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What To Do If Your Partner Succumbs To Shopping Binges

Worried partner writes….. “My partner and I are both hard workers and have decided to save our money to buy a house before having children. However every time I check our savings there are more withdrawals and our nest egg is slowly vanishing. My partner readily concedes that they are the source of these withdrawals, as they sometimes “borrow” a little money whenever they go shopping. They defend them self by pointing out that they do not shop that often and are not a chronic spender, but are only occasionally subject to spending binges which may blow the budget. They easily rationalise every purchase as being valid and purposeful.

Admittedly they are not an every day, ‘mad’ spender, but if these binges don’t stop we may never be able to purchase our home, and I don’t know how I would feel about that!”


Communicate Respectfully

Whether you have talked to your partner as yet or this will be the first time addressing them about your concerns, how you communicate will directly contribute to a positive or negative outcome.

So as you begin to present your observations, express your feelings and ask questions, make every effort to avoid such barriers as: blaming, accusing, judging, mind reading and name calling. These will certainly not create an atmosphere in which your partner will feel safe and supported in talking about their problem.

Emotions may be strong but nothing is to be gained by verbally abusing your partner. What is to be communicated is a deep regard, an aura of care and a respect for your relationship.

The words you choose; your tone of voice; your facial expressions and your body language all communicate these qualities, and will enable you and your partner to gain an understanding of the problem, and collaboratively find a way to address it.

How serious are these spending binges?

The first point to consider is the extent of your partner’s shopping binges. Are they as your partner claims rare occasions in which they may shop more than normal but always sensibly? Or on closer examination are they really more frequent, spontaneous and uncontrollable? Is your partner an irregular binger who with a little help could learn to control their spending? Or have they crossed the line to become a compulsive, unstoppable shopper?

If you think your partner’s behaviour sits in the latter category and their obsession is escalating and verging on destructive consequences, professional help offered by a psychologist or a psychiatrist may be the way to go.

However it may be that your partner has just taken their first steps down this dangerous path of excessive shopping, and that together you can come up with some strategies to stop this behaviour, so that money only flows into your savings account leading to the eventual purchase of your own home.

Get to Know the Problem

Although you are not a professional in this area you can still gain some insights into your partner’s growing shopping addiction. Your partner’s answers to some serious questions can help you define and understand the problem, and help determine what actions can be taken to eradicate it.

It would be quite interesting to know when this shopping behaviour began. Was it something your partner always displayed and you really never noticed, or is it a more recent behaviour and perhaps can be attributed to changes in your partner’s life? If recent your partner’s shopping binges may be pointing the finger at some personal or relationship issue.

Is it possible that this decision to save for a house has put some undue pressure on your partner, and has triggered some underlying fears they may have? What does a house purchase mean to them? Can they cope with changes that a house may bring? Are their fear driven behaviours a way to call halt to the whole process? Does your partner want to sabotage the house purchase? Or do they simply get a buzz from binge shopping?

It may be possible that your partner is frustrated by working hard and being deprived of some of the pleasures that shopping can purchase. Or your partner may feel neglected as they see your only focus and interest is on saving for a house. They may want more attention from you, and with their inappropriate behaviours they have got it.

What has been considered above is only hypothetical. As you discuss your partner’s behaviour you may gain more clarity as to their motivation. And if the issues raised are not too severe you and your partner might be able to work together to abate fears and to introduce strategies to change the actual behaviour itself.


Explore Your Values

To start with it may be a good idea to review the values that are the framework of your relationship. It is not necessary for you and your partner to have identical values, but it is probably important that you both share some core values that bring a joint meaning and direction to your relationship.

As you explore your values you will discover whether both of you place the same importance on owning your own home. It is more than likely that if you both aspire for security and stability that the idea of home ownership would be appealing to both of you. There may also be other values that affirm this desire for property acquisition.

Further examination of these particular values may be all that is necessary to confirm your mutual desire to own your own home and to dispel any contrary considerations. Further such a review may reveal that your partner does not really believe in squandering money and in shopping recklessly, but that they may need some help in working through their issues. This could be indicative of some unrest that your partner is presently experiencing.

Create A Budget, Goals, And An Action Plan

Now is the time to design and/or revise your budget. It is important to make sure that you allow enough funds to cover all known expenditures and unexpected events, while ensuring enough stretch for an odd shopping spree. One of your goals may be to totally eliminate these shopping expeditions, but it still may be more rational to put aside some funds for these- at least for a little while.

With a clear financial picture you can realistically determine how much money can be allotted to your house fund, and you can determine when you will be ready to purchase your home.

This information can now be translated into a goal. A savings timetable can once again be established and be reviewed regularly to avoid the build up of pressures.

Other goals may also be explored which include making time for fun and recreation ( as you can budget for this ) and ensuring that the lines of communication always stay open. Also there may be goals that have emerged from the conversations you have had with your partner.

To help you attain your goals you can draw up an action plan which outlines the steps you will take, the time frames you will attempt to adhere to and the supports that will help keep you both on track.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Although communication has already been mentioned above it deserves a double focus. Your partner until now has suffered in silence and has not been able to share their ‘problem’ with you, leaving you in the dark, slowly building resentments and even toying with the idea of ending the relationship.

With the channels now open your partner can be encouraged to share the thoughts that drive their actions. You can discuss their fears and anxieties and work with them in ridding these demons from their mind. You can feel reassured that they are working hard on changing their behaviours and are maintaining their commitment to buy a house with you.

And just as they can talk to you, you can talk to them.

Direct Action

The way now is open for direct action. You and your partner can develop specific strategies to help them avoid the temptation of a shopping binge. When the urge hits perhaps they can contact you, and you can together discuss what force is behind this impulse. Shopping binges may be replaced with more safe activities as a movie or a special meal. And changes to your partner’s thought patterns might strengthen their resolve.

When your partner feels confident and ready they can make a commitment to do all that is necessary to control their shopping binges and save money to buy a house. And you in turn can commit to helping them in any way to attain this goal.

Being able to address issues as they emerge in relationships not only strengthens the bond between couples, but also establishes a precedent for working through future concerns if and when they emerge. Every relationship is unique, but there are certain problem themes that relationships are more prone to experience, and so there is always room to learn from other couples who have shared similar concerns and have learned how to address them.