Michael agrees. "Bridgette and Carol are like partners in crime," he says. "Like mother like daughter."
Carol doesn't think she has a problem. "I love to shop," she says simply. "It doesn't really affect me."
Lauren believes that their behavior is starting to spin out of control. "She's let Carol live the life of a celebrity — getting everything she wants, being spoiled rotten." She recounts the repercussions of a lifestyle of extravagance. "We don't have discipline. I dropped out of high school when I was 16. We don't know how to go out in the world," she says.
"Sometimes I do, but not all the time," Bridgette admits.
Michael jumps in, "I think all the kids are kind of angry at Bridgette for shopping a lot, and making me, as they see it, making me work. But I have to own up to my own problem. I've been a lousy dad and a lousy husband. I think I'm a real good doctor. God knows, I have enough practice. I should be."
Lauren protests, "But I feel like you spoiled us."
Turning to the couple, Dr. Phil says, "I want you to assume that shopping is a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself, OK? What we have here is a situation where the two of you have a lot of unfinished emotional business. Would you agree with that?"
Dr. Phil gives some family history. "You have a lot of resentment toward him. He's gotten involved in addictive behavior with Vicodin and all of that, and 10 years ago, hit bottom, right?"
"Hard bottom," Michael stresses.
Bridgette is not so innocent either. To her, Dr. Phil says, "You have had affairs inside of this marriage, correct?"
"One affair," she corrects. "He's had an affair also."
"Well, excuse me if I don't look shocked," Dr. Phil declares.
Michael explains, "The first year of our marriage was very rocky. I had an affair in my internship year, 24 years ago. Since that time, I'm guilty of working, and doing drugs and hitting a bottom. We lost everything except, I like to say, my health and my family. But all the stuff went away. And it's taken me this much time to make it all back, and I don't want to lose it again."
Addressing the fact that Michael's affair was 24 years ago, Dr. Phil says, "Time heals nothing; it's what you do in the time. And you don't
The couple shouldn't attempt to find a short fix for their marital and family woes. "Tell you exactly how long you need to work on this — until. You don't need to work on this for a month, or two months or three months or four months. You need to work on this until you get it right. Whether it's together, or individually, you people have wounded spirits," Dr. Phil observes. "Your psychological skin has been burned, both of you ... Are you two going to be together 10 years from now? I don't know. But do you know what I do know? I do know that that is a choice you need to make through clear eyes."
Michael and Bridgette need to get real about their issues, or they are headed for ruin. "If you don't stop the bleeding right now, you're headed for bankruptcy," he tells them. To Michael, he says, "I know how much money you make. It is probably the top 1 percent of the nation. When you go to calculate it, it is not near enough."
Bridgette tells Dr. Phil that her needs are simple. "All I want is for him to spend more time with me. That's all I ask," she says.
"I would love to," Michael says quietly.
Dr. Phil is skeptical. "You said, 'I shredded up all of my credit cards, well, except, I kept like a dozen or so.' You've got to be willing not only stop what you're doing wrong, but start putting some constructive things in its place."
Michael has some work to do as well. "You're about as warm as a spider," Dr. Phil informs him, pointing out that Michael has been monotone and not engaged with his wife. "That's not who you really are. It's who you've become because you have numbed yourself to the pain and the attacks ... I'm just an old Southern Baptist country boy, but they taught me that the role of the man in a family needs to be a provider, a protector, a leader and a teacher. That you have to do all of those things that you bring to the table. And what you're doing is throwing money at a problem."
Bridgette is in for another shock. "I want you to go home and get everything you've purchased and never worn — never taken the tag off — and you're going to take about $100,000 worth of stuff back to the store. Let's actually get water running back up hill. Then I want to arrange for someone in your town to start working very closely with me, with you," he says. "I want you guys to start itemizing and giving your feelings a voice. Not hiding them in work and shopping."
The children promise to participate as well.