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Are You in an Abusive Relationship with Money?

Learn to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship with money.

eminavn/iStock photo
Source: eminavn/iStock photo

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.

Edmund Burke

eminavn/iStock photo
Source: eminavn/iStock photo

Fortunately, as a culture, we’re starting to reject the “inevitability” of abusive relationships. It’s no longer acceptable for parents to beat their kids, or for spouses to verbally, physically or psychologically abuse their partners. We’re cracking down on everyone who perpetrates domestic violence, from football players to politicians. We’re teaching our kids and teenagers about the dynamics of abusive relationships, and how to set healthy boundaries for themselves to avoid them.

But there’s one type of abusive relationship that’s still tolerated in this country: It’s the abusive relationship too many of us have with money.

Does that sound a little crazy? Maybe, but let’s look at the signs of an abusive relationship:

1. Isolation: In an emotionally abusive relationship, the abuser wants you all to themselves. They won’t acknowledge that you have a life outside of the relationship. They don’t want you spending time with family and friends. They don’t want you to have any outside fun or relaxation. An abuser demands that they be the center of your universe.

So what about you? Do you find yourself devoting the vast majority of your time chasing money? Running on that hamster wheel to work harder and earn more, leaving little time or energy for anything or anyone else? Do you feel guilty when you kick back with friends or spend a day simply relaxing? Have you dropped all of your hobbies because making enough money takes up all of your time?

2. Low self-esteem: An abusive partner steadily and constantly chips away at your self-esteem. According to them, you can never be attractive enough, smart enough or good enough. When they compare you to others, you always come up short. No matter how hard you try, you feel inadequate. You’re ashamed to talk with friends and family about what’s really going on in the relationship and feel compelled to lie to keep up appearances.

Is that how you feel when it comes to money? That, no matter what you do, you’re never quite up to par? That you need to continually prove yourself or improve yourself just to stay even? When you compare yourself to others through money’s eyes, do you end up feeling deficient and defective? Are you ashamed to discuss it, even with your tax preparer?

3. Fear: People in an abusive relationship feel like they’re constantly tip toeing through a mine field. One wrong move and the consequences can be devastating—if not fatal. They begin to feel anxious and afraid almost all the time, but especially when they’re dealing directly with their abusive partner.

What about you and money? Do you lie awake at night worrying about whether you’re doing the right things with your money or making enough? Anxiously wondering whether you and your family are financially safe and secure? When you have to make decisions about money, do you break out in a cold sweat? Are you always on edge about it?

4. Domination: An abuser demands to be treated like royalty, like they are in total control of your life. When they say “Jump!” you say, “How high?” They make sure you feel guilty if you try to assert yourself or pursue your own aspirations or desires. The abuser holds all the power and you are virtually powerless.

Have you become money’s slave? Do you choose your career, where you live, even your mate based on money? Do you feel guilty pursuing passions that may not make you money? Have you given up on dreams because of the fear that money might desert you?

5. Enslavement: People in abusive situations often realize that the relationship isn’t healthy. But they’re still reluctant to change it or leave it. They think, “Maybe if I just try harder, it’ll work out” or “Maybe it will be even worse if I leave.”

Do you feel that way about your relationship with money? That you don’t know how or if you could change it? That it might be unhealthy but it’s not as scary as those unknown alternatives out there?

If you could answer “yes” or even “maybe” to any of the above, you’re in an unhealthy relationship with money.

Of course, the fault doesn’t lie with money itself. Money is an energy. It’s neutral. The abusive qualities of our relationship with this neutral energy called money come from cultural attitudes around us and, more importantly, our own negative emotions and limiting beliefs.

What does a healthy relationship with money look like?

A while back I was did some research for a course on prosperity (a slightly different course than the one I teach now). I interviewed a range of people who had created excellent relationships with money at various financial levels. For example, I interviewed one of my kumu (teachers), Uncle George. He lived very simply but had everything he wanted. And he was able to create more money whenever he had a project that required it. On the other end of the spectrum, I interviewed a woman who, when we went shopping, was shopping for stores not the items they carried!

In my research, I found that these people shared a very similar relationship with money, no matter how much money they had. They described their relationship with money like this:

1. The universe is abundant.

2. The universe wants ME to prosper.

3. All prosperity begins with belief.

4. Money is an abstraction.

5. Money is energy—and will appear as you really feel about it.

6. Money has no intelligence of its own

7. Money will respond to the instructions I give it.

8. Money demands attention

The list above is great—but just intellectually knowing those concepts won’t improve your relationship with money. They need to become your core beliefs to replace the negative beliefs that created your abusive relationship in the first place. How?

In my NLP trainings, I teach that there are three requisites to change:

  1. Get rid of negative emotions and beliefs, and create a compelling future (i.e. goal setting).
  2. Take action.
  3. Remain focused on your desired outcome and reframing any obstacles to keep your unconscious moving forward.

If you’re ready to have a healthy relationship with money, find a resource that can help you do those three things.

Our relationship to money isn’t one we can easily walk away from. For the vast majority of us, money is the fuel that powers much of our lives and we can’t just break up with it or divorce it. (Interestingly, even if we get more and more of it, our relationship with money won’t simply improve on its own.) You get to decide if you’ll continue to put up with the abuse or find a way to make this relationship healthy.


Dr. Matt.

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where students learn Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna and Hypnosis. To find out more about NLP and prosperity, check out this free Prosperity and Money Mastery webinar. Click this link for more information: