Financial codependency, defined as involving ourselves in someone else’s finances to our detriment, is such an important topic.
Money and intimacy are a tricky mix for many of us, and it can get even more complicated as sex workers. We might feel pressure — either real or in our own heads — to give others our earnings in an effort to buy love, gratitude, forgiveness or respect. Or, at the very least, compensate for the fact we perform erotic labor.
This month, I want to talk about what financial codependency is and point to some healthier models for holding onto our financial integrity, including asserting ourselves, maintaining our privacy and negotiating fair sharing of household expenses, even — and especially — with those we’re closest to.
Financial codependency may stem from insecurity, shame, guilt and low self-esteem and can look like:
- Not thinking about one’s own needs and, instead, focusing on what others want.
- Not being able to say no to paying for other people or ask for an equitable split of expenses.
- Constantly giving while getting very little back.
- Trying to make everything perfect for another person.
- Splurging on lavish gifts.
- Repairing other people’s mistakes, rather than letting them solve their own problems.
Now, I’m not saying that sharing money with loved ones is bad, or that we should never do it. Not at all!
My point is we’re under no obligation to overgive out of love. In a healthy relationship, each partner is self-reliant and has a separate financial identity. Each person reciprocates more or less equally over time. In an unhealthy relationship, resources flow only one way, and the needs of only one partner count.
We are not obligated to provide for anyone else, and it’s not our job to fix other people’s financial problems. No giving away our power, no supporting anyone who can, but refuses, to support themselves. Just so there is no confusion, I mean everyone: the only exceptions are dependent minor children and folks too old or sick to care for themselves. Everybody else — parents, partners, siblings, lovers, friends, adult children — is responsible for themselves.
I say this to you, sex worker to sex worker: You do not need to carry anyone on your back to find love in this life. You only need to look after yourself.
Each of us has the right to our own bank account that no one else has access to, as well as a private credit card. If we ever need to help out a friend or leave a relationship or just spend our own damned money, we shouldn’t have to ask permission. Financial privacy doesn’t make us secretive, stingy or untrustworthy. In order to be lovable and loving, full transparency is not required.
I say this without moral judgment, but in my opinion, total financial merging isn’t healthy. It’s a sign that we only believe we’re deserving of love if we hand everything over to someone else. Not true. We are worthy even if we keep some things for ourselves.
The same is true for setting boundaries when sharing your sex work money. It is perfectly fine to keep your money and bills separate, even with someone you’re crazy about.
If you decide to commingle your finances to pay joint expenses, I encourage you to negotiate an arrangement that feels fair. Some possibilities are each partner:
- Contributes an equal dollar amount every month.
- Contributes an equal percentage of what they earn.
- Contributes the same number of hours’ wages — for example, what each partner earns in ten hours.
- Contributes a different amount, recognizing essential but unpaid labor, such as housework, bill paying or childcare.
What matters most is that everyone can express their needs openly. Agreements can be revisited if need be.
I recognize that holding our sacred ground isn’t always easy when it comes to money, whether we earn it from camming or any other way. We may or may not know what we want or have the words to express what we need.
Fortunately, asserting ourselves is a skill that we can actively practice. I write more about how here. Also, I talk extensively about navigating the specific interpersonal dynamics of money earned from sex work in my upcoming book, Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money, a personal finance guide for sex workers, due out this fall.
And finally, if you recognize codependency in your life, Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Care for Yourself, is a true classic. It’s helped millions of people identify and overcome their desire to equate love and money. I encourage you to check it out.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money, her forthcoming (out September 1, 2020) followup to the formative Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry. Contact Davina at Lola.Davina@ynotcam.com and visit her on Twitter at @Lola_Davina.
Image of Lola Davina courtesy Pat Mazzera.