A few days ago, after receiving an indication from a credit card company that I may have a black mark on my credit, I pulled my report. After ensuring that all the accounts were in fact issued by me, I found what they were referring to – a closed credit card account, since paid off, that was reporting two embarrassingly late payments.
The account, while closed over 5 years ago, was still on my report as a reminder of the time I allowed my then boyfriend to use the card thinking he would treat my financial record with as much care as I did.
Clearly, that was a mistake.
Many of us, at one time or another, put our finances on the line in order to lend someone in our lives a helping hand – whether we can afford to or not. This help may be offered or requested, but when the financial strain and expectations become too much, it usually requires a change in the relationship.
If you're faced with this challenge, here are a few ways you can take charge and protect your own financial health.
Assess your participation in the problem
It takes two people to create the dynamic in any relationship, regardless of whether it appears that one person is the victim and one is the perpetrator. For all intents and purposes, we are at choice and able to make decisions that are either a benefit or a detriment to ourselves.
In my case, I willingly handed over my credit card when I could have thought twice and kept it in my own safe keeping. Why would I do such a thing? It was my way of showing that I cared and (perhaps selfishly) lending something that would make me more of an integral part in my then boyfriend's life.
On the surface he was to blame. But in order to glean a huge lesson from that one decision, I had to look at my motivation for lending the help in the first place. I now know when I tend to lend financial help in order to fill an emotional void, and I can reassess my participation in those types of situations going forward.
Perhaps your relationship doesn't need to end because of these faulty financial decisions, but this can be a bouncing off point to create real relationship solutions instead of unrelated (and costly) financial problems.
Pinpoint relationship patterns
Assessing how you play into the relationship dynamic at hand is a process in taking your power back. Now it's time to take that a step farther and determine if this is a pattern you're simply recreating from one relationship to the next.
If you offer monetary help in exchange for appreciation and love, chances are this relationship is just one of many that resulted in a less than stellar financial outcome for you. The good news is that the other person is simply fulfilling a role to help teach you a powerful lesson – whether they are aware of it or not.
Now is the time to figure out when you put your finances on the line for the sake of another person, if for no other reason than to spot similar situations in the future – and hopefully take a sharp left turn in the other direction.
Take a look back at the situation at hand. How would you have handled it differently? What, at the time, were you hoping the outcome to be? Hindsight may be 20/20, but you can use that to your advantage. Often times that's all it takes to see that our actions could have logically never produced the results we were hoping for.
Forgive – if only for your own sanity
Yes, it may be the single most repeated piece of advice in the personal growth world, but there is good reason for it. Harboring resentment is the easiest way to give up your power, and the other party likely doesn't feel one ounce of pain in the process.
If someone aided in adding to your financial stress, they will likely not be the one putting you back on the path to financial solvency – you will. And that means you need all the (positive) energy you can harbor to right that ship.
Now tell me, why would you make room energetically for such tiring emotions as anger and resentment?
Give yourself a break
It's easy to beat yourself up over poor financial decision making, especially when you feel taken advantage of by another person. But just like we can't change the behavior of the other person, we also can't change the past – thinking about either one of these hurdles is nothing short of pointless.
No seemingly awful situation is a waste, or one we should regret, if we are able to take away some lesson that allows us to live a more wise and well-rounded existence in the future. In the meantime, make us of this Relationships and Money resource center to help with any challenging situations you may be dealing with.
Kayla Albert is a proud Colorado native and personal finance writer for ReadyForZero, a company that is helping Americans manage and pay off debt online. She enjoys sharing tips on saving money and getting out of debt. You can follow @ReadyForZero and @KaylaAlbert33 on Twitter.