial cliff.

When you build a house, different trades focus on particular specialties—the electrician on lighting, the plumber on plumbing and so on. What is critical is that there is a general contractor to coordinate it all.

Similarly, people need to schedule and coordinate their inner “trades.” By avoiding financial chaos and debt overload, you can create peace of mind to live life without having to fear an impending crisis. Here are some guidelines to find a balance between taking care of the future and enjoying the present:

1. Spend less than you earn. The worry about growing debt rarely is worth the things purchased on credit. Focus instead on all the free things that can create a fulfilling life.

2. Put money into savings first. Savings provide security and allow one the freedom to make transitions in life. For example, with adequate savings, you can handle losing your job or consider changing your job and save for retirement.

3. Pay bills at a scheduled time. If you pay your bills on a scheduled day every week, you take care of your business and alleviate the dread of dealing with bills and accumulated debt.

4. Take care of issues promptly when they’re small. When you can’t pay a bill or a bank statement seems to be wrong, deal with the problem immediately before it turns into an overwhelming predicament. By moving from dread to action, you minimize complications, extra fees, and your own psychological discomfort.

5. Once you’ve dealt with your finances, choose to enjoy life and the people around you. After dealing with bills and the budget, allow your inner accountant to recede into the background, and bring forward other parts of your personality to enjoy the present moment. Purposefully switch modes from being task-oriented, responsible, and bean counting to being in your body, connected to others, and appreciating the world around you.

We can never completely alleviate financial insecurity. Yet by thinking about money, finances and other practicalities at regular intervals, we actually free ourselves from thinking about money all the time, giving ourselves enough serenity from worry to enjoy life more fully.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Avoidance Behavior: ‘I’ve been dreading telling her about our financial problems.’”

Read “Saving money: ‘I want to buy this now!’”

Read “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: ‘Since he lost his job, he doesn’t seem to care about our relationship.’”

Marrying into Money:
“He used to take care of me, and now he treats me like a child.”

"Lindbergh" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

It may feel good to be taken care of financially, just as it does to be taken care of emotionally or physically. You may feel as though your worries are over. Often, however, the cost of being taken care of financially can be very high. Being treated like a child is only one example and may be just the beginning.

From Caring to Controlling

Often people who insist on taking care of their partner financially fear losing their partner and use control of the finances as a means of control in the relationship. That fear can lead to oppressive behavior sliding down a slippery slope from being protective… to becoming paternal… to becoming patronizing and demanding.

At the beginning, those who take care of their partner in a paternalistic way may overwhelm him or her with luxurious perks. They may appear strong, generous, and confident. Yet, they often feel insecure in terms of being desirable for who they are rather than what they bring to the relationship in terms of money, for example. An unconscious need to be needed can result in a drive to have power over others.

From Secure to Stifled

When invisible strings are attached to the financial blessings bestowed on a loved one, the behavioral polarities of superior/inferior, control/rebellion, and parent/child tend to take over the relationship.

While being taken care of leaves one feeling secure at first, being parented leaves one feeling like a child, which takes away the mutual love and respect required for success in long-term romantic relationships. When a person in the child position matures, he or she will want to express independence, which can be threatening to the provider. Someone who is dependent on another person but feels stuck, soon feels stifled, resentful, and rebellious against the person in control.

Can financial disparity work in romance?

The fact that two people in love who are in vastly different financial positions does not necessarily result in problems. The key is to retain your own individuality and capability of being independent, even if the financially stronger person pays for most or all of the expenses.

Before moving in with someone who will “take care of you” it is wise to put aside enough money that you could move into your own place at any time, whether that means moving in with a close friend or renting a studio for a month or a year — whatever you are comfortable with. It is also wise to always retain your ability to get a paying job.

Being financially and psychologically able to move out and live on your own terms creates the space to be able to be yourself. If you become dependent on someone else’s money, there is an incentive to hide feelings and thoughts in order to please the person you’re dependent upon.

I’m not recommending that people live together with the constant threat of ending the relationship. Yet, when people are incapable of leaving a relationship, emotionally or financially, that’s when they start compromising their belief systems and values in order to maintain the relationship. That’s when the insidious descent into living in fear of losing what you’ve become accustomed to begins.

Throughout life, we are better off enjoying our blessings in the moment without trying to hold on to them for eternity. We can do this best when we are prepared and willing to take care of our own deepest needs. No matter who makes the money, it’s important to stay informed and involved in your joint finances, as well as to have your own independent means.

By maintaining individuality and the ability to be independent within a relationship, you maintain the wholesome tension of opposites, which allows the relationship to become greater than merely the sum of its parts.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Five Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘There’s nothing we can do to stay in love.’”

Read “I’m his biggest fan and he treats me like a slave.”

Read “I Can’t Live Without Him/Her” by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, PhD.

Avoidance Behavior:
“I’ve been dreading telling her about our financial problems.”

"Mr. Hole-in-One" Kevin Sorbo by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Most people are not excited about confronting difficult situations, such as telling their partner they’ve spent too much money. Of course, the sooner they face up to it, the better. For some people, this is particularly difficult. They are ceased by fear and develop avoidance behavior, which contributes further to putting off the unpleasant task. Such avoidance behavior includes distraction, escape behavior, procrastination, and safety behavior.

Types of Avoidance Behavior

1. Distraction involves busying yourself and your mind with activities or thoughts to avoid confronting a problem — making phone calls, eating, shopping, and facebooking — basically twittering away your time.

2. Escape behavior consists of contriving a way to physically avoid an anxiety-provoking situation, such as faking an illness.

3. Procrastination means postponing action in an attempt to avoid the stress involved with taking that action — “I’ll do it tomorrow.” “I’ll do it after the holidays.”

4. Safety behavior includes self-soothing actions such as fidgeting, biting your nails, twirling your hair, or engaging in other repetitive nervous habits (or behaviors.) While safety behavior allows a person to stay physically present rather than escaping, the behavior often turns into a nervous habit preventing adequate focus to confront the situation.

Avoidance Intensifies Anxiety

Avoidance behavior can usually be traced back to a child’s adaptive response to avoid anxiety caused by his or her environment. Such responses may eventually become automatic responses, which are often self-defeating and worsen the dreaded situation.

Specifically, if you don’t talk about what’s going on with your finances, the situation will get worse the longer you wait. This will make having the conversation even more difficult.

Paradoxically, when you avoid what you fear, your fear grows. If you’re afraid of your partner’s reactions, you intensify your own fear by avoiding facing it. If you avoid difficult conversations because you’re afraid of someone’s reaction, your fear will become worse than the potential reaction.

Avoidance behavior may seem to reduce your fear, but it actually causes you to intensify your avoidance behavior, compounding the problem. Any kind of avoidance behavior activates the amygdala, which intensifies your anxiety, and causes you to focus on that dreaded conversation even more. This in turn gets you into a cycle of obsessive worry. Worry and the associated anticipation of danger cause you to experience fear about experiencing fear, compounding anxiety with unnecessary anxiety.

Changing Avoidance Behavior

In order to truly diminish anxiety over the long-term, you need to get acclimated to that which is causing you anxiety. You have to start by having that conversation immediately. You’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, and you’ll have much less agitation and worry.

With repeated “exposure” to what you’re afraid of — having those difficult conversations as soon as they come up — you curb those ineffective avoidance habits, which compound your anxiety. Repeatedly handling dreaded situations promptly will cause the amygdala to dissociate the dreaded situation from fear. Dread will transform into calm and responsible self-determination.

Difficult Conversations

When approaching a difficult conversation, rehearse what you will say without exuding aggressiveness or meekness. It’s best to use a neutral tone of voice, to briefly express your feelings and desires, and to stick to the facts.


“I’ve been afraid to talk to you because I’m embarrassed about some mistakes I’ve made. I spent too much money last month, and now don’t have enough to pay for the mortgage. I hope you can help me figure this out.”

“I wish we didn’t have to curtail our spending. I would love it if we could have these things. But I’ve been losing sleep worrying about cutting things too close. Unfortunately, during these tough times, we need to save as much as possible.”

Figure out what you need to do and focus single-mindedly on moving forward without distraction and without delay. Repeatedly handling these necessary anxiety-provoking situations will tame your amygdala, with the result that your anxiety over difficult discussions should diminish with each experience.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Reference: Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life by John B. Arden

Read “Fears and Phobias: ‘I avoid going out in public because I don’t like talking to strangers.’”

Read “When friends ask me to go out to eat, I’m embarrassed that I can’t afford to right now.”

Fantasies: “All I want is a Lamborghini! Then I’d be happy.”

"White Hot Speed" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Fantasies reveal to us symbolically what we may be missing in our lives. When we look at our fantasies metaphorically, they can point the way to our path to wholeness. However, we often take them too literally, and fail to realize the real need underlying the fantasy. For instance, the desire for an exceptional car might really signify our need for personal power, freedom, or the sense of being special.

Indulging literally in the whims of imagination can be a pleasurable escape from everyday reality. It can also inspire you to work hard, to pursue a new path, and even to change the course of your life. However, fantasies are deceptive in that they highlight the pleasure, thrill, and magic of what’s possible, and leave out the dreary, difficult, and inconvenient aspects of reality. They also often substitute the literal object for the quality that we could benefit from developing in ourselves.

Statistics have shown that most lottery winners lose all their gains within five years and often wish they had never won the lottery. The documentary “Lucky” follows several lottery winners after they have won the lottery to see how their “luck” ends up changing their lives.

One of the few people whose lives are not spoiled by winning the lottery is a math professor who had always fantasized about buying a Lamborghini. Once he is able to make his fantasy a reality, however, he chooses not to buy the exotic car, but to stick with his car and his life, having realized that having the fantasy was better than the would-be reality. He decides that owning the car would not be worth envy of the neighbors nor the worry about where to park to avoid damage to the precious car.

That’s not to say that it might not be satisfying to acquire exceptional and fancy things. Yet, it’s wise to remember that fantasies don’t consider the various challenges that come with their realization. Moreover, whatever fantasies come true, you remain the same person.

On the other hand, by learning what is motivating the fantasy, you don’t have to win the lottery to start integrating the sought-for qualities within yourself.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Listening to the One Percent” by Tony Evans.

Read “He’s such a caveman! Same old Disappointment on Valentine’s Day.”

Read “Happiness, Freedom, and Independence: ‘I don’t know what will make me happy.'”

Consumerism vs. Material things with Meaning: “I’m a shopaholic and I have a lot of stuff.”

"Allegretto" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

Popular media tells us that our loneliness and anxiety are caused by not having enough things or the right kind of stuff. The right stuff will bring us pleasure, friends, love, happiness, and meaning.

While there’s nothing inherently bad about desiring material objects, preoccupation with the acquisition of consumer goods does not satisfy the needs they are intended to satisfy.

Consumerism is just the other side of the coin of miserliness. Both are caught by the attempt to take the whole world into their home and to possess it…. And yet, possessing the whole world is equivalent to having nothing at all. The miser and the consumer are fraught with insecurity.

~from “Money & the Soul of the World” by Sardello and Severson

Consumerism temporarily satiates insatiable yearnings and repeatedly numbs unwanted anxieties. The problem is that quick satiation eliminates the possibility of using one’s imagination, which is how we give meaning to material things.

Imagine that over a period of a year a child walks by a store window with a red bicycle in it. The child finally receives that bicycle as a gift, or saves up to purchase it. That bicycle becomes imbued with much more meaning than if it had been purchased when the child first laid eyes on it.

When we have little time between first desiring an object and acquiring it, we don’t have time to imagine having it. So it will not gain as much personal value to us. We start down the path of consumerism when we buy things right away without taking the time to consider acquiring them and imagine the delights they might bring us.

Nowadays, many children receive a lot of stuff from their Christmas lists. Yet, they often discard the gifts almost as quickly as they unwrap them. When impulse turns into possession too quickly, there’s no imagination invested and no time for real desire to develop. As a result, they are unlikely to cherish and take care of the material things they do acquire. Desire needs to deepen through time and one’s imagination in order to give soul to material things and their relationship to the world.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “No money: ‘I get really unhappy not to be able to buy clothes when I see all my friends shopping.'”

Read “Saving money: ‘I want to buy this now!'”