I don’t know about you but as a child I often heard the phrase “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a kept woman“. Back then I really didn’t understand what it meant but I recognised that it meant you would be looked after financially as you grew into adulthood and beyond.
Today I’m delighted to bring you a guest blog from Kelly East at Luna Financial Planning about the perils of being a kept woman and how you can start your path to financial independence.
Having spent over a decade in financial services, I have met countless wonderful, clever, intelligent women who still receive an ‘’allowance’’ from their husbands for housekeeping!
Some women still have no idea what it really means to be financially independent and why they should start this process NOW!
My role as a financial adviser is to help clients, (particularly women) to really come to terms with what it means to be financially independent. I help clients embrace their financial freedom and guide them step by step through all of the stages and obstacles life throws at them on a daily basis.
Depending on experience, my clients may need help understanding what their financial goals are. For some it could be a very short term goal such as saving to buy a car or maybe a long term goal such as saving for retirement. The key is to always be realistic and specific and to start as soon as possible.
If you plan to support yourself and maintain financial independence, you need a clear understanding of your personal finances. Start by looking at your bank and pension statements, tax returns (if you’re self-employed), and any other investment / savings accounts you may have. Knowing your figures is the first step to success.
According to Netwealth, it is the woman who suffers the most in heterosexual marriages following a divorce. They found that women are often the party with fewer financial assets. Women are more likely to take time off to care for family, and this can often result in lower earnings as well as a smaller pension pot in retirement.
Tellingly, nearly two in five divorced women regret not maintaining greater financial autonomy (39%) and greater financial engagement (37%) over the course of their relationship, according to the research.
Men fare far better, with 44% stating they have already saved or expect to save enough to achieve a comfortable retirement, for example, Netwealth found. I completely agree with Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director for Fidelity International who said women need to start planning now and not wait until the worst happens. Giving some thought to what you would need in retirement should your marriage break down admittedly isn’t the most romantic of things to do, but it is important to be realistic.
Fidelity International found more than half (56%) of married women do not have a ‘Plan B’
arrangement in place. According to the Government’s own Wealth & Assets survey, one in ten married women admitted they plan to rely on their spouse’s pension in retirement, for example, even at a time where divorce affects around one in two couples. Worryingly, the same Government research found 17% of married women surveyed had no pension of their own at all.
Even those who do have much less saved; a typical woman has a pension worth just a third of a man’s, according to research by NOW: Women have pension worth £51,100 while men have around £156,500. Over-reliance on a partner for financial stability is all the more concerning with the rise of co-habitation, where those who are unmarried would have no automatic rights at all to the other’s wealth in the event of death or break-up.
A divorce can completely unravel both spouses’ finances for various reasons, which is why it is important you take control of your money after a marriage ends so that you can secure your own financial independence as soon as possible.
Budgeting is something each of us should be actively doing on a monthly basis no matter what our circumstances are. Why? because if you don’t know how much money you have coming in every month, how can you realistically expect to understand if you can afford to pay for the items you are spending on each month. Everyday expenses such as mortgage or rental payments, food, utility bills, children’s clothing, insurances, fuel, birthdays, Christmas, holidays etc etc . These are just a few of the expenses we may need to budget for …. the list goes on.
As a financial adviser I really do understand that the very start of a financial relationship with yourself is budgeting. I have created a FREE comprehensive budget calculator available for you to download and use at https://lunafinancial.co.uk/which covers items that perhaps you don’t ordinarily budget for, but nevertheless definitely need to be accounted for.
Our budget calculator will help you clearly identify if your current income is suitable to cover your current expenditure. It’s very easy to use and it’s there for you whenever you need it.
Budget for self-care.
It’s easy for anyone, but especially parents, to neglect their health and well-being during divorce. Self-care, particularly during a stressful transition, is critical. You can’t take care of your children if you don’t take care of yourself.
There are thousands of free yoga and exercise videos on YouTube instead of expensive gym memberships. Our local library offers lots of free classes including meditation and mindfulness as well as offering lots of free to rent books and movies.
Pensions on Divorce
Pension sharing isn’t always the first thing divorcing couples think of. Typically, most people focus on what will happen to the family home. But pensions are a huge asset and important when planning your future – so deciding what to do with them is extremely important.
There are three options for dividing up pensions as part of a divorce:
- Pension Sharing. Pension sharing is a formal agreement to divide your pension assets at the time of divorce. The courts work out exact percentages and the receiving party can become a member of the pension scheme or transfer the value to a new personal pension in their own name. This gives complete separation and is the most common option.
- Offsetting. The value of the pension is offset against other assets. For example, one spouse keeps their entire pension, and the other is given alternative assets (e.g., property or cash) of the same value.
- Earmarking. All, or part, of the pension is earmarked to be paid to one party when the other starts to draw pension benefits. There is no legal transfer of ownership.
LUNA Financial Planning’s approach is one of complete and genuine care for their client’s wellbeing. In our experience the financial and emotional challenges of a divorce require specialised planning. By planning before, during, and after the divorce you can achieve an objective, thoughtful and equitable settlement. We are happy to form a relationship with your solicitor and between us we can work together.
Your credit score reflects your ability to get credit. The lower it is, the more you may struggle to get approved by certain companies. If you have little or no credit history, this could negatively affect your credit score. You’re probably thinking that’s a bit odd. If you’ve never needed to borrow money before and you have no debt, surely, you’re the perfect person to lend to? The thing is most companies like to see a good track record of sensible borrowing – it helps them decide if you’re likely to pay them back on time.
Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to get a high score without having used credit – even if you’ve taken other steps to improve your rating, like registering on the electoral roll.
It’s worth noting that some people may have a low score because of negative influences on their credit report, such as late payments. If this is the case for you, there are ways you can improve your score.
Ways to help build your credit rating:
Opening an account or getting a credit card can lower your credit score initially, before helping it improve. Experian Credit Reference agency suggest:
Get on the electoral roll. It’s quick and easy to register on the electoral roll. Companies use this information to confirm your name and address are correct and up to date, so it’s crucial to building your credit history. If you’re not eligible to register on the electoral roll (e.g., you aren’t a UK national), you can add a short notice of correction to your Experian Credit Report explaining why.
Open a bank account. Having a bank account and managing it well shows companies you’re financially responsible and starts to build your credit history positively. If you have an overdraft, stay well below the limit (using no more than 25% of it is a good rule of thumb) and try to pay it off as quickly as possible.
Get a credit card. If you’ve opened a bank account and are managing it well, the bank may also be willing to give you a credit card to build credit. Paying it off on time and in full each month will help build a positive credit history and improve your score.
Take out a small form of credit. This might be a mobile phone contract. They’re usually easier to get accepted for than credit cards but can still demonstrate your ability to pay your bills on time and be financially responsible.
Manage your household bills well. Looking after your utility accounts (e.g., water, gas and electricity) can help build your credit history and show companies you’re responsible. Even rental payments can improve your score, provided you make them on time and in full.
Thank you to Kelly East for this informative and practical advice. I also come from the school of thought that it’s important to have more than one stream of income. If you’d like to learn more about one of my income streams, enter your details here to watch a short video.
I’m often told that the way my partner and I got together is like something out of a Fairy Tale or Hollywood movie, and as today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day I thought I’d share some of our story with you.
We first met 23 years ago in 1998, it wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, my first thoughts were; he was rude, arrogant and I wouldn’t want to bump into him alone on a dark night! I was out with some girlfriends for my birthday, we’d bumped into some mutual acquaintances, one of whom was the person I really fancied, and we’d all started enjoying the evening together, drinking, chatting, laughing, this rude, arrogant man seemed to tag along and we just couldn’t shake him off.
At the end of the evening we were all jumping into taxis and I discovered to my horror that he lived at the other end of the village I was in. So we had to share a taxi. I got out at his street so that we split the taxi bill and he invited me in for coffee. Bizarrely, I agreed. We sat at his kitchen table drinking coffee and talking. We talked all night. I recall sitting at the table seeing the sun come up and realising I still wasn’t home.
This was a revelation to me, a man who invites you in for coffee and a chat and genuinely wants coffee and a chat. My interest was piqued.
He called me a couple of weeks later and we went on our first date – to the local Rugby 7’s tournament! We actually dated for a year before going our separate ways; I went to live and work in London (I was living in South Wales at the time) and he went to Nottingham University as a mature student. These were the days long before mobile phones were common-place and we just couldn’t maintain a long-distance relationship.
Not a day passed without me thinking about him. In the years that followed I got married, had a baby, got divorced, went through business failure, bankruptcy and more before I started to put myself first and started following my dream to become an actor.
I recall receiving the call that told me me I was cast in a play that was due to tour the South West of England. I said to the partner I was with at the time “I have no idea how, but I know that this play is going to change my life”.
It did change my life.
Whilst I was in rehearsal and chosen as the ‘poster girl’ for the play, that man I’d met all those years ago had headed into his local theatre to book tickets for a production. Looking at the posters advertising forthcoming productions, he thought he recognised the woman in the poster for ‘Ward 7’, the play I was in. Asking the box office manager if he knew who I was, and mentioning me by my maiden name, the box office manager also recognised me as I had been in a children’s theatre group with his daughters when I was a child.
A few telephone calls later and they had ascertained that ‘Yes’ I was the woman they thought I was. At that point all I knew is that someone who thought they knew me had booked tickets for opening night. I had no name, it could have been anyone.
A week before opening night I received a Facebook message request. It’s fair to say my heart skipped a beat when I saw who it was from. But I was sceptical. I hadn’t heard from him for 15 years at that point and the last I’d heard he was living and working in Canada with his girlfriend. I agreed to meet him for a coffee.
Within minutes of meeting I knew I was in trouble. All of those old feelings came rushing back and the conversation we had that day over coffee just reinforced the message that he really was the love of my life.
He turned up on Opening Night and within 3 weeks I had left my partner and moved in with him to his bachelor pad in a seaside town in the South West of England. That was 8 years ago and I’ve never been happier.
I’ve often said ‘when you ‘know’, you ‘know”. I always knew he was the love of my life, it took him a while to realise I was the love of his life. That day we met for coffee we talked openly and honestly to each other for hours. We had both felt the same way, he just hadn’t felt he deserved to be loved.
The past 8 years haven’t been easy. We’ve dealt with stuff that would have broken a less strong, healthy or robust relationship. But we have continually felt more and more in love with each other.
Can we look back and say we would have done things differently? Of course we can. But there is nothing in either of our pasts that we’re ashamed of, nothing that either of us doesn’t know about the other, and nothing that we know we can’t overcome in the future.
What we have, is what our relationship was based on from that very first night we met when I didn’t like him at all – we have communication, honesty and trust. We have shared values.
Yes, the way we reconnected is something of a Fairy Tale but there’s truth in the adage that ‘life is stranger than art’.
I’d love to know your Fairy Tale moments.
Recently I have spent a number of hours each week working at my local hospital. It’s certainly been eye-opening and I have so much respect for my colleagues who have worked at the front line for the entirety of this pandemic thus far.
But what has struck me most, and something I’m privileged to witness, is the diversity of relationships that I’m party to during my time there.
There is the obvious patient/clinician relationship, and all staff are trained to help patients who are anxious and worried at this time, to ensure their visit to the hospital, however long, is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Something that requires a lot of resilience in these testing times as procedures seem to change with each new news report.
Then you see the parent/child relationship. Where I’m working it’s often mid-life children accompanying their elderly parents. A generation who as war babies were the most vulnerable at the time of their birth and now once again, find themselves among the most vulnerable in our society.
Then there’s the couples; young and old, long and short term. The young couples barely seem to talk to each other, heads down glued to their mobile phones giving silent moral support in their joint isolation. And the elderly couples, worried about what news may be imparted to their loved one, looking after each other with an enduring love that so many of my clients seek for themselves. They will often have spent the entire day at the hospital for one short appointment with a clinician who could potentially change the course of their life.
And I see the couples where there is obviously conflict or abuse, often the individual won’t even recognise that the conflict is there but for someone finely tuned to detect it, it’s obvious. I see myself in the women or men who present scared of their own shadow, their partner doing all of the talking for them and complaining if their appointment is more than just a few minutes late because they, not the patient, are being inconvenienced.
I relish talking to the patients, giving a smile, behind my mask, ensuring it reaches my eyes. Making what I hope is a reassuring gesture to those who arrive worried and anxious. And doing all I can to make their brief interaction with me as pleasurable as possible. For those who can’t walk without assistance and have a long wait, I fetch water from the water cooler, and I’ve assisted those who can’t read or write to complete forms that are confusing enough for the most literate of us.
You see all of life in a hospital, the good, the bad and the ugly; but for me, the best parts of wearing PPE and having the constant sting and smell of hand sanitiser as company, is giving random acts of kindness to worried strangers, and observing the myriad of relationships that play out day by day in the midst of a pandemic serving as solid reminders that life really does carry on amidst the ebb and flow of whatever nature throws at us, and that strong, healthy and robust relationships can endure whatever adversity is pushed across their path.
It’s no surprise that over the past year there have been some questions I’ve been asked time and time again “How can I rejuvenate my relationship?” “How can I bring back the spark?” “How can I make sure we survive?” “How can we keep the spark alive during lockdown?” and many, many more questions.
The simple answer is, there is no secret weapon, like everything else it takes work. But I’ve narrowed it down to 5 simple ‘rules’ to rejuvenate your relationships, ALL of your relationships, during lockdown.
These will work with your partner, your children, your family and whomever is sharing your home and life with you at the moment;
- Know your Boundaries: Make a list of what is and isn’t acceptable to both parties. One of you wants to watch news 24/7 the other doesn’t. Then create a compromise that works for both parties Maybe ‘News at Noon’ and the 5pm update is all you need. Perhaps one of you wants to maintain normal working hours whereas the other wants to stay up late and have a lie-in before starting work and/or home-schooling. Again, set the boundaries, maybe agree that you both get ready for bed at the same time so the one staying up doesn’t disturb the one already asleep by switching the light on and getting changed. Put your clothes for the following day ready in the bathroom or spare room so that you can get dressed without disturbing your late-night partner.
- Create Space: Where possible set up separate work areas and maintain a timetable to ensure you get done what needs to be done without too much interruption. It also helps if you replicate your usual daily routine so you’re not in each others’ pockets 24/7. When it needs to change for any reason, plan the disruption in advance so it doesn’t create stress and friction.
- Submit: Know that you can’t control the current situation, you can only control your response to it. Trying to be in total control will only cause tension and anxiety. Submit to the situation, do what you can and then accept that this will pass. It is only a temporary situation and a new normal is just around the corner, even if it does seem that the corner is getting further and further away. You can only do what you an do, in compliance with the rules and restrictions in your location. Fighting against them will raise your stress levels.
- Step into Selfish: Put your needs first. If your needs are properly met, you’re better able to look after everyone else. Think of the oxygen mask on a flight – you’re advised to put your own on first so you’re better able to help others. Take time to do your own exercise, have a bubble bath, volunteer to do the shopping alone!, read a book, watch your favourite Netflix series.
- Be Kind: Everyone reacts to stress differently. But remember your manners. Be kind, polite and respectful to each other. It will go a long way and stop the tension rising. If you can assist a neighbour or relative as well, it will create harmony and good energy, and you will be repaid in kind. People respond and react to the way they are treated.
These simple ‘rules’ really will help your relationship. And when you can get it on an even keel, maintaining harmony in the home, you can look at revitalising your relationship using the tips in my free e-book; ‘Top10 Tips to Redefine your Relationship’ offers more tips to revitalise your relationship and kick-start your sex life whether you’re in a couple or single.
How often do you and your partner cuddle? Or, if like me, and you’re Welsh, how often do you and your partner cwtch?
There’s nothing quite like a good cwtch or cuddle. It releases the feel-good hormones, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine, and instantly makes you feel better.
How often, after having a bad day, do you say to your partner ‘just put your arms around me’?
I recall on one of the worst days of my life, New Year’s Eve 2008, when I discovered my business was insolvent and I was about to call my team to make them redundant with immediate effect and no pay; I asked my then husband to “just put your arms around me and tell me everything’s going to be OK”. His response was “I can’t, because I don’t know that it will.” In that moment my day got worse, as I realised my second marriage was over and I was well and truly on my own. All I wanted was to feel a little better before facing the enormity of what was before me.
Thankfully, I’ve moved on significantly since then and I have a partner who understands that sometimes all you want is a huge hug to make things better.
We even set our alarm 10 minutes earlier every morning so we can just cuddle, snuggle up, cwtch, before starting our day. And we fall asleep cuddling – until the moment that almost every couple experiences; when one pulls away from the other, kicks their leg out of the bed and almost gasps for cool air because the heat generated by two bodies cuddling under a duvet is just too much!
Sometimes, we’ll have an impromptu cwtch in the kitchen when recounting something that’s happened during our day that may have caused us to feel a bit down, sad or upset, we’ll just stand and cuddle.
I can always tell when my son needs a cuddle – although at 15, it’s not cool to admit to wanting one so we have to refer to it as a hug. He’s 6’ tall and towers over me but there are days when all he needs is a cuddle from his mum. As I like to remind him, ‘you’re never too old, and you’re never too big for a healing cuddle’.
As human beings we crave physical touch, we need that dose from the feel-good triumvirate and research has shown that we only need to cuddle up for 6 seconds to reap the benefits.
So what are you waiting for, grab your partner, children or friends and cuddle up to instantly improve your mood and reduce sadness, anxiety and stress. It’s good for your health.
And don’t just reserve your hugs, cuddles or cwtches for National Cuddle-up Day (6th January) or National Hug Day (21st January). Make every day a Hug, Cuddle or Cwtch Day. Your relationship will benefit from it too.
Who are you going to cuddle up with today?
Today is 4th October 2020. 17 years ago today I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event.
Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.
My husband had quite literally swept me off my feet, carrying me in his arms on our first date when I had my leg in plaster and we had to climb some stairs. He was tall, dark and handsome and that gesture won many smiles, comments and claps of approval as he showed all onlookers that he would look after his woman.
Less than 2 years into our marriage and I was feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It would be another 2 years before I left, a shell of the woman I used to be.
At first, I shrugged off his somewhat insensitive comments about my appearance, how he would belittle me in public or treat me with complete disrespect. I thought that I must be mishearing his outdated and misogynistic comments about women being second class citizens and belonging in the kitchen or the bedroom. And when I challenged him about it he would tell me I should be grateful that he didn’t beat me like my first husband had. What’s worse is that I actually agreed with him. Over time I had been indoctrinated to believe that he was right, I was wrong and that I couldn’t cope with day to day life without him guiding me.
When he sold our house without telling me and bought a new house, 30 miles away in the middle of nowhere, far from anyone we knew, I trusted him when he said it was only a temporary measure and if I was that unhappy we could move back. I trusted him when he told me that I was an alcoholic and needed help, standing over me as I called AA in tears, because I drank one glass of wine per night and on the nights I didn’t pour my own, he would pour me a large vodka and tonic, telling me ‘I needed one’. I believe him when he told me that I was incapable of looking after our son because I’d never had children before and didn’t know what to do. I believed him when he dissuaded me from cuddling our son because it would lead to attachment issues. And I believed him when he told me that him taking family photos or videos and leaving me just out of shot was accidental. All the while I was trying to keep a business afloat and a roof over our head because he wasn’t working.
When I left, I left our son with him and I believed that was the right thing to do. I also believed that I would be free of what I now know was psychological abuse or coercive control.
How wrong I was. That was just the start. The 12 years that have followed have been the years that I have had to pay emotionally, financially and metaphorically for having the audacity to leave him. And they have been far, far harder than the years I was married to him. Two lengthy and expensive court battles to prove that I was fit to be the resident carer of my son were the least of it. The staggering attempts at parental alienation to discredit me in front of my son, the social services and anyone else who would listen. The pursuit of my destruction, whatever it takes, to prove that everything he said and believed about me was right.
The two attempts to take my own life because I couldn’t take the abuse any more were long after I’d left him. I’d reached the end of my tether and I’d run out of energy to carry on fighting. Watching his father take metaphorical pieces out of me was damaging my son and I wasn’t prepared to put him through anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed in my attempts but I was far from out of the woods and headed down some dark and dangerous paths before eventually I was fortunate to find a fantastic therapist adept at working with survivors of abuse. I met a partner who had first known me long before I met my second husband and who supported me in working through the abuse I had endured in both marriages and a subsequent financially abusive relationship.
Working through everything I’d endured gave me strength I didn’t know I had, it helped me to re-evaluate my life and redefine my relationships not just with myself but with my partner and my son who now lives with me. It gave me the courage to believe in myself and embark on a six-year psychology and counselling degree with the Open University. It opened new doors of opportunity for me as my self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem returned. It made me determined that I would do whatever I could to try and ensure no-one else, regardless of gender, ended up an abusive relationship.
That’s a huge undertaking. There will always be those who abuse others. But if sharing my experiences and learning helps just a few more people, who go on to help others by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships, then it will all have been worth it.
Change is scary, leaving your abuser is scary, the abuse never stops it just changes. It’s how you respond to those changes that matter. I still get ‘abuse’ every day, these days it’s usually sad attempts to discredit and belittle me in front of my son. I spend many days worrying about when ‘pay back’ is going to happen but these days I know I’m strong. I can take on any of the attacks that are coming because now I have a solid foundation built on trust, love and self-respect; all of the values that eluded me in my marriage.
Now I truly am FREE.
To help me share my story and give hope to millions of domestic abuse sufferers and survivors around the world please register to hear me speak at the Introbiz Global Summit alongside greats such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Sharon Lechter, Rob Moore, Lisa Johnson.
To learn more about my work please register for my FREE live training, 5 Days to Redefine your Relationships
Or join me in this workshop ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ on 19th November which I’m hosting with Suzanne Smart of Positive Imprint and Rachel Earing of Live 4 Energy.
The first mile of any run I do is the hardest. It’s the time when I’m most likely to turn around and head home. Why?
It’s the time I need to find my pace, my stride, my groove. I need to give my lungs, my legs, my arms and my feet time to adjust to the shock of getting out of bed and into the cool morning air. And I need to tune in to the voices of my running coaches, mentors and physio; “breathe 2, 3, 4” “pockets to socket” “lengthen your stride” “lift your feet” “engage your glutes” “engage, engage, engage”.
Running to train for an event (half marathon in my case) isn’t as easy as just simply running. I need to train to ensure I can go the distance without injury or damage.
And relationships are like that too. We start off a little apprehensive until we find our groove and then we settle into it. But what happens when we receive an injury or some damage? Life throws us curve balls all the time and how we respond to them can determine the longevity, or not, of our relationships.
Asking for help from a Relationships Expert isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you want to go the distance and have strategies in place to keep you strong and able to withstand the curve balls.
It’s knowing that even when you have to run up a hill, as long as you keep running, no matter how slow, you’ll get to the top and then it gets comfortable again. It’s about remembering what you’ve learned so that you don’t cause yourself an injury and it’s about applying those lessons, time after time after time.
If you really want to go the distance, an expert, coach or mentor is worth the initial discomfort.
The first mile really is the hardest.
Join my FREE Live Training for help to get beyond the first mile: 5 Days to Redefine your Relationship. Register here.
If the answer is “Yes” then I’ve got news for you. You’ve been spun a thousand yarns about what relationships should be like when the reality is far from Hollywood, Disney and Fairy Tales.
Far too many of us of a certain age, grew up with the subliminal expectation of being rescued by a knight on a white charger, and when that happened life would be perfect and we would live happily ever after. So all we had to do was act like a princess and wait for our prince.
Did that happen? I’m guessing that it probably didn’t.
So why is that?
REAL Relationships aren’t perfect, they don’t have you disappearing into the sunset every evening to live a blissful, satisfied and perfect life.
REAL Relationships are messy and dark and dirty.
REAL Relationships are fun, fabulous and flirty.
REAL Relationships take hard work and effort, and that includes compromise from both parties which is usually when arguments happen as couples try to work out the middle-ground that they’re both happy with.
REAL Relationships toss and turn with all that life throws at them; illness, financial instability, pandemics, job changes, job losses.
REAL Relationships are strong, healthy and robust enough to cope with the twists and turns of life.
REAL Relationships ebb and flow like the tide with each partner unnoticeably taking turns to take responsibility, take control, look after each other.
In a REAL Relationship that is strong, healthy and robust the ebbs and flows, twists and turns of life are just events that are overcome, some more easily than others, but never with a fear that the relationship is about to end.
Is yours a REAL Relationship or are you still hoping for your Hollywood romance?
I have a problem with the term ‘domestic abuse survivor’.
Bear with me on this. I’m saying this from the point of view of a survivor of domestic abuse. Most of my adult relationships have been abusive. I’ve been through physical, sexual, psychological and economical abuse so I tick the boxes.
I support all of the campaigns that help victims of domestic abuse regardless of gender, creed, colour or sexual orientation.
But I see the domestic abuse charities, the legal profession and numerous other companies vying for money and funding in the name of supporting domestic abuse victims whilst spending thousands upon thousands in advertising and marketing, aimed at helping women primarily, escape the terror they’re living with, to become a domestic abuse survivor.
What they don’t seem to grasp, at least from my experience, is that the abuse continues long after the victim has walked away from the perpetrator. Thankfully, there are a number of domestic abuse campaigners starting to change this perception.
Abuse is abuse. End of. There’s no one-upmanship amongst abuse survivors, if anything there’s gratitude from those who didn’t end up in hospital beds that they didn’t suffer as badly, but no-one keeps score.
Survivors know that when the abuse ends, the torment starts. Physical scars heal and fade but the scars you can’t see, the scars that linger in the depths of your mind and reveal themselves when you’re least expecting, those are the scars that torment abuse survivors.
But doesn’t seem to be recognised.
In the throes of rebuilding your life, protecting your children and trying to understand what a normal adult relationship should be, you are at your most vulnerable. Prey to those who recognise your vulnerability and those who naively offer help thinking they are doing you a favour. What they don’t understand is that a misjudged word or phrase, a boost up the ladder, a public declaration of your status or even just a paint colour in a room or office can send you back to a dark place in your mind, that forces you to relive painful memories as if they were actually happening again.
And when you mention it, when you react, you’re seen as being sensitive, irrational, unstable and incapable. And the very people who think they are helping you, layer on another coat of shame and lack of belief and low confidence until once again you start to believe that too and the helpers have become the unknowing perpetrators of a whole new cycle of abuse.
And the domestic abuse survivor gets stuck, not knowing who to trust, not knowing where to turn and when the legal profession and the domestic abuse industry turns them away because they’re not in immediate danger and don’t have physical injuries or scars to show the extent of their abuse, they feel lost, alone, abandoned.
This is when the abuse does the worst damage.
This is when the survivor gives up and believes that’s all they deserve. So they’re grateful for the unsuitable suitor who shows a little bit of compassion, they’re grateful for the employer who offers them a job that makes them feel a little bit worthy but pays them a pittance and treats them like dirt, and they’re grateful for every day they wake up without being attacked.
Eventually, if they’re lucky, they reach a point where they start to recognise that they really do deserve more than just settling and they start to question things around them.
But this means they have to put their head above the parapet, they have to have the audacity to suggest that yes, they deserve more, they deserve better and yes, there is more to life than this.
Gradually, they move through this phase, they reach forgiveness and acceptance and recognise that they can be anyone or anything they choose to be. They don’t have to rely on or depend upon a partner, they have a strength within them that they didn’t know they had, they have the strength to overcome any obstacle that gets in their way. They have the strength, the ability and the know how to create the life they want. Free from abuse, free from fear, fear from torment. Free from being labelled a domestic abuse survivor.
But the domestic abuse industry doesn’t grasp this. ‘Domestic Abuse Survivor’ has become a badge of honour to be worn with pride and used to justify behaviour and purpose.
Yes, I am a survivor of domestic abuse but to wear that as a badge or label that defines me just gives status to my perpetrators; as if I couldn’t have achieved a level of success without that badge, and it’s them who enabled me to win that badge.
So I’m going to stop calling myself a domestic abuse survivor. I’ll continue to share my story to help and inspire others but I’m so much more than a survivor of domestic abuse. It taught me so much more than how to define myself by a label bestowed upon me by a society that likes to label people and keep them in their boxes. The label isn’t fit for purpose anymore.
My experience of domestic abuse enabled me to have a greater understanding of human relationships. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Without the worst sorts of relationships I would never have been able to recognise a good relationship full of unconditional love. I would never have understood that abuse takes many forms, I would never have understood the power of the human mind, I would never have studied psychology.
But the best part of all, I would never have recognised how important it is to educate, coach and support people to create strong, healthy and robust relationships so that future generations can learn how to do the same from observing and learning from their parents and grandparents.
It has taken multiple generations to dilute the abuses that take place within the home, it will take multiple generations to replace that abuse by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships across all social demographics but myself and countless others like me, carry on in the belief that one day, probably long after we’ve left this world, it will all have been worth it.
How often have you met someone who seemed perfectly lovely but left you walking away thinking ‘They seemed very nice but, I’m not sure, there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on’?
And how often do you ignore that feeling?
I can think of at least four occasions where I felt like that, ignored the feeling and it cost me dear. Twice it happened to me in business and in relationships I ignored that niggling doubt because so many other people were happy to associate with the individuals involved, so I carried on and just hoped that the feeling would go away, thinking ‘it’s just me’. The feeling didn’t go away and unfortunately, years afterwards I was proven right each time. I write about the impact of ignoring my gut instinct and suppressing my authentic self in my books (available here).
I’ve learned the hard way that when you get that niggling doubt about someone, no matter how lovely they may appear, it is usually because they are not acting with integrity or they are not being their authentic selves. It could be said that they are hiding behind a mask.
Many of us wear masks in our daily life, we’re not the same person in work as we are at home and vice versa. I’m not advocating that we should all go around wearing our heart on our sleeves and spewing forth all of our innermost thoughts or secrets to everyone we meet, unless of course you choose to do that and are entirely comfortable with doing so. Most people are not and that’s perfectly fine.
The term ‘authenticity’ has been bandied around personal development and coaching circles for a long time and it is no longer as effective as it once was. Many people now believe that if someone has to tell you they are being authentic, then the likelihood is, they are not. Just as many people start a sentence with “no offence” when they’re about to say something offensive, when someone tells you they are authentic it is often because they are trying to convince themselves that it is true.
It is human nature to present ourselves slightly differently in different environments. We wouldn’t turn up at the office in the same mindset as when we’re relaxing at home on a weekend. That doesn’t mean we are being inauthentic it just shows that we are aware of the ‘rules of engagement’ in those different settings.
However, what happens if you’re not being authentic in a relationship? What happens if you’re not allowed to be your true self in a relationship? What happens when you find yourself wearing a mask more often than not?
Suppressing your authenticity, or having to suppress your authenticity, for any length of time is detrimental to your mental health. It leads to frustration, resentment and anger and in the worst instances can lead to depression and significant other mental health problems. Hiding your real self behind a mask for a prolonged period of time is also exhausting.
In the work I’ve done with survivors of domestic abuse, very often they have lived in an environment where their real authentic self has been suppressed for a significant length of time and it can take many months or years for them to rediscover their authentic self but when they do, the transformation is incredible.
They report feeling much happier and more content than they have for a long while, they have a confidence and inner strength that makes them seem taller. With further work they go on to develop strong, healthy relationships where their authentic self is not only loved and cherished but allowed to flourish.
You don’t have to be a victim of domestic abuse to suppress your authenticity. There can be many, many reasons for believing no-one wants to know your authentic self.
Whomever and whatever your authentic self truly is, embrace it, enjoy it and bring it to the fore. The right partner will love you in all your authentic quirkiness and recognise that it’s what makes you, you. This applies to all relationships, not just survivors of domestic abuse.
If you need help to rediscover your authentic self why not book a no obligation discovery call with me to see if I can help you? You can book a call here: https://www.notarehearsal.co.uk/apply
I look forward to speaking with you.