How to Deal with the Devastating Effects of a Shopaholic Spouse

Financial pressures are one of the most common challenges experienced in romantic relationships.  Everyone experiences some financial difficulties or differences in their relationships at some stage, but sometimes it can be a more extreme situation such as an addictive behaviour or habit like shopping, that’s at the route.

Depending on how bad the situation already is, rest assured there is support out there. If it’s your spouses spending habits have gotten to the point where you’re at risk or losing your home or going bankrupt, whilst this may seem like a hopeless situation, there are avenues for support such as companies to help stop repossession of your home.

There are some steps you can take to deal with the effects of a shopaholic spouse.

Understanding the Problem

By spending some time fully exploring what shopaholism is and what behaviours and symptoms are experienced, you can be in a more informed place to be able to address these problems.

The symptoms of a shopping addiction:

  • Frequently exceeding spending beyond means
  • Shopping to relieve negative emotions
  • Often shopping impulsively
  • Feeling of guilt of shame after a shopping spree
  • Hiding or concealing items from friends and family
  • Failing to follow through with intentions to reduce shopping activities
  • Financial difficulties
  • Familial conflict as a result of mounting debt and financial problems

It is really easy to dismiss it as just an over indulgent interest in shopping when in reality, this dangerous spending cycle is far more complex.

Did you know that most addictions are to fulfill an unmet emotional need? Addictive habits, whatever the guise (drugs, gambling, alcohol etc) are all behavioural forms of self-medication. They give the sufferer something that makes them feel better and that might be something as simple as it releases stress.

What stress? The stress may not be something that is associated with a current stimulus, although that may be an aggravating factor. Instead, it’s often that the internal stress has a historical cause so may run much deeper and be quite emotionally painful for the sufferer.

Acknowledging the Problem

If you’ve noticed the problem and you’re uncertain if partner has, you may feel unsure of how to approach it with them.

Alternatively, you may already broached the subject only to be faced with conflict, defensiveness or denial.

Either way, ignoring the situation will not make it go away. Is there a way to raise the situation and avoid an argument? In some ways, yes.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Choose your timing wisely

Avoid any time where either of your emotions are elevated or heightened. For example – after consuming alcohol.

  • Be understanding

Aim to uncover information rather accuse or make assumptions. Find out if they’re ok and see if they have some awareness of the problem. Remember they may not yet see it as a problem. You might start by saying ‘how are you? Is there anything your struggling with?’… I’m always here if you want to talk.  I really do care about you a lot.

  • Lead with empathy

Show compassion, empathy and care throughout and with the angle of wanting to support them. Avoid making it about money (the symptom). Remember empathy is different from sympathy – sympathy can make some feel you are pitying them which might just fuel an outburst. Empathy is showing understanding and acknowledging the difficulty they are experiencing.

  • Use evidence

Without being abrupt and dictatorial, ensure you have examples to back up your claims. You want to avoid this being received as an attack.

  • Keep your emotions in check

Whilst you may find this situation extremely frustrating, keep your approach and the tone of your voice warm and conversational. If you feel negative emotions creeping in, you might want to pause and make a drink to break the state.

Above all, be kind and remember to listen before responding! Remember, this isn’t something they’re intentionally doing to upset or annoy you, its something that is outside of their conscious control. And, if you want them to overcome this, they’re going to need some support. However, this doesn’t mean it’s all on you, but you will need to be there for them in some way.

Addressing the Problem

Once you’re in a place where your spouse acknowledges the problem, when they reach a point when they’re ready, look to seek professional help.

It is also an opportunity for you to seek support and guidance on how you can best support them through the problem, what’s helpful to them and what’s less helpful. Often, family members and friends can unintentionally enable the unwanted behaviours.

Collaborative Partnership

What might enabling consist of? If you always deal with the finances and take care of debt and you keep this problem away from your spouse, you’re in many ways protecting them from the consequences of their behaviours.

By involving them and making joint decisions when it comes to everyday household expenditure, your spouse will no longer be able to hide from the effects and impacts.

Involve your partner in all financial aspects including how to address any mounting debt. Agree on spending budgets together and be sure to do some of the high-risk activities together, such as food shopping or getting new school bits for the children.

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