The internal instability of a narcissist drives them to accumulate as much power and control in their surrounding environment as humanly possible. We currently live in an era where money is power, therefore financial abuse and narcissistic relationships are almost guaranteed to happen. This article is a complete guide readers can utilize to understand the correlation between narcissism and money.
The motives behind financial abuse coincide with a narcissists underlying fear of abandonment. Financial abuse circulates around a narcissist insecure need for control and is certainly a meticulously thought out process.
The Pathway to Financial Abuse In a Narcissistic Relationship
The origin of financial abuse is the love bombing phase. The love bombing phase is a period in a narcissistic relationship where the narcissist will create almost a fairytale type of love story by using manipulative tactics like mirroring and future faking on top of buying the victim an overwhelming amount of gifts, and an enormous level of affection.
The issue of the love bombing phase is that it triggers all of the victims desires of a perfect relationship and subsequently they ignore the red flags. The love bombing face sets the foundation for controlling behaviors like financial abuse.
“We met during the summer of ‘99 and the love bombing phase made it feel like love at first sight. I can still remember how special and wanted he made me feel, but looking back on the relationship now, he was SO controlling. I’m the beginning it was a lot of texts and calls wondering where I was. Then it progressed to him paying my car payments, rent, groceries etc. it always made me feel so strange but he insisted and was disgusted with me when I tried to stop him. Then I moved in with him, he convinced me to drop out of college to pursue my modeling ambitions and before I knew it, I didn’t have a job or education and I was 100 percent dependent on him.” Diane’s experience with a narcissistic ex.
Diane’s story is so common within the narcissistic realm. The complexity of narcissistic behavior leads many victims to mistakenly identify controlling behavior as interest or as a “once in a lifetime” type of love. The pattern we saw and Diane’s story where it started with nonstop cellular communication and progressed into Diane dropping out of college, can be really deceiving in narcissistic relationships. As we saw with Diane’s story, she was under the assumption that he wanted her to drop out of college to pursue her dreams. When in reality it was nothing more than a clever maneuver to control Diane’s financial stability.
How Does Financial Abuse In Narcissistic Relationships Correlate With Societal Norms?
Financial abuse in narcissistic relationships is quite peculiar because it allows us to take another glimpse at our faulty societal norms. Narcissists have an insecure need to fit in and look good to the world, which often causes them to embody the image of the perfect human being in today’s society.
For example, in our article How Can a Narcissist Move On So Quickly?, we spoke about how being in a relationship, specifically marriage, is a societal norm therefore when narcissists get divorced they typically replace their partner immediately.
With financial abuse in a relationship with a narcissistic male, it embodies the ideologies behind a stay at home mom. A woman that can take care of the kids, clean the house, and cater to their husbands needs, which is extremely attractive to a narcissist, and reflects our societal norms.
How Is Financial Abuse In Narcissistic Relationships A Descendant Of Coercive Control?
Women’s Aid defines coercive control as an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
Let’s break down how financial abuse implements the same tactics shown above.
Isolating the Victim
One of the most confusing parts of a narcissistic relationship is the speed and intensity at the beginning of them. The love bombing phase in intimate relationships is designed to seduce the victim while allowing the narcissist to learn how to control them. So, naturally suggestions like, “hey let’s move in together, we already spend so much time together…” begin to accumulate. The manipulative nature of narcissistic relationships makes the love bombing phase feel like a once in a lifetime opportunity for the victim, and subsequently, they become isolated by moving in with the narcissist.
“He asked me to move in with him about 4 months into the relationship. It felt incredible because nobody had ever given me the attention that he was giving me. He told me that he wanted me to put all of my time and resources towards my dreams, which was and still is to be a writer, so moving in with him would be so much better because I wouldn’t have to pay for anything. IT MADE SO MUCH SENSE and for the first time I felt like someone was actually supporting me so I moved out of my parents house immediately.” – Diane
Depriving The Victim of Independence
Stripping their victim of their independence comes when the narcissist will coerce the victim into leaving something as important as a job or in Diane’s case, education.
“Almost immediately after we moved in together, he convinced me to not only leave my job, but my university as well. He showed me many successful writers that had the same degree that I had and eventually convinced me to go all the way in with writing. I didn’t realize it then, but I was so dependent on him. I couldn’t afford a car so he drove me everywhere. I didn’t have that much savings so he paid rent, bought groceries, and other miscellaneous stuff. He even bought me a new phone and laptop, which I later found out had spyware in it.“
Regulating The Victims Everyday Behavior
This is financial abuse, not support. So, eventually the narcissist will start to stop paying for things. It almost mimics the narcissistic abuse cycle where it begins with an intense love bombing phase and morphs into a devaluation phase once the narcissist has their victim hooked.
“All of a sudden everything just stopped. He took my laptop and phone away for a month because he thought I was chatting up other men. He would get so angry when I asked to leave the house, have money to buy some food, and ask to go visit my parents. He made me scared to ask for anything because everything was taken as an insult and made into a huge argument. I couldn’t leave either because I didn’t have anything of my own. I needed him to survive and he knew it.”
Financial abuse in narcissistic relationships makes it nearly impossible for victims of narcissistic abuse to escape the relationship because like Alexi, they don’t have the funds to support themselves or capability to quickly find a job because of how long they’ve been without one. The foundation of narcissistic relationships circulates around power and control, financial abuse in narcissistic relationships is yet another way for a narcissist to control their surroundings.
Sharing Finances With a Narcissist
Sharing finances in intimate relationships is very common, however with a narcissist it’s a whole different ball game.
The reason money and narcissism don’t mix well is solely because of the significance of money in the current era we live in. This isn’t true for all narcissistic relationships, but as a rule of thumb if a victim of narcissistic abuse has shared finances with their narcissistic partner, they’ll either be overpowered meaning they have no control over the money. Or they’ll be met with contempt, disapproval, and rage over every financial decision they can possibly imagine.
- College funds
- Medical bills
- Date nights
- New cars
- New clothes
- Weekly budget for food
Another very problematic aspect of the narcissistic realm is sharing finances with a narcissist in a family setting, specifically trusts, wills, and loans. To break down the commonly seen dynamics when sharing finances with a narcissistic family member, we’ve invited one of our participants, who prefers to remain anonymous, to tell their experiences with this topic.
“When my mother got sick back in 2005, my brother and I immediately dropped everything to help with the medical bills and be there for moral support. It was incredibly stressful and sad but fortunately she got better and pulled through. When it was time to finish paying off the bill, my brother and I found out that our narcissistic older brother had nearly drained an account that was meant for the whole family. He said that because our parents had put us through college, that he was entitled to the same amount of money. I’m not one hundred percent sure on this next part, but this is what my gut tells me. He offered to loan us the money to help with the medical bills BUT PUT A 15 PERCENT INTEREST ON THE LOAN! Who does that?! I’m convinced that he did it because he wanted to have some type of power over us. He did it because he wanted to be in control.”
Circling back to what this participant said about their narcissistic brother feeling entitled to the same amount of money they received for college, really illuminates an insane aspect of narcissistic behavior and as always, allows us to dive further into the complexity of narcissism.
Narcissistic relationships are purely transactional, and their moral compass is very primitive.
Let me explain…
In 2005 a man was mauled by a group of chimpanzees at a sanctuary in California. On the day of the attack this man had brought a birthday cake to his pet chimpanzee that he hadn’t seen in over a year. Chimpanzees have a very black and white moral compass, so when this man brought a birthday cake for only one of the chimpanzees, the rest of the chimps took it as an insult. Like the man was doing something horrifying to them. They managed to break out of their cage and tore this man to pieces. Thankfully he survived but he’ll carry the psychological and physical damage forever.
When you think about it, it sounds a lot like a narcissistic relationship. In our article What Happens When You Hurt a Narcissist’s Ego?, we talked about a narcissist shame-rage spiral. When a narcissist feels ashamed they throw themselves into a terrifying rage, or a passive aggressive/vindictive state, because it challenges their perception of reality. And because of how fragile their ego is, anything and everything has the potential to trigger shame within the narcissist. This could manifest in criticism, not taking a second plate of food they made, not messaging them back in a timely manner, or even holding them accountable.
Regardless of what the trigger may be, the reaction will always be the same. As far as our participants’ story, I believe that the brother’s feeling of entitlement towards the shared finances was a passive aggressive response to the shame of being rejected from three different schools.
“Well he was rejected from all 3 of his dream colleges so seeing us get accepted and graduate surely bothered him.”
A key aspect of shame is the fear of being rejected by society if our shameful actions are made public. This is the reason that narcissists use flying monkeys when they’re on the verge of being exposed. The victim has finally acknowledged that what they’re experiencing is abuse so the narcissist spreads lies and gossip to close friends and family to devalue the victims perception of reality. If they were successfully able to do this, The victim’s reality is rejected and criticized when they confide in the close friends and family that the narcissist manipulated into becoming flying monkeys. The narcissist avoids shame and the victim is manipulated again, it’s a win-win situation for narcissistic abusers.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Finances and narcissism don’t mix well. It is imperative for victims of narcissistic abuse in an intimate relationship to protect their own financial stability. Don’t allow your narcissistic partner to coerce you into leaving your job. If you share finances with a narcissistic partner ensure that you know what’s happening to the money at all times. Failing to do so will surely make the relationship much harder, and furthermore, the break up or divorce detrimental.
If you’re sharing finances with a narcissistic family member, making sure your piece of the pie is legally protected is crucial. Don’t allow your narcissistic family member to have unsupervised control over the family finances.
If you work or have started a business with a narcissist, legal protection is a must. They are going to try to manipulate you, by pulling at the strings of camaraderie, and suggest getting legal contracts is just a waste of money because of how close you may be, but get the contracts anyway. Make sure everything is clear and official.
If you only remember one thing from this article, ensure that it’s the knowledge that narcissists have an insecure need for power and control, in our current era money embodies the definition of power and control. When it comes to narcissism and finances don’t be overly empathic a cynical approach is the only approach.
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Irena Pilch & Małgorzata E. Górnik-Durose (2017) Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism, Materialism, Money Attitudes, and Consumption Preferences, The Journal of Psychology, 151:2, 185-206, DOI: 10.1080/00223980.2016.1252707