Financial control: 'My wealthy ex-husband left my two children and I homeless’
My husband had always given me threats that, if I ever left him, I would have nothing. So he didn’t see it coming when, in 2018 after 13 years of marriage, I told him it was over.
Everything was about control and money for him – his family were very rich and he would be on the phone to them constantly about their estate and businesses.
When I heard him having yet another argument with his father about family money, I jumped up from my desk and said "That’s it, it’s over, I can’t stand this any more. You need to get out now."
He flipped, went completely nuts. He thought he was in control of me because of his wealth, but he was losing power.
We’d met in 2002 on a night out, and he swept me off my feet. We had a great time going out for fancy dinners, our romance blossomed and he would take me on lovely holidays in his native France.
We married three years later, had a lavish honeymoon in the Caribbean, and bought a beautiful six-bedroomed home.
Our son was born the following year and our daughter two years later.
Early warning signs
I gave up my career in HR when I had the children and, over the years, whenever I tried to say I was going to go back to work, he’d say "What’s the point in getting a job, it would be like pennies to us? You working would mean nothing in the grand scheme of things".
But my husband didn’t have his own job, he hadn’t worked for any of his wealth, and we were relying on his family money all the time. I thought I was ok with that at first but, as time went on, I became increasingly at odds with it.
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As the kids got older, I wanted to be independent. I’ve always loved working and I battled with not having a job.
He’d often make little comments about me having nothing if I walked away. I think he is a narcissist who believed there’s no way I would possibly leave him.
He never involved me in his family or the businesses either. If we went to France to visit them, no one ever asked me how I was, they would only talk and argue about money and land and property. And he was always stressed and never really present. We’d go for a day out and he’d have his phone in his hand constantly, and would never switch it off.
The day I snapped and told him to leave, I’d had a lightbulb moment. I’d been having night terrors where I was choking on sharp objects – and I realised it was my body telling me I was suffocating in the relationship.
When I dropped the bombshell, he was furious and told me I was being ridiculous. He’d never considered I would go because of the money, but wealth wasn’t my motivation in life.
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He moved out that day, it was almost like he ran away. As he went, he told me I would be in the gutter and he was right – I think I actually was in the gutter for a while. He made sure we were going to suffer financially, and I really saw his true colours.
At that point, we were living in a rented house and he refused to pay the rent, so me and our two children, who were 10 and 12, had to get out and we ended up homeless.
Living in a garage
I had no credit rating so I couldn’t rent anywhere, but a local acquaintance ran a business in a garage and said we could live there for a couple of months, so we had a roof over our heads. It was awful for the kids.
It used to be a workshop and was terrible to live in. There were no windows downstairs, and one tiny room with a grotty shower and another with just about enough space for an oven and a couple of cupboards. There was a low ceiling-ed room upstairs where the boys and I all slept.
At first, he still paid their school fees, so he would pick them up and take them to their posh private schools from a garage, but a year later, they were thrown out when he didn’t pay the bills. They still see a counsellor every week to help them with everything they went through.
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There were some dark times during those next three months in the garage, and so many questions went around in my head.
Why did I allow him to put me down saying that I wouldn’t earn enough money? Why didn’t I make sure I’d kept up with my career instead of being a stay-at home mum? Why didn’t I push him more to get a job so that we weren’t dependent on his family money?
I wish I’d tried more to get him to be independent of them. Why did I not see that as it was coming at me at the beginning? Why did I not stop it?
Three months later, the council certified us homeless, and, after that, a charity paid a deposit on a flat and a year’s rent up front so we had somewhere to live.
A fresh start
Slowly, I’m putting my life back together. We divorced in 2020 and things are more civilised than they were. The kids are at our local school and they’re happy, and I’m in a healthy new relationship.
He’s a lovely, honest man, and very open with money – he understands what I went through to the point that he has put me in charge of all our finances and savings. Thanks to him, I’ve realised I’m very good at looking after money – I even have a spreadsheet!
We met on Tinder and have recently moved in together. I’ve started my own business and I am far more fulfilled working, as I did before I met him. I have finally found myself again.
If you are experiencing domestic or emotional abuse of any kind, visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk for support.
*Some names have been changed to protect identities.
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