Bridgette admits that she has a problem. "I have spent up to $12,000 in a month shopping," she confesses. "I can't go into any store without buying something."
Among her expenditures are beds for her dog that cost several hundred dollars a piece, a new computer for $3,800, new furniture totaling nearly $12,000, and a new kitche
Michael is starting to feel the physical effects of the stress caused by his wife's spending, such as insomnia and panic attacks. "I feel like I'm being buried alive. I can't breathe. I have to get up and go to an open window and breathe cold air," he says.
"If you will, no kidding, listen to me, this can be a changing day in your life. But we have to have a deal," Dr. Phil tells the couple. Addressing Bridgette, he says, "Are you here to defend this, cover this, hide this, kind of diffuse this, or are you here to change it?"
"I'm here to make a definite change. I have to change," she replies.
"I have to change. I want to change," Bridgette insists. "It's affecting my marriage. It's affecting my children. It's affecting me."
Dr. Phil runs down a list of Bridgette's expenses. "You're spending $12,000 to $15,000 a month. You've got $80,000 in credit card debt. You spent $25,000 in a weekend. You got 24 dog outfits, and you've painted the dog's toenails," he says. "Is there any theory under which you think these things are things that you really need, or that you even value?"
"I don't know why I do this," she admits. "I think it's like a compulsion I get, and I just have to go out and do it."
"I have tried to stop it many times," he replies.
"I didn't ask you why you hadn't 'tried' to stop it. I said, why haven't you stopped it," Dr. Phil clarifies. "Because you are an intelligent guy. You know how to stop this. You can go to a strict cash environment. You could do whatever you have to do where she doesn't have the ability to spend this money. If she were a drug addict, you would do things to stop her from having access to the drugs, right?"
"Do you think this can change?" Dr. Phil asks Michael.
"Yes, I do. I think it can change. I think my wife's willingness for it to change is, obviously, the most important thing. I would like it to change," he replies. "Bridgette understands that she has an addiction. She wants to change; we're just not sure how to enact that. I don't want to stop paying my bills. I don't want to ruin my credit. I don't want to lose my house."
"I wrote you because Bridgette and I, but mostly importantly, Bridgette, has tremendous respect for you," Michael says. "If anybody could help her, if she'd listen to anybody, it'd be you."
Dr. Phil doesn't buy Bridgette labeling herself as a shopping "addict." He tells her, "You are a full-grown, mature, intelligent woman, capable of making conscious choices. And I think all of this shopping — whether you call it an addiction, a compulsion, a pattern, a habit, whatever — I think it is a symptom of the situation."
"That's not an addiction. An addiction is an irresistible impulse," he differentiates. "That doesn't sound like an addiction. It sounds to me like you are pissed off, and you want to whoop his ass. And you know that money is important to him."
"That's been the problem in our relationship, is it's always been about money," Bridgette explains. "He's always been a workaholic. He's never spent."
"So that's his currency. So that's how you blast him," Dr. Phil says. "You also said that you just walk away, or just say just, 'F-off, buddy. Talk to the finger.'"
"Yes. I do," she says. "We have been through a lot. My family has been through quite a bit. I mean, my husband, in the past was in recovery 10 years. And I have been through the ringer."
"I'm not saying that you can't make a great case for him being absent, uninvolved, loving you with money," Dr. Phil says.
"What did your mother say on her death bed?" Dr. Phil asks Michael.
Dr. Phil disagrees with Michael's solution. "I think you're totally wrong," he says. "Not that a job wouldn't be good for anybody to be
Michael defends his position. "Some of her shopping may be from boredom, and I just think that there has to be a reason. When you shop, you're filling a void."
Bridgette chimes in, "I could find a million things to do at home."
"So your shopping is just about getting back at me," Michael counters, "for having lost everything 10 years ago?"
"No, it's not about that."
"Which I got back. It's easy to get back stuff. To become a person, and to really show love, and express love, is what I want us to do. I want to work less. I want to be home more. And I want you to help me. Help me help you," he pleads with his wife.