Whether or not you broke up with your boyfriend because of money, you may not be prepared for the financial stress a breakup brings. Maybe you loaned your boyfriend money and he hasn’t repaid you. Maybe you owe your husband money for college tuition, credit card payments, mortgage payments, child support or alimony.
Maybe you’re like me: you’ve always worried about money and this breakup increased your preexisting financial stress. Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping, eating, going to work, parenting your kids and taking care of basic household tasks. It’s crucial to learn how to deal with money stress because it affects every part of your life — including your health, relationships, and job.
When I wrote Overcoming Money Anxiety: 4 Ways to Relax Your Grip I wasn’t thinking of women dealing with the financial stress a breakup brings. Recently, however, I remembered that a breakup or divorce puts women in an incredibly vulnerable financial position. And, money stress affects women in different ways — which sometimes makes financial problems even worse. For example, some women go shopping (retail therapy) to deal with money worries. Others gamble in casinos or online, hoping to win cash and end the financial stress. Other women, like me, anxiously clutch every dime, quarter, and dollar bill. Still others clip coupons for items they don’t need, investigate every grocery store receipt, and steal ketchup and sugar packets from restaurants.
Even if you don’t recognize yourself in those examples, you’ll find hope and encouragement here. These four tips will help you cope with money stress after breaking up with someone you love. You’ll learn a different, healthier way to look at yourself and your financial situation — whether you’re hoping your boyfriend repays the $100 he owes you or worried about running out of money altogether.
4 Ways to Deal With Money Stress After a Breakup
If you feel anxious about spending money, you’re not living in abundance. I know what it feels like to live in financial scarcity, fear, and stress. I struggled with a “scarcity mindset” all my life; I always lived in fear of running out of money. I felt actual physical pain and emotional anxiety every time I bought something. But I have good news! I learned how to deal with financial stress — and if I can do it, so can you.
These four questions helped me learn how to deal with money stress:
- Did the breakup cause your financial stress, or did you always worry about money?
- What do you need to remember when money stress threatens to overwhelm you?
- How do you live in abundance when you’re heartbroken and worried about paying the bills?
- How will you live in joy and peace after this breakup?
When you read my answers below — and if you think about your own past and present experiences with money — you will be one step closer to dealing with financial stress after a breakup.
1. Did the breakup cause your financial stress, or did you always worry about money?
I don’t know when your financial problems first started, but I recently learned why spending money stresses me out. I asked myself, “What’s your first memory about spending money? What do you remember about learning how much things cost, how to deal with financial debt, or to spend money wisely?”
My first memory of spending money was with my grandma in a restaurant when we were on vacation in Hawaii. After the waiter took our order and walked away, my grandma said, “Why do you always order the most expensive thing on the menu?” I thought my grandma had a lot of money — she never seemed stressed about money, vacations, groceries, or paying the rent. Her words cut straight to my heart; I immediately felt terrible. It suddenly dawned on me that everything she gave me cost her more than I realized. I lived with her, and she never taught me how to spend money or deal with financial stress…except for that one moment on vacation in Hawaii. Ever since then I’ve felt scared and anxious when I spend money. And when I’m dealing with a breakup, I feel even more stressed and anxious about money.
2. What do you need to remember when money stress threatens to overwhelm you?
When I feel stressed about money — especially after a breakup — I remind myself that my feelings aren’t based on the truth. My stress is caused by something that happened almost 40 years ago. I’m giving this memory more power than it deserves! I had to teach myself to remember the root cause of my money stress, and remind myself that I have more power and control over my finances than I realize. One of the most positive ways to deal with breakup stress is to separate past anxiety from the current situation.
When you’re stressed about money after a breakup, remember the root cause of your anxiety. Maybe you had a bad experience with your family and finances when you were a kid. Maybe you were financially destroyed after a divorce as an adult; this breakup reminds you of the nightmare of starting over as a single women with debt. Being aware of the root cause of your money stress won’t solve all your problems — especially when you’re dealing with a painful breakup! But self-awareness and insight can help you heal and move forward.
3. How do you live in abundance when you’re heartbroken and worried about paying the bills?
Part of the problem is that money stress can actually serve a purpose. After a breakup, you may need to worry about something other than your broken heart or how your kids are dealing with the separation or divorce. Money stress can be a distraction, so you don’t have to deal with the heartache of a breakup. And of course you also have very real financial concerns! Paying the bills, equipping your kids for school, and planning for the future are important considerations. If you have a history of mismanaging your money, you may need to learn how to protect yourself financially (read How to Say No When Someone Asks to Borrow Money).
The good news is you can learn all sorts of practical ways to survive when you have no money … but the bad news is that those practical tips don’t lead to a permanent sense of peace or joy. You can’t permanently deal with money stress by yourself. You can’t think your way into financial abundance or heal your own heart after a breakup.
4. How will you live in joy and peace after this breakup?
When you’re stressed about money after a breakup, you need to stop struggling, trying, and fighting with yourself. Trust me. I fought my financial anxiety for almost 50 years, and it never worked. I’m finally learning that the real root problem isn’t that my grandma told me I always ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. The real root problem is that I was relying on money to be my security in a scary world. I thought money in the bank would protect me from homelessness, poverty, and shame.
I didn’t and couldn’t deal with my money stress by building a bigger bank account. Even when I was financially comfortable and in a healthy relationship, I was still constantly stressed about money! Breakups added stress to my preexisting, underlying financial anxiety. I’ve learned that no matter how much money I have, it’ll never be enough to stop me from feeling stressed. I’ve learned that I need something more powerful than me — and bigger than any bank account. I don’t need to be a billionaire to not feel stressed about money. Instead, I need to truly, deeply know and experience the depth, width, and breadth of the love of God.
My financial stress was always caused by my belief that money would keep me safe and secure. This is not true. Yes, money brings luxury and comfort, food and shelter…but the only true, everlasting source of safety and security is God.
When you’re stressed about money after a breakup, you need to find practical ways to take care of yourself. But if you want true joy and peace, you need to go a step further. And that step is into a deep, healthy, life-giving relationship with Jesus.
How will you deal with your financial stress? You can choose practical ways to overcome your fear of not having enough money, find practical resources for dealing with money problems, and learn how to stop negative thinking after a breakup. But will you go a step further and grow into a deeper, more life-giving relationship with God?
In peace and passion,
P.S. If you’re stressed about money after a breakup because you don’t have a job, read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone.