Our tutor role-played a client stuck in an emotional domestic abuse situation. It’s OK as long as he doesn’t hit her, she said. I was fine with it, thinking about what I would say at various points, which was the point of the exercise, until she mentioned her husband going through her receipts. I immediately was taken to watching my father go through my mother’s credit card statement before paying it. It wasn’t enough for her to check it herself but he had to do it and ask what transactions were when he didn’t know. That would include why, not just what and where. She never argued about it but just quietly acquiesced and I would sit there quietly fuming on her behalf. Was she not capable of checking her own statement? Did he think she was being frivolous with her money, or was it all his money.
Did he give her access to ‘mad money’, that she could spend and not have to explain to him? I think not. I don’t remember him complaining about what she spent. I wonder whether he would in today’s world full of card transaction with less cash, so he would be more aware of the little stuff. She was always tight on clothes for me as I would grow out of them so what is the point of buying lots. I remember in primary school being asked why I only wore 2 different pairs of trousers and answering that 2 was all I was allowed; one to wash and one to wear. She didn’t like spending money on her own clothes, especially if they were extravagant. Eventually he started taking her clothes shopping and spending the money on her that she didn’t dare. There were occasions when I begged, when we came across a fantastic swimming costume at the seaside (go figure) and my mother had no cash on her. My bike and my tape deck were the only two presents I got worth more than, say, £30 and I had to pay half myself and beg for six months to get them. Both offered me a sense of freedom and so helped me save my sanity. My mother never earned her own money except when she briefly worked for a bakery when I started school part time before we moved. I wonder what that money did for her and what it could have done if continued.
We had a really good quasi triad where we just leaped into it without preamble and the observer focused on monitoring empathy. I talked about much of the above, about money and how it represented control. I remembered watching my father pull aside on leaving a petrol station and writing it down in his little notebook: the cost, the mileage, litres, the price per litre, the reset of the odometer so we could use that to run more precisely to the next needed petrol station. One time he drove past a petrol station because it had two cars queued and we literally ran out of petrol 200 yards further on. He then said he did it deliberately because we had lunch at a lovely restaurant that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. He was generous with money when he saw the value of it and when he’d budgeted for it. I was aware at a very young age that he needed control over money and that he had it.