Losing the Sense of Abundance: How Relationships (Even Great Ones) Can Hinder a Prosperity Mindset

For many of us–especially those of us raised in an environment of real or imagined scarcity–getting into a mindset of abundance and prosperity is a real milestone on our spiritual journey.  Reaching that peak is a true celebration, yet we can fall off that peak and back onto a pit of impoverished feelings rather quickly…if we’re not careful.

In keeping an attitude of prosperity, we must either surround ourselves with others who have mindsets of abundance or we must make sure we don’t lose our focus on and thankfulness for the prosperity we enjoy.

To demonstrate, here’s how my relationships have affected my own ability to attract prosperity.

My parents and family:

I’m one of those people who was raised in a mindset of poverty.  If we did have anything of material prosperity, then there was pressure to give it away.  This came from our religious beliefs that poor men got into heaven and charity equaled love and spirituality. My family had plenty of stories of “good women” who “would give away their last dime to help someone else.” This attitude didn’t apply just to material resources but also time and desires.  It came with a ready-made sense of self-sacrifice, that you could never have what you really wanted, and that you’d always have to make some great sacrifice to have even part of what you really wanted.

My marriage:

My two-decade marriage, while materially prosperous, was emotionally impoverished and I never felt I had enough of anything—time, money, love, happiness. My salary as a professional grew quite nicely and yet, I had no idea of my worth.  I never felt I made enough money and I felt that any of the things that made me happy were burdens on my family, especially financially.  Even when we were paying more in taxes than my annual gross salary, I still felt poor.

When I divorced, I was terrified.  I was so buried in my mindset of scarcity that I had no idea if I could make it on my own.  I figured I’d never be able to afford a haircut or a modest dinner out again.  But after my divorce, that began to change and I started feeling prosperous for the first time.  Part of this was that I’d always let other people tell me how to spend my money and, if it was for something I wanted to do that they didn’t value, the answer was usually no.  Now I no longer “had to ask permission” to enjoy any of my earnings.  I began to feel prosperous, though I was still careful with my money.

Prosperous men:

When I began dating again, it was mostly professional men.  I dated several physicians and defense attorneys, as well as businessmen with their own jets. In general, they were all very financially prosperous. With one of them, my prosperity mindset was a brief issue.  He was a sweet man, a physician making about $30,000 a month. He was religious and might have been spiritual as well—there was a strong hint that he might have explored that theme more deeply if we’d been together longer. We dated for a short while, with him wining and dining me at the classiest restaurants around, driving me around in his luxury cars, begging me to spend weekends at his little beach cottage at a resort a few hours way.  I had a little bit of an issue with the way he spent money on me—I had my pride and I felt I couldn’t return these expensive favors.  I quickly came to terms with how we were at different places in our careers and lives and, in terms of percentages, he wasn’t spending much at all on our relationship and there was a balance between us.  I figured out how to let go and keep my attitude of prosperity, thankful for what I had and what he had and that we could share some fun times.

Not so prosperous men—and where I lost my sense of abundance:

Another man who was very special to me—still is—came into my life at a time when I was a little queasy about the money I’d spent on house repairs, especially when my house value and retirement accounts had just taken a considerable hit, thanks to the souring economy.  I’d started to worry about money and felt I needed to cut back.  I felt scarcity creeping in.  That’s when I met someone who earned considerably less in a year than the doctor I’d dated made in a month.  It’s a shame that our country pays such terrible wages to the men we expect to protect us, but that’s another story, and wages have absolutely nothing to do with his value.   Not that his income mattered to me.  Not at all.  But it did to him.

He was very much like me in that he had his pride and wasn’t looking for a free ride from anyone else.  He tended to give away everything, to take care of everyone, to spend almost nothing on himself.  He was extremely spiritual, devout, and had that sense of “spirituality equals poor” because material wealth was not his goal.  He was more focused on service to his country, family, and spirituality—all beautiful, high-minded ideals that really impressed me and rang true to my own values. The other side of that coin was that he had the same mindset of scarcity I grew up with and had lived with for so many years—a lovely theme of entwined nobility and self-sacrifice.  He was in such a state of loss and impossible choices between competing desires and felt he had no way of winning, even if he managed to get just one part of what he wanted. All he could do was try not to lose everything while being more concerned for the health and future of others than for himself.  Many of our conversations were centered around loss and fear of loss and the struggle to save everyone else, everyone but himself.  He was willing to be a martyr if it was required of him. Yes, I knew these themes well.

It was through him that my own prosperity was emphasized, but in a negative way.  My previous relationships with men who brought home high-six-figures were not an appropriate baseline for me to see my own abundance.  With a man who earned much less than I did and who struggled to budget money for food while sending his income to others, I began to see my prosperity in a different light, even to the point of being embarrassed by it.  I actually stopped feeling grateful for everything that I had. The poor guy could barely afford gas between my house and his work, and I risked wounding his pride when I filled his gas tank once or twice. I was at a place in my life that I felt I’d worked hard to get to, but instead of celebrating it with him, I felt bad about my prosperity, mainly because I thought it would make him feel inadequate.  I understood this because I’d felt the same way, initially, with the $30,000-a-month suitor.

This is not to denigrate this man—all his other qualities made up for any negativity over money issues, and he is one of the most exquisite beings I’ve ever met.  I share this only because of the tremendous insight he gave me into my own attitudes. The deeply spiritual tie to his poverty and self-sacrifice seeped into all aspects of his life, to the point where it sometimes seemed he was giving up all of himself to placate everyone else.  His focus became “what I can’t have” and “what I must sacrifice” rather than how very much the Gods were offering him.

For me, I not only stopped feeling grateful for my prosperity, but I also started to live in those moments of scarcity from my past.  It was too easy for me to remember being in his situation, back when I was in my early twenties and my furniture was Early Salvation Army, my fanciest meals consisted of noodles and tomato sauce, and a friend cut my hair whenever I butchered it too badly.  I wanted him to understand that I knew his financial situation even if I personally no longer had those constraints and in doing so—empath that I am—I put myself back into those days of constant worry about money and loss.

The first inclination that my mindset had changed came over Labor Day weekend when my garage and car were burglarized. For the past year, whenever I had loose change, I dropped it into a compartment between the front seats.  It was full and heavy, and I’d saved about $300 in coins.  A few weeks before—when I’d had more of an attitude of abundance—I’d asked my younger daughter to take out the money and we’d use it for a special trip but she’d gotten caught up in school activities and hadn’t managed it. Sometime during the night, someone broke into my garage and got into my car, trashing the inside of my car and taking all but a few dollars.  Nothing else in the car was taken, including clothes and electronics.  Nothing in the garage was taken, including lawn equipment, power tools, and sports equipment.  Nothing but small change.  And that’s exactly what I’d begun to focus on—my small change and losing it.  I remember thinking the day before that I was focusing on small change instead of my prosperity.

I didn’t listen to that, though.  I had too much else going on in my life to pay attention.  I was more aware than ever of the abundance and prosperity I had on every level, especially how happy I was, and at the same time, acutely aware of the potential for loss, the probability of loss, the nearness of it.  For all the happiness of that season, there were some very important losses that expressed around me.  Underlying those losses was a theme of scarcity—if not at that moment, then coming soon.  I began to feel I could not afford anything anymore.  At all.  That all my dreams were on hold.  All I could feel was lack.  It seeped into everything.  I felt I had more than I’d ever had in my life, but the fear of loss obliterated the joy.

That’s not to say that my downgrade in abundance is his fault.  I tend to merge with people I care about, and in understanding what he was going through, I lost my grip on my own prosperity.  I had hoped to bring him to my prosperity mindset but instead, I was the one who shifted to his sense of lack and sacrifice. We’re enough alike that I could tune into those feelings easily…too easily.

Finding my way back

When I started focusing again on my home and what I have and what I love, I started to feel that sense of abundance coming back to me. It took a little time, and I gained new insights through new relationships.  It was odd, but I began dating two new men who had a surprising amount in common with the last one.  Same jobs, identical pay, almost the same birthday.  Yet these new men drove fancy cars and bought themselves $90 hoodies without blinking an eye.  It was a shock at first to see that other people earning the same income could take it so far…though they were taking it that far on themselves.   These men are not very spiritual and we don’t resonate on many levels, and they do not live in the mode of scarcity or fear of loss.  I date them for non-spiritual reasons and without any intentions beyond friendship and fun before they deploy. But I’ve learned something from contrasting how they view their material wealth.

My own income has not changed over the past month, and yet, I am back to feeling more prosperous this month, and my bank account is rising unexpectedly and my book sales are suddenly up.  A couple of months ago, I was afraid of missing a payment—something I never do—but today…I am fine.  The difference isn’t in my salary or expenses…it’s in my outlook, and that brings in more prosperity of the physical type to match the mental and emotional prosperity I feel.


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